The night you don’t come home,
the crows in our elm jilt
their brood. I hear their young
shriek until their tongues must be calloused.
I dream I climb the tree, rub my hands
raw, never reach their nest.
In the morning, they are quiet. I find a chick
crushed—an ashen heap, its mouth
a wound. The cat musses it, liking the way
its neck moves. I would need to see its entrails,
see the way its wings tried to lighten its body,
to understand your leaving. The omen is in its
sinking. Your sisters can point at the divine
pattern of freckles on my thigh,
the tattoo of your ship’s hull behind my ear.
They know I desire the edgeless
darkness, of being the one that leaps
to find the one that left.
-From Issue 78 of CutBank
The Swamp Wife
She cleans a bullfrog of its eyes, works the legs
until the muscle surrenders. She tells it love
is knowing the other’s breaking point.
The gypsy moths don’t know: they strip
the spruces and pines, kill them naked.
She knows love is about avoiding. She lets
her husband roost in a ditch of booze piss.
The last time they talked, he told her he dreamed
his mouth kept filling with tears.
She doesn’t know if it was a bear that ate
the breath behind her ribs last night, if it was
a coon that looked like just scalp and spine.
She sets up her bed by the light of the star-
lepered sky, marks the gators lullabying the banks.
-Appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Sou’Wester
He finds her trembling in a bush, behind a spangle
of moonlit branches, panting, fox eyes glowing.
Her round face, sagging with spinsterhood,
suddenly turned savagely youthful.
He comes upon her, and her head dips and cocks,
her ears picking up the rippling of the stream,
a woman whistling as she hung the laundry,
the lazy flight of a June bug. Do you hear it?
she barks, her eyes and the tip of her nose black.
In the morning, before a lengthening light,
he watches her brush the sleep from her hair,
looking longingly into the pane of her own eyes.
He looks at his exposed belly, scalloped thighs.
The night before, his body made of sleeves
of bone, her teeth at his neck,
the cold making the hair of her stomach, erect
like fur, how she twisted against him, clawed at him,
then tore off, as if chasing some prey.
-Appeared in issue 19 of Spillway
|“Archaic Torso of Apollo”|
|by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Stephen Mitchell
We cannot know his legendary head with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low, gleams in all its power. Otherwise the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could a smile run through the placid hips and thighs to that dark center where procreation flared. Otherwise this stone would seem defaced beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur: would not, from all the borders of itself, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life. From: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15814
“Size” (which I unfortunately don’t have the draft process for) is a departure from my normal style. I usually avoid confessional-sounding narratives, mostly for the sake that I like developing emotional truths through fictionalized personas and scenarios. While I love and highly respect certain “confessional-style” poets (Sharon Olds comes strongly to mind), I feel uncomfortable writing in that style. It’s as if I feel more naked, more vulnerable; the wife in the poem “could” be me, and my readers “could” think that it is me, even though many of my confessional poems, like this one, are not about my real life and are still told through a fictionalized persona. “Size” is also only the second “confessional-style” poem I’ve ever had accepted for publication (the first being the first ever poem I had accepted for publication!).
Leading up to its publication, I found myself bugging my husband, “Are you sure you’re okay with it going up? People might think it’s really you.”
“But it’s not.”
“But they might think that.”
“So?” (I am blessed to have a husband like this.)
I still found myself worrying, but this is the nature of writing. Sometimes, we have to push outside of our comfort zone. Confessional-style writing for me is way outside of my comfort zone. It’s both an interesting exercise in creating closeness and in navigating how it feels to put something on the page that doesn’t have the obvious distance of fiction (for example, if I was writing from the perspective of a man, an ape, etc., some speaker that couldn’t be easily attributed to me).
How do you all feel about this?