Closed doors. In the calm:
singing; wisps of lemon;
the after hours call.
Cool sweep of the
teller’s hand across dull Formica,
- The two haiku are anagrams of one other.
First movement: want: absolute stillness.
Shape-maker, in the risk heart takes,
hand and tool quicken time, curve life
into the wrought line. But how far
will your fair self stray, hit after hit, when
the rare shell of pride yields only a gray mask?
To cry without pull of longing, work back
beyond my desire: sung mind echoing stone.
Movement, but not unrest. Motion which kicks
to life, soft angle of arm into lit
slivers of lips, of breast. The way
memory works—a birth—the slight head
turned downward, there, and to such
an angle. Worry lines, worry reach, query
skill and link the meek gaps. For eye
is finite, shining and able. Say
hunt, kill, care. Pull at the gift due you.
But in marble, and to work it as an old master –
the wake of triumphs left squarely behind –
for an eye grown almost motherly but with
an old killer’s knack for pursuit.
The figure, when it comes, comes to you slowly,
and in fits and starts, the weight of each unyielding strike
revealing itself only
in the hard, heavy, replenishing rock.
- The three sections of this poem are anagrams of one other.
These poems first appeared in Gulf Stream and 21 Stars Review (2006)
I’m grateful to the Clarion Ledger for publishing such a thoughtful review of the new poetry book!
Last Monday, I had the great pleasure to participate in the first of an 8-part podcast series conceived called STAYING ALIVE: POETRY, CRISIS AND THE UNDEAD.
We talked a lot about both Pocket Guide to Another Earth, which features the Zombie Poetry Project, and the memoir, And There Was Evening and There Was Morning, and I’m so very grateful for the opportunity to chat a bit about them and the some of the stuff behind the poems and essays.
For those interested, it will be released next January through the University of Oxford podcasts page (https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk). I’ve included the url because it’s such a great resource, but, don’t worry, you can be sure I’ll send a few reminders as we approach 2019!
Like many, to earn money, the girl cleaned houses with many rooms. One house, especially, pleased her, because it faced east, and she loved the light that filled the place, the way the dust flashed when she snapped her rag. Each morning, though, she found another room to clean, as if at night a whole crew showed up to enlarge the house, room by room. Sunlight did not shine through the windows of these new rooms and, before long, she found rooms without windows at all, just walls, ceilings, and floors covered in the dust of their construction. She worked faster, harder each day, until, one afternoon, she came upon a door, behind which she heard sounds of a different kind of labor, whirring saw, and hammer and drill. She opened the door to find a man working feverishly. He was stooped with age, although his hair and beard were yellow with dust and bits of wood. She saw, at once, the way his eyes sagged with grief.
“Please, the girl cried. “Please stop. This house is large enough. Already, we are too far from the light of day. When I walk home, the sky is so red, my hands bleed.”
“I will not,” snorted the man.
“The dust gets everywhere,” the girl cried. “It has blinded you to the way things are.”
“I cannot stop,” the man said, a bit more politely. “I must make rooms and, so, you must clean them.”
Desperate, the young girl took the old man’s hand and led him through the halls of the empty house he had built. Finally, they arrived at the windows she loved, but the sun was shining on the other side of the sky, softening everything, for it was very late in the day. The girl and the old man rested there until morning and when the light, the lovely, yellow light flooded the rooms, the dust on the man’s clothes and hair became shooting, sparkling stars.
“I’m burning,” he cried. “Take me back to my work.”
And then it did seem as if he were on fire, not like a wick, which burns and burns, but a match which flashes and is snuffed out. The girl, in amazement, moved to the windows, but she did not catch fire. She snapped her rag, moving to the rhythm she made, dancing for joy and sorrow among a sudden shower of stars.
A Zombie Poem by Sappho
The sky, the world-church together snapped.
That caught her eye. Now you are the man:
A scarlet stain upon a guillotine.
Use short sentences to create the church
and make every building. Use deer blinds and
that couch as the downtown strip. Really. Don’t
use fire — About three or four are usually
everywhere. Use tyranny as your friend and guide
after an hour. Generally, pleading a short sentence
works well at the door to find the man
coming back from the wooden sky to grab
a zombie life. Rage, lead, and, at the end,
summarize and signal peace.
Here’s the original:
“Use short sentences to create punch and make a point.
Use phrases and even words as sentences. Really.
Do not use too many sentences — about three or four is usually enough.
Use a short sentence as a summary after a longer description.
Generally speaking, a short sentence works well at the start of a paragraph or speech item to grab attention, and at the end, to summarize and signal completion.”