Here is another poets respond poem. The past week, months, year have been heartbreaking on the streets of my country and everywhere. Still reeling from the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile and the five officers shot, I hear the news of Nice, and the next day, the news from Turkey.

Allons enfants

My body became ache and fossil
creaking as the creek runs low in summer
and I thought the world’s body
its planet—earth skin, river veins,
wide bodies of water, its salt and iron—
but tonight the world is our bodies,
the street again red–Brussels, Beirut,
Boston, Istanbul, San Bernardino,
and the count stays at more than
but the number keeps rising,
Dhaka, Baghdad, Orlando, and Paris,
and Paris, and Nice, a throng of bodies
to watch the fireworks bursting
in their air, the truck speeding
into bodies, laws of velocity
against the physics of flesh
and breath torn through,
people leaping from the promenade,
people draped in table cloths
and blood, a child’s stroller crushed
and every body a name,
a favorite color, favorite food,
a hand to hold, how badly
the world needs its day of glory,
how all we people need the world whole.

 

 

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WP_20160702_003 2Earlier I posted about this on Facebook, and I always wonder about mentioning the same news twice, but here I’ll take the time to tell you that each of my two poems in the Spring 2016 issue of Prairie Schooner touches on being a mother.

The first is a letter to the mothers of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram—and daily it breaks my heart that these young women, the ones who have so far survived, have been gone so long. I started trying to write the poem in September 2014, months after the abduction. I was writing it in my head as I stirred the red sauce for Christmas dinner that year. In January 2015, the first real draft arrived. All along, with new rumors and false promises of a truce, I kept hoping that the girls would be able to return to their families, and I would gladly abandon the poem.

The second poem is about grown children coming home, and it begins

The house exhales behind me,
drains its rooms of resting air.

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cimarron-review-1

The Spring 2016 issue of Cimarron Review arrived, and I’m delighted and honored that it includes my poem “Honey Locust,” along with poems by Alexandra Teague, Sandra McPherson, Marty McConnell, and more.

The poem isn’t online at this time, but it begins

Its leaves litter the front hall,
ambassadors with caveats,

and there’s a Marilynne Robinson reference. (Can you find that part in the book?)

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I know that it’s just a building, and that Hugo House lives on—thriving—and will return in a new building. But my history with the house goes back to when it was New City Theater, and I was trying to be a modern dance choreographer, and then the years of taking classes, teaching a few, readings and readings and readings—plus finding a publisher at an event called Finding Your Publisher. Last week when my daughter sent me a photo of the demolition, that part of the transition hit me in the gut.

Audience of Ghosts

When the house comes down,
the rooms of my body hurt—
empty air, all my years
in the second story now a legend
with no map, histories nesting
in my body like timbers splintered.

Shoulder to stranger we wrote
on the plaster, pen after pen
one kind of good-bye. There
is the hand I forgot to pack,
the words I forgot to look up,
buried the heart’s four classrooms,

steaming between my ribs the kitchen
when it was a dressing room,
the theater where I danced,
the cabaret table where I listened,
with red wine, the stage
where the sign said eat the mike.

When the house comes down,
only the shadows of rooms—
and our writing on the walls,
words into dust, debris
of the house come down
in the push and shovel, bucketful,

bucketful. Later, you send me a photo,
remains behind a cyclone fence.
I think of the house as a funeral
parlor, its older incarnation.
You tell me it was beautiful
seeing all our words tumbling.

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If someone asks you what you’ve been reading, and you gush on and on about this amazing book, and that someone suggests you write a review of it, you don’t say no, right?

Now the review is live on the Poetry Northwest website.

I’m grateful for this book and for the encouragement to write about it, for the people who helped me through the drafts, and for the chance to share it with you all.

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