Poems to read


It’s been a week of contrasts–Wednesday a luminous, inspiring poetry reading by Ada Limón at Seattle Arts and Lectures, and Friday’s news of Donald Trump’s remarks about women. This morning, my daughter and I were talking about his comments and rape culture (and many other things), and later I was left with this:

For Our Daughters

It is not an accident
days after the poetry reading,
when I hear that man brag
of unrequested grabs and kisses,
that Ada Limón’s poem
about fillies and triumph
still rings my head like a starting bell,
and my ears are up,
but pounding down the backstretch
today I don’t want the horse’s heart,
not even the lion’s. No, give me
the heart of the spotted hyena
or the wolverine’s, all teeth and fury,
where the Past can’t hide in tall grass,
and my jaws are dripping with it.


(The poem referenced is the amazing How to Triumph Like a Girl, from her book Bright Dead Things.)


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I’m grateful that today my poem Sketch in Blue with Darker Water appeared online at Glass: A Poetry Journal.

It began as a color study, and became something else. It began as a way to thread color through a manuscript, and I ended up (so far) with five colors—red and yellow forthcoming; green and purple still seeking homes.

It went through many drafts in April 2015, when I decided to work on an exercise a day.

The lesson for me? Keep working. Keep exploring.

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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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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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