Category: Poems


A poem of mine from Bosque Rhythms

In the Acequia of My Right Brain

the bird stands alone against a mud bank
in a shadow
one leg immersed in a few inches of murky water leaning
the other invisible beneath white feathers streaked with blood
a wounded snow goose
fragile and white bright against the clay

a beginning to an end I can’t won’t envision

how separate a wound can render us the vital need to lean
against a wall
below the sight lines of the living world imagining what’s next

how often now
in my mind’s eye
that wounded snow goose appears
my hands my thoughts then and now useless to wipe it away
assuage it
prevent the inevitable ending

the darkness that I
not the goose
anticipate
ponder
fear

LFD

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Speaking of Rape and Poetry

Ever known anyone who spoke about being raped?  A friend, sister, mother, daughter?

Out of those four women, according to the statistics, at least one will have had the experience.  That statistic hasn’t changed since the 1950’s when I first saw it in cold black and white. FBI government sources, plus the website CEASE chillingly assert: “One out of every three American women will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime.”

Here is Can we Share a Cab? — the reality of rape.

Can we share a cab?

The ride home from the class in the Village
A request to use her phone
The long climb to the fifth floor apartment
He makes his phone call
Picks up her guitar
Sits on the bed and strums
Asks her to show him A minor
Abandons the guitar to the floor
Spirals her arms behind her back
Pins them with one large hand
Throws her back to the bed
She is screaming what are you doing?
Let me go!
His other hand undoes his pants
His hips drive bruisingly onto hers
She lunges her body hard writhing to escape
Bangs her skull on the rough stucco wall
Scraping pain dizzies her
She howls
All she can see blinking flashing fragments
He spreads her legs wide
Whispers I know you want this  baby
His forearm against her throat
She is thinking he’s done this
Many times before
As she chokes out No  No Noooo
No one to hear her on the top floor
Sobbing as he rips off her skirt
Forces her open
She flails her legs   gagging
Feels seeping blood in her matted hair
He grips her hard, pumps through her trembling
Aaahhh good one  baby    good one
He leaps up and heads for the door
Slams it behind him
She hears his footsteps down the stairs
She staggers to stand
Walks carefully to the bathroom
Locks herself in
Slowly washes the blood from her hair
What to do now
The son of a bitch  I want to kill him
Now what do I do

Lee Firestone Dunne

And if someone you know has been raped what are the chances they will speak of it and/or report it to the police?  Here is Adrienne Rich’s poem on the psychic consequences of reporting it to the police. Only 16% of rapes were reported to the police in 2010.  Rich’s poem was written in the 1970’s.

Rape

There is a cop who is both prowler and father:
he comes from your block, grew up with your brothers
had certain ideals.
You hardly know him in his boots and silver badge
on horseback, one hand touching his gun.

You hardly know him but you have to get to know him:
he has access to machinery that could kill you.
He and his stallion clop like warlords among the trash,
his ideals stand in the air, a frozen cloud
from between his unsmiling lips.

And so, when the time comes, you have to turn to him,
the maniac’s sperm still greasing your thighs,
your mind whirling like crazy. You have to confess
to him, you are guilty of the crime
of having been forced.

And you see his blue eyes, the blue eyes of all the family
whom you used to know, grow narrow and glisten,
his hand types out the details
and he wants them all
but the hysteria in your voice pleases him best.

You hardly know him but now he thinks he knows you:
he has taken down your worst moment
on a machine and filed it in a file.
He knows, or thinks he knows, how much you imagined;
he knows or thinks he knows, what you secretly wanted.

He has access to machinery that could put you away;
and if, in the sickening light of the precinct,
and if, in the sickening light of the precinct,
your details sound like a portrait of your confessor,
will you swallow, will you deny them, will you lie your way home?

Adrienne Rich

Margot Hurley, My Face Confronts You Every Day

Amazingly the day I decided to post these poems, I received by mail a Bridgewater State University publication with this piece of art on the cover, (paper, charcoal, adhesive 6 X 4ft,) titled My Face Confronts You Every Day, created by an art student as a response to being raped by a male student in her university art class. May this be a tribute to Margot Hurley’s artistry and courage.

What’s In a Title?

WHAT’S IN A TITLE?

It’s always a pleasure to discover a new and intriguing poet and curl up to read.  I recently reintroduced myself properly to Louise Gluck. The truth is, when I first read her, maybe 10 years ago, I turned away.  It seemed inaccessible to me. But sensibilities do change, and just yesterday I read some of her earliest work, which seemed very accessible. I am now astonished at the gap in my knowledge. She has written nine books and received important awards including the Pulitzer for The Wild Iris (Ecco Press 1992). In 2001 she was awarded the Yale University Bollingen Prize in Poetry.

Apart from the compelling discourse and beauty of the poems, what intrigued me about The Wild Iris was her use of the same title for several poems — a choice I was not aware I had seen before and which prompted me to explore Gluck’s other titling selections.

The two repeated titles are Matins and Vespers. Gluck gives me the feeling that the titles have significance beyond the content of the poems, that they may provide a framework, suggest a theme, or simply tie us to the earth, its beauty and rhythms, as a ground for her discourse on the human condition.

Matins, used for seven poems in the book, is a Catholic term referring to the first of the seven canonical hours, signifying the period for morning prayers.  (Matin translates to forenoon or morning). Ten are titled Vespers, the sixth canonical hour, signifying the time for evening prayers. (Vesper is French for Venus.) In my reading (and in desiring to understand the message, if any, conveyed in the use of these titles for seven poems), I longed to examine the question why. Are the titles meant to convey a time of day, a repeated form of conversational prayer, a mood, or possibly all of these and more?

Here is the first Matins poem:

The sun shines by the mailbox, leaves

of the divided birch tree folded, pleated like fins.

Underneath, hollow stems of the white daffodils,

Ice Wings, Cantatrice; dark

leaves of the wild violet. Noah says

depressives hate the spring, imbalance

between the inner and the outer world.  I make

another case—being depressed, yes, but in a sense passionately

attached to the living tree, my body

actually curled in the split trunk, almost at peace,

in the evening rain

almost able to feel

sap frothing and rising: Noah says this is

an error of depressives, identifying

with a tree, whereas the happy heart

wanders the garden like a falling leaf, a figure for

the part, not the whole.

Only “the sun shines by the mailbox” suggests early day for the morning prayer theory….

* * *

Matin #2

(Begins with) “Unreachable father”… which suggests the opening of a prayer

ends with

“We merely knew it wasn’t human nature to love

only what returns love.”                                       What a beautiful line!

Matin #3

Forgive me if I say I love you: the powerful

are always lied to since the weak are always

driven by panic. I cannot love

what I can’t conceive, and you disclose

virtually nothing: are you like the hawthorn tree,

always the same thing in the same place,

or are you more the foxglove, inconsistent, first springing up

a pink spike on the slope behind the daisies,

and the next year, purple in the rose garden? You must see

it is useless to us, this silence that promotes belief

you must be all things, the foxglove and the hawthorn tree,

the vulnerable rose and tough daisy—we are left to think

you couldn’t possibly exist.  Is this

what you mean us to think, does this explain

the silence of the morning,

the crickets not yet rubbing their wings, the cats

not fighting in the yard?

The time is clearly morning and the lines “—we are left to think you couldn’t possibly exist”seem to be directed to God. Questions appear throughout the Matins, as well as in the other poems, sometimes spoken from an I perspective, sometimes we or us.

In Matin #6  the capitalized “Father” occurs.

“Father,/as agent of my solitude, alleviate /at least my guilt; lift/

the stigma of isolation…”

Matin  (#7) In its entirety.

Not the sun merely but the earth

itself shines, white fire

leaping from the showy mountains

and the flat road

shimmering in early morning: is this

for us only, to induce

response, or are you

stirred also, helpless

to control yourself

in earth’s presence—I am ashamed

at what I thought you were,

distant from us, regarding us

as an experiment: it is

a bitter thing to be

the disposable animal,

a bitter thing.  Dear friend,

dear trembling partner, what

surprises you most in what you feel,

earth’s radiance or your own delight?

For me, always

the delight is the surprise.

These Matins poems as well as the ten titled Vespers suggest to me conversations with “God,” steeped in the sense of growing things, the awareness of birth, blooming, dying – ingenuous in the personal expression of love for and intimacy with the father-creator-being.  Many of the other poems in the book also involve yearning dialogues with a God-person. Gluck also titles other poems in The Wild Iris with plants or trees and these living things speak in human discourse. Examples: The Red Poppy, Witchgrass.

What helped me to understand Gluck’s nuances in using the morning and evening prayer titles was a little book by J. Philip Newell — Sounds of the Eternal: a Celtic Psalter Morning and Night Prayer (Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2002). Quoting the founder of the Iona Community in Scotland, who said “Matter matters because at the heart of the physical is the spiritual,” Newell states that matter is important, whether it be the matter of our bodies, the matter of creation, or the matter of what we handle daily.

In Gluck’s poems, the conversations are rooted in nature, in matter, and in our relationship to the Creator. So perhaps for her, morning and evening prayers encapsulate the matter of the day, serving as spiritual bookends.

I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on the titling of poems.