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Dorianne Laux, “On the Back Porch”

 

Dorianne Laux was a great favorite of mine before she chose Sparrow for the Gell Poetry Prize, before she wrote the forward for Sparrow, before I met her at LitFuse in 2013. I’ve included her poetry on the blog before, but in doing a little research today, I found an interview at a fascinating poetry site called Dive Dapper; divedapper? Anyway, click on the link to find out more. I am all the more determined to see that our paths cross again. And again.

In the meantime, here is a poem from her early collection, Awake. 

ON THE BACK PORCH

The cat calls for her dinner.
On the porch I bend and pour
brown soy stars into her bowl,
stroke her dark fur.
It’s not quite night.
Pinpricks of light in the eastern sky.
Above my neighbor’s roof, a transparent
moon, a pink rag of cloud.
Inside my house are those who love me.
My daughter dusts biscuit dough.
And there’s a man who will lift my hair
in his hands, brush it
until it throws sparks.
Everything is just as I’ve left it.
Dinner simmers on the stove.
Glass bowls wait to be filled
with gold broth. Sprigs of parsley
on the cutting board.
I want to smell this rich soup, the air
around me going dark, as stars press
their simple shapes into the sky.
I want to stay on the back porch
while the world tilts
toward sleep, until what I love
misses me, and calls me in.

-Dorianne Laux

Reading at Edmonds Bookshop, tonight!

This evening at Edmonds Bookshop, at 6:30, I will be reading with four other northwest poets (click here to see the list), including my friend, Bellingham poet Jennifer Bullis.

This morning, sitting in bright sunlight under a row of (I think) Acacia trees, I reread Jennifer’s book Impossible Lessons (see a review, here), and tried to choose just one to share. It is a rich book — mythology, horses, babies, birds — and I happily recommend the whole of it to you. But here, just in case you have any questions, her poem, “The Answer.”

THE ANSWER

After the windstorm, a pileated woodpecker
works the dead trunk of a newly leaning maple.

He pulls his scarlet-crested head back
the full length of his black and white body

with each pounding stroke of his beak,
scattering moss, bark, bits of rotted wood

on the forest floor. I want to know
why his head is shaped like an anvil

and why he is fated to hammer
for his food. I want to know why

this particular maple snag has lost its footing
among so many of its neighbors.

I crave a sound rationale as to how
this one, of all of them, was singled out

by the beetles and fungi that killed it
in the first place. But I learn nothing

except by the woodpecker’s breaking off
his analysis of the tree and flashing past

all my questioning, the red crest of his head
a sweet and vivid and impossible lesson.

Louise Glück, “Presque Isle”

If you don’t check in regularly to A Writer’s Alchemy, you’ll want to scroll down (or click on the link) to take a look at THE BIG POETRY GIVEAWAY. In honor of National Poetry Month, I am giving away copies of my books, and a FEW others (not just the Hirshfield). See the original post for more information, but all you have to do in order to take part in the drawing at the end of April, is leave a comment — or email me.

For today, here is a poem by Louise Glück, winner of last year’s National Book Award for Poetry. This poem makes me think of something my teacher, Nelson Bentley, used to say, “Recurring memories are poems, asking to be written.”

PRESQUE ISLE

In every life, there’s a moment or two.
In every life, a room somewhere, by the sea or in the mountains.

On the table, a dish of apricots. Pits in a white ashtray.

Like all images, these were the conditions of a pact:
on your cheek, tremor of sunlight,
my finger pressing your lips.
The walls blue-white; paint from the low bureau flaking a little.

That room must still exist, on the fourth floor,
with a small balcony overlooking the ocean.
A square white room, the top sheet pulled back over the edge of the bed.
It hasn’t dissolved back into nothing, into reality.
Through the open window, sea air, smelling of iodine.

Early morning: a man calling a small boy back from the water.
That small boy — he would be twenty now.

Around your face, rushes of damp hair, streaked with auburn.
Muslin, flicker of silver. Heavy jar filled with white peonies.

Day 30: The Last Day

“Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world. And I’d like a world, wouldn’t you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I’m certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don’t think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.’” 
― Ted KooserThe Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

*
from POETRYisEVERYTHING (abbreviated):

THE PROMPT for Wednesday April 30th, 2014

Prompt 30 – Something old, something borrowed, something blue — Our poem will be 8 to 12 lines. Every other line (lines 2, 4, 6 and 8 and possibly 10 and 12) will be brand new lines that you write. One or more of these lines will include something blue.

For lines 1, 3, 5, 7, and possibly, 9 and 11 use lines from two to three of the poems you have written in the last 30 days.

This is what I came up with (tinkered with it a little, losing the 2, 4, etc. organization):

*

Emma, Playing the Guitar

As a child I fell in love with words, pleats
and plaits, with words like implicate

which means braided into. Words
unfurling, an ocean that my streams ran to,

or out of, like my parents’ shelves of books,
my logger father reading aloud Emily Dickinson and Rudyard Kipling.

Tonight my youngest daughter practices her guitar,

in love with music, making me listen to a blue e-minor chord,
trellises of music like trellises of wisteria,

a wicker chair under a skylight, a scent
of gardenias and lilacs, the heavy bees thrumming.

Bout, fret, strings, saddle and bridge, soundhole, neck.

And her name, a word I’ve counted on
to make the world make sense.