Midwestern Poet’s Incomplete Guide to Symbolism
Every bird is a metaphor; in the center of this country, in between rivers with native
names, guilt waves her hand: a beauty-queen in a hometown parade. A poet is her
trauma and her trauma is probably a man — white and condescending. Possibly her
youth pastor or math teacher. If she mentions booze, it’s her dad. If she mentions fish
or the late night fisherman, it’s absence. If she mentions Tennessee, it’s freedom.
Other images to consider: dead deer, hips, peonies, morning sunlight (or is that
metonymy), the moon, egrets flying west, sparrows with broken beaks, snakes
wound, accidentally, in hay bales. Mothers, here, like any spot in the universe carry
big bags —let’s not go beyond that. Lovers are bon-fires after homecoming games
and honestly, in a poem, grief scores the winning points. How many country roads
conjured to replace time and space?
Each stanza a bluebird, each semicolon a horse, each enjambment an alley cat
infested with fleas,
every moment of longing a red-tailed hawk.
Gods Ars Poetica
In the beginning there was no America, no tight-
bodied teen-brunette who doodles his boyfriend’s
name on his notebook, no Betsy Ross
with pin-pricked fingertips, no Great Lakes Museum
in Toledo, absolutely no Trader Joe’s or Miller Lite
or Abercrombie and Fitch. Humans were created
in Rome or born in Paris or emerged right from the Red Sea.
Telephones are only a thing to whisper loneliness,
mouth to ear, and to talk about architecture
and two-act plays. Writing, specifically poetry,
happened by accident. One woman, petite
and desperate, needed to document sex and meat.
She made lines in the sand: It will mean sweat and work.
It will mean satisfaire. It will be good.
Pregnancy Litany, After the Miscarriage
The young artist in her cotton dress says,
there is death and then life on either side of it.
She does not know the palm-sized blood clot sliding from between my legs,
or the mad moment of loneliness in every empty room,
or my witness, the mute moon, silver thread of a thing,
or the sickle cat curled at my feet while the bowl to catch the sacrifice
is a toilet.
I say, to correct her,
there is death and then blood on either side of it,
under my fingernails, on the rug, on empty cupboard handles,
smeared on my thighs like sunlight on a hill where two horses stand,
The Ex-Wife of My Lover is a Good Mom
He reminds me weekly—
We parent well together, he’ll say,
She’s only ever wanted to be a mother.
As if to exploit that small empty room inside my body; he walks the perimeter,
laying hands on the walls checking for structural integrity.
As if she has rooted deeply and I am haphazard ditchside daffodils. As if I am to conjure up a black and white photo of a sweet woman standing near a bicycle in slacks.
As if I am the fog that unfurls in his early morning, confusing his sense of direction.
I nod my head, say
yes. Yes, of course she is. Yes.
What else is there for me to say on the wild side of the fence?