Features

Crossroads of America

In our green Plymouth station wagon, we crisscrossed the map. My mother let me choose our destinations. “Any state but Georgia” was Eve’s rule, though I still memorized the Georgia motto: Wisdom, Justice, Moderation. 

Her other rule: we couldn’t stay more than a month in any place. . . .

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So you will never find me

 

So you will never find me—

In this life—with a sharp and invisible

Fence, I encircle myself

 

With honeysuckle, bind myself,

With hoarfrost, cover myself.

 

So you will never hear me

At night—with a crone’s subtlety:

With reticence—I fortify myself. . . .

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Riddle

 

We do not recognize the body

Of Emmett Till. We do not know

The boy’s name nor the sound

Of his mother wailing. We have

Never heard a mother wailing. 

We do not know the history

Of ourselves in this nation. . . .

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Valley of Knowledge

 

Enter the Valley of Knowledge,

with its boundless myriad roads

unfurling in every direction.

 

Here, no path resembles the next.

Here, the traveler of the body is different

from the traveler of the soul. . . .

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Real Estate Ode

 

If the Pyramid at Giza were 

at Bleecker and LaGuardia, 

the base would extend down to West Broadway 

and Spring, and across Spring to Mercer, 

and up Mercer to Bleecker and across 

Bleecker to LaGuardia,

sloping up on four sides

to its peak the height of the skyscraper

on Spring and Varick. . . .

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Where to Put It

The room in which I start sobbing again and wonder

if my sobs will hurt the baby inside me, and the room

in which I hope so, a room made entirely of a window.

                                    The room of my husband’s goodnight,

which is a room in a large municipal building with Styrofoam ceilings

where lines must be formed so forms can be signed, . . .

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Elbow Room

Boone’s genius was to recognize the difficulty as neither material nor political but one purely moral and aesthetic.

—William Carlos Williams,
“The Discovery of Kentucky”

Narrator is unmanageable. Demonstrates a disregard for form bordering on the paranoid. Questioned closely, he declares himself the open enemy of conventional narrative categories. . . .

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Large Black Landscape

It is black. Black and rearing up; rounded points, pointy points. Black and matted together; plates and plains, lines and radiant circles. Black on black. Black on black on black.

____

Is this a mountain? Mountains? Is this the ocean—all those rearing points, that shifting? . . .

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On Slaughter and Praying: An Essay in Two Parts

Part One. Before Getting to My Desk 

Before getting to my desk this morning I’ve woken to the back of Luke’s spine in blue light and understood for the first time that is the image I have been dreaming of after working the “I” entirely out of a poem that didn’t need it. . . .

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The Slow and Tender Death of Cockroaches

In my beginning is my end.

—T. S. Eliot, “East Coker”

 

I always find them alone. Laid on their backs and clawing at the ceiling, like they were still falling from a too-high place. I find them on the shelf next to the dishware. . . .

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