I have written poetry and short fiction all my life and published a lot of it. My day job is editor of a trade publication Illinois Racing News. I live on a small horse farm in northern Illinois with my husband and various animals. My latest book, "Ribcage," (from Glass Lyre Press) recently won the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. I also am an associate editor of FutureCycle Press and Kentucky Review.
Poem With No Ending
You awaken thinking of the
Blue exit of the rain
With an ardor one comes to expect
Of early passion. How the morning is cast
In liquids overflowing. A pail of sunlight
Carries them off. Shining drops
Ornament the lilacs. It will be fair
And warm as the thought of arms
Holding you in a storm.
Simplicity, that’s the message
The plants receive, drinking the long
Lyrics of wet, their petals opening.
How delicate, how strong,
Beaten all night with tongs of rainfall
And never surrendering, never
Dreaming of surrender.
An autoclave of desire
Churns. To write a poem
About writing a poem
Is like a surgeon
Inspecting his instruments
Thinking now what?
Inoperable—a word he was taught
To despise. The word
Lurks on the tongue with its salvers
Of hosts, transfigured or simply
Meant to dissolve not nourish.
O love, the industry of the garden
Does not attend us,
Our first blooming. Paradise
Of scabs, blisters, diseases
Of the rose.
On the grass, iridescent
With dew, a grey feather
Elongated, pure. I imagine I
Could write with it
Dipped in the red
Ink of my veins.
There should never be
Such easy endings. Slumber
In the lemon-scented bath,
In the hammock of illusion.
When your voice
Blesses you with its declarations
You must listen,
The litany it begs you
To memorize. The intercession
With mallow roses in wetlands.
Why the world with its crazed
Surface, the world we didn’t invent
Speaks with a clarity
We can never master
With all of our devices,
All of our good intentions,
All of what we call love.
And now the poem calms itself,
Allows itself to be petted
Almost with affection
Before it departs
To the abattoir of silence.
I’ve arrived, unprepared as always.
The audience is taking their seats
In a room too brightly lit.
It’s that gothic university,
Maze of rooms to be lost in,
To escape to a childhood house
And the poems I planned to read
Before time runs out as it does
Dispersing the crowd,
My mother and father at a great distance.
Huge roots trip me fleeing
Through a dim wood calling their names.
A flood gushes. My daughter swept away
A Samaritan grabbing her collar.
As I cry for salvation, she becomes
My mother, genetics contracting
In the confusion of a blue car.
No roads lead anywhere. Scaling
A palm in a glasshouse to pluck
Poems from its arching fronds, I see
All the words dancing away like ghosts.
How I Came to Write This Poem
First, set pieces
Clever as zircons,
A sky of cawing birds
And roiling clouds, my
Metaphor or badlands
Deceivingly pink and gold in dawnlight.
It is the angle of sun
The molten canyon driving west
At sunset. The pearly morning
Centered with a redbird
Uttering his distinctive query
From the low bush beyond the south window.
The rimrocks hovering like
While the town below darkens
A leaf is an anthem
Everything stands for something,
We paddle still waters
Making a silver groove
From which our existence
Like waterbirds perpetually slides forward.
A ring of firs. Black rock.
The dream of white-eyed horses.
When you died, the voices chorused
Like migrating redwings
Filling the bare March trees
With amazing noise, then silence.
I could not open your book,
Examine the photograph or look
At the slanted signature
Of your love. I could not
Poetry repulsed me,
Its bleeding scab. Streaking windows
Of rain. Gravel embedded
In mudslick. Why
Write or sing or draw or think,
As Auden said it changes
Last spring the rivers rose
Out of their banks in a hundred-year flood.
A terrified boy was swept away
As the news cameras followed. Men
Lowered ropes, attempting to grasp
An extremity as he boiled past
In the deluge crying out.
This boy, a stranger, breaks
My heart. I wept for him
As I never could for you or myself.
Today, the poem says
I will be spoken the way buds clench
Then burst in the false precursor flower.
The true leaf unfurls its nature
Its delicate ribs, fabric tough
And strange, greenskinned,
Thinskinned, willing to suffer
Loss with the wind. All over earth
Turning to powder, the least of us
Essential and here and now.
First published in Barrelhouse
©2016 Joan Colby