Now here’s what poetry can do.
Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There’s an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You’re beautiful for as long as you live.
- an excerpt from Stephen Dunn’s
“Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry”
— George Saunders, “Escape from Spiderhead”
Song by Adrienne Rich
You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.
You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely
If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn’s first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep
If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning.
your sternum is a divining rod
for both passion and grief. because the tongue is the body’s
strongest muscle, make it say
joy. make it say I am a factory of splendid things. make it say
the octopus is the smartest animal
in the animal kingdom, and I am an octopus. I am an octopus.
I am happy. my survival
was not an accident, or purposeless."
— Marty McConnell, “Zoo” (via speioritur)
like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.
I remember when the sky
was all the rage,
like last night and how it felt
like a bundle of letters
flung into the air
over the apartment
where you and I slept
like two keys in someone’s pocket,
the same sky
as this morning but now it’s more
like a sheet that’s been
lifted like rice over a wedding
party. Jumbo jets
are swimming through the clouds
and you are driving
with your son asleep
in the back, every microcosm
of his body is initialed
with your name, with the sound
and wet mouth of your skin.
I’m getting ready
to walk through this city
for the tenth billion time, getting
ready to be a person
who is not like an empty building,
who is not like an emergency
kit, the swabs and needles,
the antiseptic and Band-Aids,
today I will be the way
I always wanted to be, someone
drinking coffee and being
kind of knowing
the difference between making
love and putting on
his shoes. The way I smile,
with the dental dam
of death clouding up my teeth
is something you always
knew about me, something you liked
a little in the left part of your body
which is the part that has water
and trees, puddles of blood
and planets of organs. I want to know
just what kind of a person
goes to sleep with one name
and wakes up with another, my inner life
has so many passports
I don’t think it belongs to any particular
Nation, nor would it be saved
if all out war were to appear over
the hedges like a mother
appearing in the middle of a Mall
where her lost child
has been watching a strange man
do a trick with a quarter,
a pin, and his thick hands. Whenever
you go, I am sawed in half
in front of an audience of one,
before the two boxes of myself
are wheeled back together and I get
to stand up again, and bow, and walk away.
and the milk tip is brimming
and each machine is working
and I will kiss you when
I cut up one dozen new men
and you will die somewhat,
again and again."
— An excerpt from “Again and Again and Again,” Anne Sexton
— ― Alice Munro
As I Was Saying
Old maple leaves barely able to hang on green, go
What will they do in tomorrow’s red dress?
soon to mulch or scatter down the street with
garbage. What is this conversation, this little
Crunch the bone of it to cake flour.
dance of when-we-can-what-we’ll-do? Are we
low, long, reverberations of dialogue about
the real dressed as the mundane? We’ve forgotten
A kind of play?
our native tongue, so speak with fingertips close to lips or
pressed into the small of my back. You whisper in
I want to float with those three in your key,
that breath span between release and reconnect. We are
let them curl under my chin.
closer to it there. That is our conversation.
(“As I Was Saying” appears in Monroe’s chapbook, Something More Like Love.)
Go for a rain walk with towels. Place bets
on puddles we’ve not seen since January
and may never see again. Let’s be serious
for a moment—let’s not! Count buds on maples. Let’s break
the window of the house across the street with our hands.
Let’s climb trees slick black, grab the crow at the top by the tail.
Let’s pray! Let’s not. Let’s beg! Let’s not.
Let’s let each other have our way with each other. Let’s do this again
real soon. Let’s create strange verses. Let’s try to pick ourselves up
off the floor after so much whiskey—so many whiskey kisses.
About Jenn Monroe: Jenn Monroe is executive editor of Eastern Point Press and co-founder and an editor/educator for Eastern Point Lit House. She is the author of Something More Like Love (2012, Finishing Line Press) and her poems have been published in a wide array of literary journals. She lives with her loves in New Hampshire.
See more of her work here: www.thepoetgirl.com