Etta’s Elegy, by Maureen Seaton

for Etta Silver (1913–2013)

This is where the poem holds its breath,
where the usable truth sways, sorrowing,

and the people sway with the truth of it,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where the book closes and the clock
opens and the clock closes and the book

opens to song so the snow geese murmur
and the coyote swaggers along the aspens.

This is where the geese fly unabashedly out,
and the sky turns white and wild with sound.

This is where tumult, this is where prophecy.
This is where the poem repents of language.

This is where the poem enters silence,
where the child holds the book in her lap

whose pages are aflame with life, whose
song sways with a usable truth, sorrowing.

And this is where the poem holds its breath,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where it leaps wild about the child,
where the snow geese seize the seamless sky

and the universe splits open for one poem—
the way a life lived calls on us to praise it.

About this poem:

“Etta Silver read and loved poetry all her life. I loved her and she loved me. Her grandson, my friend, asked me to write a poem for her funeral. Inspired by Etta, and having just seen the snow geese fly out of the Bosque del Apache in southern New Mexico and heard the silence after they’d gone, I did.”

Maureen Seaton

 

Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri, by Mona Van Duyn

The quake last night was nothing personal,
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders,
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.

But the earth said last night that what I feel,
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me.
One small, sensuous catastrophe
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.

The earth, with others on it, turns in its course
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross,
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell
to planets, nearing the universal roll,
in our conceit even comprehending the sun,
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.

Fourth of July, 2012, by Robyn Schiff

I remember a performance
of Antigone in which she
threw herself on the floor of
the universe and picked up
a piece of dust. Is that
the particle? It startled me.
Was it Scripted? Directed?
Driven? I am a girl, Antigone.
I have a sister. We love
each other terribly. I am a woman
of property. The milk of the footlights.
The folds of the curtain. I remember
a performance of Antigone. She stooped.
There was a wild particle.
It was glorified by my distance.
I heard the hooves of the dust.
The ticking of the script
calibrating oblivion. I saw
the particle hanging
and Antigone needed something
to do with her hands
and she did it.

3 Men: Portraits Without the Human Figure, by Deena Linnett

Hotel-casino: lights flash, crowds tread
patterned carpets hoping for a turn
in fortune. Despite the ardent wishes
of the women you have left you are not dead.
You’re good at lively passing things
that happen here: at restaurants, in bed,
at tables tossing dice and cards. That smudge
at bottom right stands in for me, as you plunge
breathless into chance as into women, risk
like drink obliterating everything.

Studio: smells of linseed oil and turpentine. Brushes,
palette knives, mixing-sticks; bottles, jars, tubes. Paint
in daubs and gobs and smears and dots and slashes.
You left the window open and everything stained.

Greenhouse. Beneath little panes pocked
by time and dotted with mold and lichen, rot,
a riot of tropical effulgence, small framed portion
of the endlessness. Spiky plants blossom
like ideas; light glances off the glass and gleams
on the permanent hunger, steams. Everything
blooms or is green. You shrug into your coat.

Verguenza, by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Woman, I wish I didn’t know your name.
What could you be? Silence in my house
& the front yard where the dogwood
wouldn’t make up its mind about flowers.
Aren’t you Nature? A stem cringing, half-
shadowed beneath a torque of rain.
I too am leaving. I too am half-spun.
The other day near the river
I bent down & Narcissus
turned his immaculate mouth
away, refusing to caress
my howls. Silence in the trees
all around the shotgun house & that scent
of cedar whenever I dream.
I turn the light around on the ground,
sweeping the red mud, holding
the light like a rattler. Like a hood of
poison, fitted over my face. Cobra
woman, slicked with copperhead flutes.
I too am fleeing. My face born
in a caul of music. Bravado.
The men come into the yard
& pull all my clothes off,
walk me into the house,
into my own kitchen.
Tell me not to say
say I’m wrong.

El Florida Room, by Richard Blanco

Not a study or a den, but El Florida
as my mother called it, a pretty name
for the room with the prettiest view
of the lipstick-red hibiscus puckered up
against the windows, the tepid breeze
laden with the brown-sugar scent
of loquats drifting in from the yard.

Not a sunroom, but where the sun
both rose and set, all day the shadows
of banana trees fan-dancing across
the floor, and if it rained, it rained
the loudest, like marbles plunking
across the roof under constant threat
of coconuts ready to fall from the sky.

Not a sitting room, but El Florida where
I sat alone for hours with butterflies
frozen on the polyester curtains
and faces of Lladró figurines: sad angels,
clowns, and princesses with eyes glazed
blue and gray, gazing from behind
the glass doors of the wall cabinet.

Not a TV room, but where I watched
Creature Feature as a boy, clinging
to my brother, safe from vampires
in the same sofa where I fell in love
with Clint Eastwood and my Abuelo
watching westerns, or pitying women
crying in telenovelas with my Abuela.

Not a family room, but the room where
my father twirled his hair while listening
to 8-tracks of Elvis, and read Nietzsche
and Kant a few months before he died,
where my mother learned to dance alone
as she swept, and I learned Salsa pressed
against my Tía Julia’s enormous breasts.

At the edge of the city, in the company
of crickets, beside the empty clothesline,
telephone wires and the moon, tonight
my life is an old friend sitting with me
not in the living room, but in the light
of El Florida, as quiet and necessary
as any star shining above it.