Wednesday, April 02, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day 2: Marie Howe

Marie Howe is one of my favorite contemporary female poets. Here are three poems of hers that I love. "Part of Eve's Discussion" is the prologue to her first book, The Good Thief, which won the National Poetry Series years ago; the other two are from her second book, What the Living Do, which covers a lot of ground related to her brother's death from AIDS. Her new book just came out, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, but I have yet to put my hands on it.

Part of Eve's Discussion

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand, and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop, very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say, it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only all the time.


(This poem's lines are long; you'll just have to imagine the couplets actually fit into my blog format.)

The Boy

My older brother is walking down the sidewalk into the suburban summer night:
white T-shirt, blue jeans--to the field at the end of the street.

Hangers Hideout the boys called it, an undeveloped plot, a pit overgrown
with weeds, some old furniture thrown down there,

and some metal hangers clinking in the trees like wind chimes.
He’s running away from home because our father wants to cut his hair.

And in two more days our father will convince me to go to him--you know
where he is--and talk to him: No reprisals. He promised. A small parade of kids

in feet pajamas will accompany me, their voices like the first peepers in spring.
And my brother will walk ahead of us home, and my father

will shave his head bald, and my brother will not speak to anyone the next
month, not a word, not pass the milk, nothing.

What happened in our house taught my brothers how to leave, how to walk
down a sidewalk without looking back.

I was the girl. What happened taught me to follow him, whoever he was,
calling and calling his name.


The Last Time

The last time we had dinner together in a restaurant
with white table clothes, he leaned forward

and took my two hands in his and said,
I'm going to die soon. I want you to know that.

And I said, I think I do know.
And he said, what surprises me is that you don't.

And I said, I do. And he said, What?
And I said, Know that you're going to die.

And he said, No, I mean know that you are.

If you google her, you can find more of her work.

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