Lois Marie Harrod won her third poetry fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts in 2003. Her eighth book, Firmament, will be published by Finishing Line Books in November. Recent books include Put Your Sorry Side Out (2005, Concrete Wolf) and Spelling the World Backward (2000, Palanquin Press). Read other poetry by Lois Marie Harrod published in Weber: Vol. 13.3, Vol. 15.2, and Vol. 20.2.
I am thinking how pain
fills a space and then leaves it empty
just as time pockets itself
into the universe,
that little purse of nothing
we steal without knowing,
like boys who leave a woman dead
for twenty-three cents, all she had,
or like gout which fills
the rich leg with wine,
and leaves a skin empty
as a voided shell.
I am thinking of the strange names
we give to money, dough, bread—
how much have I eaten,
how much left?
I want to leave a nautilus
with its nowhere
divided into visible cells
chamber before chamber:
a slide show—the coliseum,
the gardens, the little tattoo shop
on the corner. It’s this simple—
a white expanse on a blue day
whirling into the next galaxy
with an index to every separate space.
From Labyrinth to Linear
We can hear the labor in the muse,
Daedalus at hawk
and handsaw, farsighted and sweating,
oh we get ourselves into muddles
and can’t get out,
did you bring the brief candles?
Imagination waxes the body
but the sun wicks it and wanes,
and somewhere above, the stars
keep splitting the comet’s hair
What logic lasts
more than a month?
Any lathe can round
the rigid corners of sense,
Though each letter mazes
its astonishing way
through the corn, we want
more than meaning
more than Icarus
dropping his plumb line into the world.
"What will your father say down among the shades?"
Robert Pinsky, "Poem of Disconnected Parts"
Sometimes he begins a sentence
as if he wants me to guess the end
as he did towards his extremity—
today I will cut . . . and I try to guess
what he had forgotten
school?… the grass?… my hair?…
the small needs of a scholarly parson
who liked his turf as trim as his hair.
Sometimes I want to speak for him,
apologize for the saving fluid
that poisons the soil
in which he grew corn and beans
that formaldehyde that keeps maggots at bay
come, eat… I think he would say.
Did he not give
more than he owned?
Sometimes I want to ask him
if he still believes in that merciful rain
that fell on my sister
but my father isn’t saying much
from the durable dark,
not much more than he said
from his dogged glow.
This Is Not a Cigar
You know there are things you will never do—
on learning that Saddam Hussein is writing poetry in prison
how it has fingered itself into air, how you
are breathing in and out bits of your hair with the hurts
of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. So much passes through you
which you refuse to claim: the smoke from the Triangle Shirt
Factory, the pheromones of the skinny rat sexing
the Black Plague through Florence, the oily cries
from Texas to Tehran, so much you disown, perplexing—
nothing like the words for which you would die.
No, this is not a cigar, just the wisp of what you’ve been,
molecules from Klimt, Sagan, Saigon and now, Saddam Hussein.
after Lotte Laserstein
I made Traute strip off her handmade brassiere
I made her pick up the sponge,
I made her left hand too big for her right thigh,
her breasts barely breasts,
too low on her chest and hard as knotty pears.
I made Traute wash her waist,
and I made the crease at her waist occlude the belly button.
I made her crouch hours in this difficult position—
half kneel, half squat,
the left foot forward as if to push her into standing—
and I made the garret roof so low
that when she stood she hit her head.
I made her impossible
as artists and lovers do
consigning the body they desire
to a flat canvas where it must remain,
if it remains, awkward and unloved.