I'm older and less judgemental (if not wiser) now, but every now and then I feel the urge to return to those days. It distresses me that I don't read enough poetry, especially enough contemporary poetry. Think about it - with prose, I'm half way through the Booker long list. With poetry, I've barely read a single book published in the last 12 months.
So Saturday morning, with the long weekend ahead of me, I decided it was time I expanded my poetic horizons, and I went out and borrowed 16 volumes of poetry, all published in the last 5 years, from the library. I've only got through some ten of them so far, and I was a little bored with some of them, but here are some extracts (and more will doubtless follow):
the air is awful,
it's true, a companion
tensions, sad after-
and to breathe it
as we do
in the short run
have to feel that somewhere
of at least one well-known
spring a sparrow
as if tethered to a stone,
to add even
a single feather
to the sky.
- David Rivard, 'Wednesday in September' from Sugartown
Kenyan stamps on blue tissue - the usual pregnant arrival of words.
Always a marvel with facts and specifics, she notices things
no one else notices, then shares them with a practical generosity.
You might as well know this.
And after she says she's grown fat on chocolate, outlines a day
of clinical work and tells of a hippo, the green mambas in the yard,
there is something else. A woman in labor. Undilated and staring
into the eyes of something, she arrived alone from the village.
No supplies in the cabinets, no time and two hours of one ruptured dirt road.
They carried her to the Jeep, knew they'd never make Migori before she collapsed,
then how stunned we were to find the road repaired! the ruts filled in, tangled
roots and rock removed, smoothed over. They made it in forty-five minutes,
delivered the woman and her child and afterward asked when the road was restored,
how, by whom. Why had they heard no shovels, no singing?
The nurses shook their head then, the hagglers in the market shrugged. At dusk
they turned the Jeep for home, lurched back onto the road and you must know this -
She writes of the endless ragged tracks, the old sprawling scar, and how for two hours
in silence they labored their way back, each star beating down.
- Rebecca Wee, 'Ajabu' (Magic) from Uncertain Grace
Sometimes one of the twins dies
in utero, without his mother
ever knowing she'd been twice blessed.
Hungy for life, the living twin
will absorb his double and, growing,
compress him until all that's left
is a tiny shape made flat, a silhouette
of the life it once contained.
While the one child is born pink
and howling into his parent's arms,
the other remains a faint imprint
barely visible in the translucent web
of amniotic membranes - a fetal hieroglyph.
Some people believe twins have
only one sould between them.
If that's true, how many
of us are born half -
ignorant of our paper twin, the ghostly
shroud of an other self,
the blank page onto which all
our imagined lives are written.
- Peter Pereira, 'Fetus Papyraceous' from Saying the World
What the scale tells you is how much the earth
has missed you, body, how it wants you back
again after you leave it to go forth
into the light. Do you remember how
earth hardly noticed you then? Others would rock
you in their arms, warm in the flow
that fed you, coaxed you upright. Then earth began
to claim you with spots and fevers, began to lick
at you with a bruised knee, a bloody shin,
and finally to stroke you, body, drumming
intimate coded messages through music
you danced to unawares, there in your dreaming
and your poems and your obedient bloo.
Body, how useful you became, how lucky,
heavy with news and breakage, rich, and sad,
sometimes imagining that greedy zero
you must have been, that promising empty sack
of possibilities, never-to-come tomorrow.
But look at you now, body, soft old shoe
that love wears when it's stirring, look down, look
how the earth wants what you weigh, needs what you know.
- Rhina P. Espaillat, 'Weighing in' from Where horizons go.