Monday, December 6, 2010

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

I'm pretty swamped with end-of-semester odds and ends, but wanted to post a poem I was recently introduced to by my workshop instructor, Gail Mazur. This piece originally appeared back in 1999 on Slate, a zine that deserves a shout-out for posting poems and generally acknowledging the existence/cultural relevance of poetry.

I am in awe of this poem. After reading it, I immediately filed it in the "damn, I wish I had written that" file. The final simile, in the last three lines, is especially amazing.

The Round-Up
by Karen Fish

What happened--old as the hills, ancient as the ax,
the horse, water in a clay cup, dirt under the fingernails.
The river forgets the fish and the winter sun slides
beyond the far hills. All of them had mothers, and all
the mothers sang while swimming and as the women sang
the birds left the trees which ringed the water
for the clouds where the distance whispered a different dream
than the dream dreaming this

dark afternoon. The men were boys not that long ago--
delicate, confident paddling alongside their mothers
through the hot afternoons.
The water dark green with splash and shout--
summer just a whistle and gone.
Of course, the night will still hold stars,
the moon's journey, the planet's orbit. There will
always be nests, branches, the swaying and the saying.
They have names and are men exactly like you
lined up in jackets, boots and caps--
cold with the waiting.

It is unbelievable, even some of the soldiers
begin to sob. Trucked out to no-where
are doctors, lawyers, plumbers, builders, bankers.
It is winter, snow rides the collapse of clouds.
There are just shades of brown and grey,
a line of trees--a dark scribble
like markings done by a child.

As each man is shot,
whether he drops backward
or to the side
he forgets us, his own name, this place,
like the kiss
in the evening at the lit threshold
whose intent was to swear return.

1 comment: said...

It is a damn great poem. I'm only beginning to realize how hard it is to pull off that turn in the last stanza. I've tried to do that in some of my own poetry and it hasn't worked. It's nice to see it done effectively.