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"Drawing on images that rise dream-like from a personal landscape, these poems attempt to communicate what I find hardest to say, the movement of my mind within itself. So much of the way we perceive the world is dependent not on what has happened to us, the storylines of our lives, but on how we piece those fragments of experience together. The poem 'And Then' enacts the difficult processing of my mother's death. But it enacts, too, my experience writing a poem: it begins in a meditation—the mind turned inward, images rising fractured and unbidden. When focused on, these images solidify, in this case into bits of memory, which in turn are hinged to other memories, moving tangentially as the mind moves. The ways in which these memories are hinged defines the realizations.

"The other three poems, 'Atrium,' 'Invocation: A Fragment' and 'Sanctuary: A Premonition,' attempt to articulate a central human experience that is primarily nonlinguistic. For this, I found it necessary to turn to a more surreal language, one that is highly imagistic, a language that resonates against a self, beyond the conscious mind. All four of these poems are drawn from my new manuscript, A Toast to Grief."

the difficult listening, the mind                tuned to draw the thread        of blood stitchedto squire the find,                a quail squalling in a field of corn—        a barren, harvested sky,the smell of lit fire. Ash,                and, on the wing, a sparrow, the lit, then unlit        rise and falling of its gait—ashto ash, my father says, we should pour them                on his father's headstone, in an old        French cemetery where graveteeth break through                moldering earth. My daughter and I        turn the soilof our garden, loosening                worms she collects in a jar, the stem crust        and slap, break of root-hairsto press something new into the yard's                moist mouth. Let's visit the garden        we planted Grandma in, she says, and we do,the hill my father, with his fluid-filled heart,                tried to climb,        my own pulse poundingmy forehead, as, in grief                and guilt, I kept seeing        the scene gone awry: in processionto my mother's grave, my father,                his stumbling gait, his        one heartcongested to failure, the fall                and crumple by the grave        I chose high on the hillso she could see far, the geese schooling                the pond, the bobbins        they make of water rings, [End Page 166] the greening humps and,                vaster, the bowl of blue        sky, crazedin bleats and calls.                We beckoned a gardener, who jostled        my father up the cemetery slopein something like a golf cart. Thank God                for the mercy of absurdity,        my father and Ilooking at our shoes by my mother's grave.                I teach my daughter        to plant, to turn the mineral-richsoil, but as we kneel in the backyard,                her skirt skimming        her smudged ankles, I see the glintof an old colander, and upturning it                uncorks the earth before us, dry soil        sifting down like sandthrough a sieve, and a hole,                a shaft, large enough she could        fall through, opensat our feet—my mind recalibrating                the day, the dangers        of our sunlit yard, all the gearsof disbelief and terror drilling down                through my chest as I feel along the line        between horror and sense,what to make of this—an old well, perhaps!                and snatch her away.        Love's a hole we all fall throughto grief, a tenderness                ringed in terror. My girl, her beauty        blazing, waves the garden hose,its spray a shifting                umbrella of rain,        perforating joy, each framebroken and spliced to the next                for those of us who stay lit,        the deep brass note reverberating even now [End Page 167] below our keening birds, distant motors                gunning, the dappling light playing us        in minor key, before the trebledsilence of aspen leaves, the panning out, the curtain's fall. [End Page 168]

Nadine Sabra Meyer

inline graphicNadine Sabra Meyer's first book of poems, The Anatomy Theater, won the National Poetry Series and was published by HarperCollins in 2006...

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