Publication Year: 2004
In her first collection of poems, Kansas native Amy Fleury captures images of dragging clotheslines, baked lawns, and sweet potato babies, inserting them with an earnest dignity into her stories of midwestern life. Beautiful Trouble explores the subtleties of landscape, place, families, girlhood, womanhood, and everyday existence on the prairie. Fleury writes of the Midwest with authenticity, speaks of romance with delicate allure, and recalls the heartbreak of childhood without self-pity. In meditations on resilience and life’s contradictions, Fleury engages her characters fully and paints their souls and sensations evenly in language both rare and beautiful. She is a poet in love with sound and its power to summon majesty from quotidian scenes. Her poems are brief and striking, depending on exquisite word choice and balance to achieve a simple order on the page.
Published by: Southern Illinois University Press
Series: Crab Orchard Series in Poetry
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the editors of the following publications, where some of these poems originally appeared...
That girl, always a string bean child fretting at her mama’s skirts. Her time will come, sorry to say. She trips across pasture tugging that grubby-toed baby...
Once there was a walnut tree that shook its sorrows onto our house. At night we could hear them clatter to the roof, tumbling over shingles, wobbling down the pitch. In the bellowing wind,...
Penance: Reading to a Shut-In
For a while I was enamored of such a life, of sealed doors and the shades drawn. I arrived in the afternoons...
Torn strips of the Kansas City Star, gray news from 1979, farm crisis headlines dredged in glue, Jimmy Carter’s crumpled face pasted on a yellow balloon. Layer on layer, she bandaged it with the worry...
She rode a short bus, little loaf of bread on wheels, which let her out at the front steps of her red brick school. The classroom smelled like pencil lead and minty paste, and lacy, paper snowflakes...
It’s the suffering of little girls, all that fuss of ruffle and frill. Once we wished to be pink-lipped and lovely, to be perfectly tipped...
The Thirsting Hours
At night the little ones drown in their milky sleep. They slip beneath this life to swim in salty dreams. During those thirsting...
To Spit and Hone
Granddad’s whiskers were in the basin, and I was sad to see them go. He was out on the stump, keening his knife, singing a circle on his old whetstone. It was the August of...
You draw the bow of barbed wire, let me pass through to the pasture, to you and the other side. It is a good day to...
Their ripening is almost impolite. Splayed under smears of shade, these girls give back our gaze, brazen and unashamed. Hips jut, nipples pout, the body’s...
Consider the Thunder
Its low deliberate appeal, how it speaks of hunger or danger or deluge. Every weather shuns its own burden...
Wherever the Dancing Is Done
I am a fool. Believe it. I whirl and wheel in my barefooted way, drunk and off-kilter, hair in my face...
Those were her cornbread and gravy days, days she swept the kitchen of all but faith and thrift. She kept the itch of fire in the matchsafe, humble potatoes in their bin. Mornings she stirred...
A Prayer for Intercession
There is comfort in a needle plunged and drawn, each stitch a whisper and a hush. I work to the quilt that will fill a hollow cradle with splinters and seams...
It was not a bad place, this place, her home. From a swell above town she watched brisk bluestem washed in wistful breeze and Union Pacific shuttle...
Nemaha County Nocturne
The difficult stars parse the night into silence, benediction, dream. Between soil and silo thrums the grammar of grain and all of Kansas rests. The slender roots of weeds suck at the dirt, and the listing windmills and ruined...
He had the wanderfoot, and that’s how we landed in this harvest of rocks and wind...
Mercy at Home
She wants to be small, like something left on a bureau: a fingernail paring, a zinc penny, a rotted milk tooth, a fleck...
There is a physics to burnt toast and tenderness— a law proven in a kitchen south of a certain town. Here she scrapes black crumbs in washboard rhythm for the old man choked with bacon grease and egg yolk who sits at her table...
She had the remedy for a dead seed, any sorry thing that could ail a girl. They knew the way to her sagging porch, to her window divining light. Cabbage folds for poultice, buckthorn to purge, every pod and petal drawn to soothe...
Sonnet for Dissonance
The bell’s dull clapper stirs each day at noon, but I want silver lyric, twisted tin, metal, a jangle of...
Under the polished spokes of the sun, they sickle and sheave their wheat. He sings her that song she’s been wanting to hear of riffling water and sweet fall breeze. But these are her hands calloused with rhythm, this is her hair full of sweat...
About Rose Ida
Who would give a good god damn if she walked to town with her two bare feet? She could comb through her curls with mulberry-stained fingertips, and rush into the drugstore...
Supplications to the Blessed Mother
All evening the furnace spun its woolly heat and the dull pendulum swung. Sleeping in bloodless sheets, I dreamt the bedclothes had...
I remember that first whiskey kiss, desire clambering up the ladder of my ribs. My hair was wreathed in woodsmoke and the soft crush of leaves. I wore his flannel coat every...
Commotions of the Flesh
To live in the world is to live in the body, that deepest heap of wants. To hell with the mind...
Elegy for the Living
There are no words in the slow language of grief, only hollow syllables in this long silence. We blink and breathe...
Once again we stumble out of sheet tangle and the dross of dreams. Daylight comes in little sips over the lip of the bitter cup. It is enough to sustain...
The Fugitive Eve
In the first moments of knowing, juice drips down her chin onto her breasts. Lips and tongue learn in this oldest, truest way. The fruit is round and radiant. The firm weight of it feels...
I trust the heart, little tinder box in my chest, the steady burn at neck and wrist, but what about...
At Cather’s Grave
Veiled in deep New Hampshire pine, you rest in a bed of mast and loam. A pilgrim from the plains, I’ve...
Once I was a girl with a truck and a tackle box full of jigs and treble hooks. We sat on my tailgate to watch pasture scorch, and he traced my bones—hip, thigh, shin...
It seems I get by on more luck than sense, not the kind brought on by knuckle to wood, breath on dice, or pennies found in the mud. I shimmy and slip...
Epithalamion for a Maiden Aunt
After the long, Lenten penance of winter, your forty-three-year fast is broken. The churchyard offers a fragrance that is like ripe fruit or...
Wrap round that bracelet of song, each note a liquid jewel that lingers at the turn of a wrist— amber tone, jasper...
The Wound You Need
Piss drunk outside Port Arthur we pitched rocks into the bayou, wrecked its green stillness with every hurl. From the truck dash Janis, her voice full of tatters and ash...
Over the seventh hill of Prague the sun tamps out and twilight’s net is tossed down. I hear the trees mutter their sparrow vespers as a sooty nimbus settles above the city’s statues. Cherubs garland cornice and...
The Progress of Night
In the late elegiac light, insects chide the frail contraption of the sky, its faulty system of pulleys and wires. Piteous stars circuit the stripped gears of galaxy as crickets keep grinding...
Other Books in the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry
Muse, Susan Aizenberg This Country of Mothers, Julianna Baggott White Summer, Joelle Biele...