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Posts tagged Over My Shoulder

What I’ve Been Reading: Yusef Komunyakaa, “Ignis Fatuus” (2004)

From The Best American Poetry: 2004, eds. Lyn Hejinian and David Lehman, pp. 136-137.

Ignis Fatuus

Something or someone. A feeling
among a swish of reeds. A swampy
glow haloes the Spanish moss,
& there’s a swaying at the edge
like a child’s memory of abuse
growing flesh, living on what
a screech owl recalls. Nothing
but a presence that fills up
the mind, a replenished body
singing its way into doubletalk.
In the city, Will o’ the Wisp
floats out of Miles’ trumpet,
leaning ghosts against nighttime’s
backdrop of neon. A foolish fire
can also start this way: before
you slide the key into the lock
& half-turn the knob, you know
someone has snuck into your life.
A high window, a corner of sky
spies on upturned drawers of underwear
& unanswered letters, on a tin box
of luminous buttons & subway tokens,
on books, magazines, & clothes
flung to the studio’s floor,
his sweat lingering in the air.
Years ago, you followed someone
here, in love with breath
kissing the nape of your neck,
back when it was easy to be
at least two places at once.

— Yusef Komunyakaa (2004)
from The New Republic

(Ignis fatuus is Latin for foolish fire, meaning a will-o’-the-wisp or jack-o’-lantern — a ghost or fairy light seen on a dark night, in a bog or marsh, that seems to promise a place to rest, but really only leads the unwary traveler deeper into the mire.)

What I’ve Been Reading: Kim Addonizio, “Chicken” (2004)

From The Best American Poetry: 2004, eds. Lyn Hejinian and David Lehman, pp. 15-16. I’m not always convinced that the title of this anthology is strictly accurate. But this one is probably my favorite poem in the collection.

Chicken

? Why did she cross the road?
She should have stayed in her little cage,
shat upon by her sisters above her,
shitting on her sisters below her.

God knows how she got out.
God sees everything. God has his eye
on the chicken, making her break
like the convict headed for the river,

sloshing his way through the water
to throw off the dogs, raising
his arms to starlight to praise
whatever isn’t locked in a cell.

He’ll make it to a farmhouse
where kind people will feed him.
They’ll bring green beans and bread,
home-brewed hops. They’ll bring

the chicken the farmer found
by the side of the road, dazed
from being clipped by a pickup,
whose delicate brain stem

he snapped with a twist,
whose asshole his wife stuffed
with rosemary and a lemon wedge.
Everything has its fate,

but only God knows what that is.
The spirit of the chicken will enter the convict.
Sometimes, in his boxy apartment,
listening to his neighbors above him,

annoying his neighbors below him,
he’ll feel a terrible hunger
and an overwhelming urge
to jab his head at the television over and over.

— Kim Addonizio (2004)
from Five Points

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