Voices: Leslie Harrison


And I wonder sprawled on the curved recurved back
of the hill the towers of clouded sky crushing the horizon
flat I want to know how to strip the griefstorm from the flesh
flense the spirit scrape it down to the clean bone unbreaking
make it take in stride another raw dawn these days of snow
on cold on frozen take in stride this place of glass and ice
this place knit stitched pierced by the shadows of all those
departed birds begin again to assemble linens pillows
blankets scarves the small soft comforts cushions cradles
learn how to lay me down in something other than danger
other than fury ice and risk learn to stop dropping this body
into snowfields making these empty shapes learn to stop
waiting for them to be filled

Failed Love Poem

She asks me to imagine my inner creature my monster
and what I picture is a bare branch old rough and roughly
horizontal black and sharp a little stark no buds no hint
of life no flower anywhere nor any hope of flower I was
trying to write a love poem a poem for you a gift however
useless already it was or might have been so listen
my inner creature is ancient is lovely as a Hiroshige print
is waiting black with rain waiting for the rainy day to turn
rainy night for summer to heel over into another winter
the inner creature in winter is etched in new snow scratched
by small claws where a chickadee puffs up for warmth
the snow in this instance might stand in for white paper
the way he created the moon as absence painted also snow
as fine gestures suggestions at the edges of empty space
my inner creature might it turns out be Japanese might
be alive or dead might well weather another winter
but my inner creature is not talking to you any longer
my inner creature is a little in love with birds with the small
winter birds the way they cling their habits of chirp and sky
my inner creature is a branch in winter and you are not
the snow not the sun most surely not the rain listen I was
trying to write a love poem a poem for you but my inner
monster loves instead even the most ordinary weather
loves the weather more loves it better

I’m not Penelope married to faith married to waiting
bound in fine soft strands of silk dyed and stretched
in my world longing has teeth and fins has a taste
for blood longing is a room built entirely of knives
all edges facing in all points afire and also somehow
held to the vessel in my world sirens are the town criers
saying something’s happened and maybe to you saying
someone got too close to danger sirens are the past tense
of rescue meaning clean-up in aisle three where
the glass racks have fallen before the mast where the sea
rose up between the meat and the waiting where the bed
refused as usual to become the boat where the dead
drape and tangle in the rigging the sheets in the loom
and the sirens gather to wail flicker and shine they
gather together to sing of damage to sing us home

Poems © Leslie Harrison

Leslie Harrison is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Towson University.  Her second book, The Book of Endings, is forthcoming from the University of Akron Press. Her first book, Displacement, was published in 2009. Recent poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, Orion and elsewhere. More information, and links to published work, can be found at her website, leslie-harrison.com

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