Thursday, May 10, 2007

Since Sarah Asked, 4 by Lorna Crozier

"Fear of Snakes"

The snake can separate itself
from its shadow, move on ribbons of light,
taste the air, the morning and the evening,
the darkness at the heart of things. I remember
when my fear of snakes left for good,
it fell behind me like an old skin. In Swift Current
the boys found a huge snake and chased me
down the alleys, Larry Moen carrying it like a green torch,
the others yelling, Drop it down her back, my terror
of its sliding in the runnel of my spine (Larry,
the one who touched the inside of my legs on the swing,
an older boy we knew we shouldn't get close to
with our little dresses, our soft skin), my brother
saying, Let her go, and I crouched behind the caraganas,
watched Larry nail the snake to a telephone pole.
It twisted on twin points of light, unable to crawl
out of its pain, its mouth opening, the red
tongue tasting its own terror, I loved it then,
that snake. The boys standing there with their studip hands
dangling from their wrists, the beautiful green
mouth opening, a terrible dark O
no one could hear.

***

"Last Rites"

When he finally showed himself
he was a bird with ragged wings
and black crow feet. He landed
on her window sill, then hopped to the floor,
wings clattering like TV antennae
lowered from the roof and taken
to the nuisance grounds.
On one foot two toes were missing
and his chest was plucked bare,
goose-pimpled skin raw and scabby.
When he saw the look on her face,
he began to whine, "You think
I can help the way I look?
I like going where I'm not wanted?"
The woman felt sorry for him
till she remembered who he was.
"Shoo," she said, "Shoo."
He limped toward her.
"I'll call the dog."
Death stopped. He coughed and coughed,
chest heaving as if his heart
were breaking out. "I don't feel well,"
he said. "I don't need all this trouble."
He hopped twice, his tail dragging
like a dirty broom across linoleum.
At the bedside table he raised
her cup of spittle, drank it down.
He unwound the bandages
from her throat and wiped his brow.
This close up, there was something
in his yellow eyes she found appealing.
They never blinked,
never closed, never had a chance
to stop looking at the world.
She threw back the covers and sat
on the bed for the first time in days.
Death put his wing around her
like an old-fashioned gentleman
offering his cape because
the night was cool. He said,
"It's not so bad, where we're going,
but you'll have to carry me a while.
My feet aren't what they used to be."
The woman felt her last
breath leave her body,
it hovered in the air between them,
then she stood and picked up Death.
He was light and suddenly no bigger
than a sparrow. If he spoke
she could no longer hear him.
He trembled in her hand,
the only warm thing against her flesh --
it was so cold. "It's okay,"
she tried to tell him.
"I won't hurt you."
She placed him gently in her mouth.
Her tongue seemed to be missing
and the inside of one cheek.
As she floated to the window
she was careful not to break
his small wings with her teeth.

***

"Leaving Home"

When Louis Armstrong left New Orleans for Chicago
at King Oliver's request, his mother
packed him a trout sandwich and no one met him
at the train, though he could blow his trumpet
and be heard across state lines. I don't know why,
but I love to think of that trout sandwich he carried
in his pocket and later ate, the wheels spinning him
into fame, through it took some years and at least
two women. When my dad and I went fishing
Mom laid roast chicken from the day before
between slices of store-bought white. Was there mayonnaise?
I don't remember, but in the boat, a few fish biting,
our fingers shone with butter as if we'd dipped our hands in fire
then treated them for burns. The sun was bright but weaker,
the afternoons so long I watched the hairs on my father's arms
turn gold. If I'd been called away by someone other than myself,
years later, that's what I'd have wanted, chicken on white bread,
and the thing that turned my breath and body into music.
Leaving home like Louis Armstrong -- though there's no one like him --
and his trumpet. And the sandwich he saved until he had reached
the outskirts of Chicago, savouring the Southern taste of what
his mother made him. Imagine those fingers, that mouth.

***

"This Sky Demands a Certain Patience"

With all this sky to cross
how can Jesus find you? Surely
there's too much of it, even for one
who's called the Lord of Light. You try to find
the stone that speaks in tongues. The rooster
who's an angel with a useful job.
Sometimes wind leaves its footprints
on the water. Sometimes the dust's
a voice that rises when a car goes past.
A god is walking through the wheat fields,
you're sure of that. But it's not you he's come for.
There are coyotes to save, the wheat itself, short
and shriven, and the skunk who's about to eat
the poisoned egg. Let alone the egg, the song inside it.
The devil seems to have more focus; he believes
you deserve his full attention. If you hang your soul
on the line he's right there, especially if it's pinned
beside a good woman's laundry,
her cotton underwear so thin from all the washings,
light passes through it and is changed.

***

And a short bonus, from The Sex Lives of Vegetables:

"Peas"

Peas never liked any of it.
They make you suffer for the sweet
burst of green in the mouth. Remember
the hours of shelling on the front steps,
the ping in the basin? Your mother
bribing you with lemonade to keep you there,
popping them open with your thumbs.

Your tongue finds them clitoral
as it slides up the pod.
Peas are not amused.
They have spent all their lives
keeping their knees together.




7 Comments:

Blogger Angie said...

Wow. Thanks to you and Sarah.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Hedgie said...

Delighted to oblige. I really like her work and am happy to be able to share it.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Minx said...

I love 'This Sky Demands...'but 'Peas' is a corker. Thank you both.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

And happy (belated?) birthday, Howard! Hope it was a good one.

6:24 AM  
Blogger SarahJane said...

thanks. those really are terrific poems.
i'm so woefully ignorant.
smile

8:56 AM  
Blogger C. E. Chaffin said...

Like so many contemporary poets I had never heard of Ms. Crozier but I like her a lot! Especially the poem on death. Magical. And the snake one recalls Moses and Christ and Lord of the Flies and the Fall all in one.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Hedgie said...

Thanks,everyone, for stopping by, reading, and leaving comments; I really appreciate it. I'm glad you enjoyed Crozier's work. I've just recently discovered myself that there are a number of very fine poets in Canada who simply aren't very well known elsewhere.

Note to C. E. -- Crozier frequently writes about religious themes (particularly in her collection Apocrypha of Light) AND about snakes, virtually always evoking religious overtones.

9:44 AM  

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