.all matter. {NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 28}

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the fact of our flesh
riddled with sighs
is that by semaphore
our wounds run a parallel
across matter
an overpass that spans
the scuttle of  piranhas
©jcs

We’re on day 28 of NaPoWriMo and it’s feeling pretty good to be so close to the end and to have accomplished so much! Thirty poems in thirty days is pretty good, not to mention combining the prompts for both NaPoWrimo and Writer’s Digest on a daily basis. That brings me to the prompts, themselves, which are to write a poem about bridges and to write a matter and/or anti-matter poem.
A bridge can be different things to different people. For some, they would take the prompt literally and write about a bridge, it’s contruction, it’s history, a memory had on one, etc. Others may take a more abstract or metaphorical approach and speak of bridges to one’s heart or bridges in communication, both crossed and burned.
For matter one can think of it in the way of what a substance is constructed of, or something that occupies space. Or one can take as something of importance, of significance.
For my poem I combined the prompts to come up with a statement about the fact that we are more connected or able to connect much more than we realize. Our pains and our joys, alike can act as beacons for one another to find either a soul in the same predicament or one that has weathered the storm you are in or walked whatever long path you are on and made it out of alive.

Born in Massachusetts, Tracy K. Smith earned her BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999 she held a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University. Smith is the author of three books of poetry: The Body’s Question(2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essense Literary Award; and Life on Mars (2011), which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship.

In his review of Life on Mars, Troy Jollimore selects Smith’s poem “My god, it’s full of stars” as particularly strong, “making use of images from science and science fiction to articulate human desire and grief, as the speaker allows herself to imagine the universe:”[3]

… sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,
Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.
So that I might be sitting now beside my father
As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe
For the first time in the winter of 1959.

Dan Chiasson writes of another aspect of the collection, “The issues of power and paternalism suggest the deep ways in which this is a book about race. Smith’s deadpan title is itself racially freighted: we can’t think about one set of fifties images, of Martians and sci-fi comics, without conjuring another, of black kids in the segregated South. Those two image files are situated uncannily close to each other in the cultural cortex, but it took this book to connect them.”

Smith teaches creative writing at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn.

Read more here and here.


Duende

BY TRACY K. SMITH

1.
The earth is dry and they live wanting.
Each with a small reservoir
Of furious music heavy in the throat.
They drag it out and with nails in their feet
Coax the night into being. Brief believing.
A skirt shimmering with sequins and lies.
And in this night that is not night,                                                                      
Each word is a wish, each phrase
A shape their bodies ache to fill—
            I’m going to braid my hair
       Braid many colors into my hair
            I’ll put a long braid in my hair
       And write your name there
 
They defy gravity to feel tugged back.
The clatter, the mad slap of landing.
                                    2.
And not just them. Not just
The ramshackle family, the tíos,
Primitos, not just the bailaor
Whose heels have notched
And hammered time
So the hours flow in place
Like a tin river, marking
Only what once was.
Not just the voices of scraping
Against the river, nor the hands
Nudging them farther, fingers
Like blind birds, palms empty,
Echoing. Not just the women
With sober faces and flowers
In their hair, the ones who dance
As though they’re burying
Memory—one last time—
Beneath them.
                        And I hate to do it here.
To set myself heavily beside them.
Not now that they’ve proven
The body a myth, a parable
For what not even language
Moves quickly enough to name.
If I call it pain, and try to touch it
With my hands, my own life,
It lies still and the music thins,
A pulse felt for through garments.
If I lean into the desire it starts from—
If I lean unbuttoned into the blow
Of loss after loss, love tossed
Into the ecstatic void—
It carries me with it farther,
To chords that stretch and bend
Like light through colored glass.
But it races on, toward shadows
Where the world I know
And the world I fear
Threaten to meet.
                                    3.
There is always a road,
The sea, dark hair, dolor.
 
Always a question
Bigger than itself—
            They say you’re leaving Monday
            Why can’t you leave on Tuesday?

Tracy K. Smith, “Duende” from Duende. Copyright © 2007 by Tracy K. Smith. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. http://www.graywolfpress.org

Source: Duende (Graywolf Press, 2007)

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