Your father is lying on the couch under a quilt with an Apsáalooke print on it. He tells you, I’m sorry I can’t go, this thing is killing me. And you nod your head that folds your high-necked sweater down because it is old and has been worn and washed time and again. You are hot, standing there in your sweater and your jacket and your bright vest with your wool hat and two layers of pants. He tells you, You’ll be fine but stay off the reservation. He tells you he’s expecting big things from you—that you will feed the family over the winter after today.
When I came home from summer camp in the Poconos in 1958, Knutt showed me a pair of turtles he’d caught in Queen Anne Creek. Silver-dollar-size painted terrapins basked on sunlit mats of watercress that grew against Queen Anne’s banks like barrier reefs beside the deeper, more quickly flowing clear-water channel midstream.
I once heard in NPR about a guy in Brooklyn who had a rat appear in his toilet. Apparently it climbed up the pipes and when the man walked in, there it was, looking up at him. No. In this story, the guy first lifted the lid of the toilet. I don’t know if I thought about that fact when I first heard it, but the toilet had to have been closed for it to be true.
The daughters argue / when one begins / to clean. You are erasing / every last bit of him / the younger weeps, accusing / her sister of wiping away / signs and smells of the father
Looking into my / father’s dead mouth I get / a good look at / all that expensive
They say: murderous resting face. & I say. Everyone / is a coward. In a ring of fire. There are only fists. / & liars. I sweep a leg. Bloodsport is not. For honor. / Don’t you know my name. What will you call me /
Neil Shepard’s How It Is: Selected Poems gathers the greatest hits from six full-length collections by a poet who is both planted and peripatetic. Founder and helmsman for some 25 years of this journal, Shepard has long maintained one base in the landscape of the Green Mountain State’s Northeast Kingdom and one in the urbanscape of New York City.
he Popol Vuh creation myth stems from the Mayan oral tradition, and was written down in the K’iche’ language between 1554 and 1558. With its roots in deeply communicative ritual, there is great emphasis placed on the relationship between speaking and hearing, as opposed to writing and seeing—“These are the first words. This is the first speaking.”
Michell’s latest collection, The Out of Body Shop, is taut, haunted and emotionally demanding; her poems are archeological exercises: unearthing the past and spreading it in the sun to “burn/off the mold, the stink.”
Write a poem about the way a man / once bitten by a dog can fear all dogs /
for the rest of his life but a woman / once attacked by a man can never say /
she fears men.
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