Saturday Oct 21

MeekSandra Sandra Meek is the author of three books of poems, Biogeography, winner of the Dorset Prize (Tupelo, 2008), Burn (2005), and Nomadic Foundations (2002), as well as a chapbook, The Circumference of Arrival (2001).  Her fourth book of poems, Road Scatter, is forthcoming from Persea Books in 2012.  She is also the editor of an anthology, Deep Travel: Contemporary American Poets Abroad (Ninebark 2007), which was awarded a 2008 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal.  Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Agni, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry, Conjunctions, and The Iowa Review, among others.  A recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, she has twice been awarded Georgia Author of the Year, in 2006 for Burn, and in 2003 for Nomadic Foundations, which also was awarded the Peace Corps Writers Award in Poetry.  She is a Co-founding Editor of Ninebark Press, Director of the Georgia Poetry Circuit, Poetry Editor of the Phi Kappa Phi Forum, and Professor of English, Rhetoric, and Writing at Berry College.
---------
 
New Year
 

Like stalks of petrified Styrofoam, grit
and gray air, fingers of soft coral maroon
 
by the dozen ashore the splintered stone root
of the lighthouse where I’m climbing
 
the stepped black spring back
into breathlessness, my mother’s ribs cocooning
 
a shrinking room of furred air; ashen,
limbless, soft corals don’t reef, don’t branch
 
into stone but foam the surf
seamlessly, the way forward always
 
one half retreat. The coiled stairs
tighten to their finish: a glass torso cool
 
and vacant with daylight.
From this height, bright cells
 
barb the sand, beach umbrellas the violet
of her dangled left arm pooling
 
the body’s last heat, the rest of her
grained to pearl. From
 
this height, the man of war bloom
closing the beach is invisible as the tiny families
 
another day would cluster
beneath the canvas; invisible, the sapphire sails
 
raised from the fringe of black seaweed
like translucent blue thumbs, the moon jellyfish
 
washing up among them, pale bells among beach trash,
trailed arms, tiny organs of balance, fine ribs
 
of vibration ending on this spine of sand I’d come to
to winter the east coast of oblivion, stepping away
 
from studded tentacles because even the dead
can sting and I’m trying to gird just one
 
moment from memory as if each wasn’t composed
of the same soft bag of cells, the same transparent eye
 
absorbing whatever it can and leaving
nothing self behind, not even that flush that slipped
 
so quickly away where, that last
throat-catch then the body
 
fully coral, the room
salted with distance—No nautilus curl
 
fossiled in stone, just scattered balloons deflating
among crushed cans and cellophane, everywhere
 
that tangled trinity: body, poison, air.
 
 
 
Shadow Portrait
 

Garden pond, a brimming socket.
One gold carp, sautered star.
 
Icy threads of December light
 
the last commas of her hair, the few
grayed leaves left tagging
the walking stick bush a spider has spanned
with dawn silver, cursive stringing
 
letter to letter in quartertone slide.
 
The body is a jar of air and lace:
The heart, a ruby beaker a hummingbird sips
all summer from.
 
What pools, and stills, is her face darkened
to flash the sheet
 
of paper tacked
to brick: shadow all that saves her
from pure outline, charcoal glove
 
I trace her to,
there, where the light ends.
 
 
 
Postflight Edema


Horizon by bladed horizon, the juiced sky sunsets
the window blinds, my flooded ankles, calves
of fallout and rain I prop on pillows to drain this day
after night kept arriving as a wash of hours
already flown—Nearing the speed
of sound the body is thrown
 
into stasis, gravity pooling
blood in the feet, stilling the flow I failed
to jumpstart this afternoon lapping
the slogged pasture, stamping the long grass to breakage
inexplicable as crop circles to whoever tomorrow might
 
stumble upon it, path sudden as the morning’s
fairy-ring of toadstools, birth of a yogic
samskara: a finger’s tracing scars air to glass
a coin etches, canyon a river carves
deeper through millennia. So a repeated thought
impresses the mind, grooves
in a record’s vinyl, the soul engraved
one longed-for song: Manyana, village I finally
 
did return to, now houses of bricked concrete,
satellite dishes and water taps
in dusty yards girls still sweep but no longer need learn
to tie string to ankle and post for walking
a perfect circle in sand to foundation
home, walls of termite-hill soil muscled
with cow dung beneath a roof of grass they’d
 
cut and haul and tightly weave—a how-to’s
narrative winding my too-nasal accent
unraveled two decades ago for my Batswana students
straining to follow a story they
already knew as I read them the passage
in English before the quiz.
 
Circling back doesn’t mean
you find what you imagine you once had
to lose; retrace your steps again
and again and maybe
nothing flashes in the grass except the ghost
you make from the smallest toadstool
 
beginning to sprout there, its milky head
a pearly ostrich-egg bead, a gleaming glance
of the village dimo, half white man, half snake, roaming
the sandy river bed near David Livingstone’s Tree
where the missionary camped
to convert the locals, pausing his trek
toward his true heart’s delight: tracing the Nile
 
back to the tear of first thought.
How that dimo terrified
students walking to evening studies, a big light
on his head like a migrant miner’s lamp rising
from a darkly glittering South African crater where
how many of their fathers had fallen
 
off the face of this earth. World away
from where I’ve stopped over, an upstate
gentrifying countryside being hammered
back to clean geometry, so many farmhouses
in renovation: Victorian wrap-around porches
ripped from their boxy
 
Federalist hearts, truck full-
throttling until the chained house groans a near
human ache to restore the turn
of a distant century, 1790 in all its
 
never-was glory. Above this unfinished
guest room where I lie coddling
my feet pregnant with what
they won’t let go, a rail-less stairway
 
holds to air, rising to a ripped-away storey
lost as that dimo still
roaming the riverbed in the now
electrified village, the long ragged train
of his scaled body the small shadow
made of night’s drowning
 
in a humming white haze. David, wasn’t it
beautiful then, wasn’t it sublime how the crystalline sky
seemed to turn from the stylus
of a thatched roof’s cone as the village disappeared
into the darkness that justified us;
couldn’t we count even on falling
stars to return each evening’s sweeping
swell of light, wasn’t it,
wasn’t it beautiful then, didn’t it feel just
exactly like home?