Friday May 24

HoweFanny--creditLynn_Christoffers Fanny Howe has received many awards: two National Endowment for the Arts Award, the Lenore Marshall Award, a Guggenheim, a California Commonwealth Award, and the Ruth Lilly Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation. She has written several novels, young adult fiction, essays and poetry. Her most recent collections are The Winter Sun and Come and See, both from Graywolf Press.  She teaches at Georgetown in the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice.

from Transmigration

“I hauled so many children after me
with ropes and spears and nets
like sea-creatures that others would eat
without them I have no purpose.”
As in the Gospel account, you believed in their belief.
But now there would be what?  For he, Peter,
was kneeling, “Go away from me.”
The brother you didn’t know stayed near the door,
so you raced off, you stood, when the police came
seeking coherence in everything.
The total machine of retribution presses on.
Regardless of desire or what you did.
This is incredible.
“We're breaking up.”
One dream was seated on an old-fashioned Pan Am
with nuns smoking and chatting en route to Shannon.
You heard a man's Amen when you landed on grass.
Brave travelers, merry souls, bless you all!
Make the length of a day equal to a whiskey.
Of every one of those in air, someone
has to see the point by joking.
Toilets are next to the galley.
Shut your tray tables clear out the pockets
and pass the trash.
You have something to write down.
I’ve already written this poem
when time was flying but the others
(who did the same all men)
approve of repetition saying it gets better every time.
Eternalists once emerged from a tradition
where nature was seen as divine emanation.
They gave every piece of life a name they could remember
from their original homes for they recognized nature as failure.
English as a second language
Labor carved into wood like worm holes in space.
You stand with the rest of Muhammed's children holding hands
in Manhattan.  Your little aunt is showing you
unicorns in a tapestry and the words:
“Please wash and love me.”
Will you meet her in heaven when the membranes of The Book are flipped
by the wind on the hospital roof?
Smoke from the vent gray sheets on which some days are entries.
They dissolve in entropy’s tendency towards a disorder seemingly insane,
But if you can,
hold onto one sentence and keep the words of it
pointed towards your temple.
I would live with that man in the slums
and keep the sink clean
if only there was love between us.
Me an old woman and he in every room
existing and passing on.
You never laughed harder than that night at the Hotel Suicide
It was as if the sky had an accident
and out came the land
Silver and yellow glandular
illumination along the estuary.
At seven the bed-shadow was as thick as a nun
until a bulb glowed tangerine
in a glass of water.
Colors designing the entire stage.
It was a ground floor room behind the check-in desk rotten wood stained rug
and a thin pillow smelling of smoke.
People drank and shouted outside.  You hung up your harp and pity.
No one knew the plucking of your fingers
on the strings of your shawl
was an imitation of Hermes
playing a lyre for all of our funeral.

Photography by Lynn Christoffers