Monday Jun 24

HarrisonLeslie Leslie Harrison is the author of Displacement, published by Mariner Books in 2009. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Pleiades, FIELD, Subtropics, West Branch, The New Republic, Orion and elsewhere. Awarded a 2011 literature fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts, she teaches creative writing and literature at Towson University and divides her time between Baltimore and the Berkshires. Her website can be found here.


[What I mean]

You must understand when I say heart when I say broken say

angel god when I say love and say death those huge small words

you must learn to distrust something language me the ravine

harrowed deep between what flickers in the mind and what

stumbles daily into language the way I stumble into woods

walk lost walk directionless walk without path walk allowed

each day only to listen and come later aching crazed and at peace

to some edge river of water dirt or rarely tar and nobody asks

and still what tolls through the night is what did you do today

and you try to remake your day into story into language

I walked I say I listened I sent the blood to punish the heart

that fine red engine I sent the body against again the world

that heavy huge construct one part of which is all I will ever

travel I sent the body so I could feel it there in the forest

the glades thickets rivers feel the heat the heart’s whole house

shaken whole house shuddering I say god say angel though

they may not exist as such though nothing is speaking to

speaking for or through me so what name should I make

for what got caught in this bleak this grief if not heart which

is whole which is never yet broken never even empty listen

dear when I say heart what I mean is maybe boat that slight

quiver small sailed machine tumbled in storm’s grinding teeth

when I say broken what I mean is small craft warning is weather

is storm beyond any storm this body can make or endure what I

mean is too far from shore is maybe no shore is still afloat is

sounding again those old familiar depths and what I mean when

I say depth is fathom meaning how far down to dig a grave

meaning the span of a man’s arms meaning go deeper meaning

I don’t understand


When the hay wain wound its way across the hill you failed

to follow because winter meant fallow meant cold frozen fields

meant then lost in the icy heights meant also found means found

five thousand three hundred years after they knapped the blade

and you made room for it in your body winter means preservation

means the soul on ice means dead is only one definition means

geography is only one explanation the seasons turn the season turns

colder the mirrors fog over when I breathe meaning I can be visible

be present but not while yet I live and true north is nothing but

a lodestone nothing but another sharp implement pointing to lost

those nearly endless years the body retrieved from the ice rope marks

and scars still visible and pollen that necessary sturdy fruit says head down

in a glacier one blade in your hand one in place of your heart says

when first you were lost the blackthorn was in flower as was the larch


When he’s done with them the angels shred in the wind the angels die

like rifles crack sharp and hard metal brittle in bitter cold the angels

die on the wheel the cross the rack birdbones smashed to pollen seed

or snow when it’s over his cold puppets hang tangle in their mute strings

their snarled their tattered wings their teeth gnaw briefly at the gate

they wail and beg but nothing comes back the angels learn then how

to pray the angels learn why prayer requires flesh requires blood

and bone requires bone cut out carved and offered up pray they say

pray as if your meant it as if the bone each prayer is etched upon

was not your own but the arm shin or rib of some sad and lovely child

some fragile perfect being go ahead they say call the baby in

from the abbey walk the colt in from his life between the meadow

and the sky walk him away from the places he believes he is both safe

and at home hide the blade behind your crumbling your serpent spine

and pray pray as if his faith his love his grace his reckless racing life

depends upon it and know that it does and that it does not matter