Thursday Dec 07

AkersEllery Ellery Akers’ new book of poems, Practicing the Truth, won the 2014 Autumn House Poetry Prize and will be published in early 2015. Her previous collection, Knocking on the Earth, was named a Best Book of the Year by The San Jose Mercury News. She is also the author of a children’s novel, Sarah’s Waterfall. Akers has won eleven national writing awards, including the John Masefield and Paumanok Awards, the Poetry International Prize,and Sierra magazine’s Nature Writing Award. Her poetry has been featured on American Life in Poetry and on National Public Radio and has appeared in such journals as The American Poetry Review, Poetry, and The Sun. She has received fellowships from Headlands Center for the Arts, the Macdowell Colony, and Ucross Foundation.


The Oak Gall

The wasp holds her abdomen over the leaf,
wings throbbing, swings her ovipositor around,
and stings. Then it starts.
This leaf will never be the same as the others.
It will never pack exact light into cells,
twist from its stem in the fall
and scrape into a dry wash.
Slowly it will become deformed.
Slowly it will build what it was never meant to build,
a crown, or a blade, or a long pink thorn.
The cells have gone wild from toxins,
but the rest of the leaf does not want to know:
It just wants to go back to its factories of chlorophyll.
The scar insists, so the leaf folds cells around it
and a green wall begins to grow.
Slowly the wasp egg receives its instructions
and turns into chitin. The wasp breaks out
and veers into the world. The gall stays on the leaf.
Only a hole remains where the wasp bit its way out.
The leaf is beautiful, in its way.
It’s got this mad cathedral at its center.

For My Sister, Who Died in Cosmetic Surgery

I don’t love the freeway,
or the long necks of argon
that lean over my car,
or rain, filling up reservoirs
with its inches.
But since you died, I can’t afford not to.
Because you’ll never see this again.
There isn’t itching where you are,
bits of eggshell stuck to dishes.

Six months, and you’re buried beside our father,
which you wouldn’t have liked.
But bones aren’t afraid of bones.

Once I went into a gift shop,
came out, annoyed by lace, tea towels with ducks and hearts,
toilet paper stamped with daisies;
it made me want to see bandages, litter,
kelp covered with flies,
or gulls that eat anything.
They flap, screeching over a dune,
waddle towards a sandwich,
stalk and quarrel,
eyeing the greasy paper it’s wrapped in,
even a plastic fork with its broken tines.

Yesterday I stepped in dog shit, tracked it over the rugs,
the kind of mistake you would never have made.
You hated it when I walked on the beach with you,
tracked tar in your car.
You threw out a blouse with a single stain.

Now you’re there, stenciled into perfection,
your name carved into stone.
And I’m here. The day sprinkles its minutes across me.
I’m throwing out the garbage, crinkling a paper bag,
savoring the taste of water from a dented Dixie cup.

How you hated ruin:
how you felt it was a slur in the pores.
You threw money at it: scarves, shoes,
blusher, concealer, facelifts, pills.
How finally you threw your life at that dirty thing.