Thursday Nov 30

TaylorTess Tess Taylor’s chapbook The Misremembered World, was selected by Eavan Boland and published by the Poetry Society of America. Her debut full length book is The Forage House. The San Francisco Chronicle called it “stunning” and it was a finalist for 2013 Believer Poetry Award. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Boston Review, Harvard Review, and The Times Literary Supplement. Tess serves on the board of the National Book Critics Circle, reviews books for NPR are All Things Considered, and is a professor of English and creative writing at Whittier College. She lives in El Cerrito, CA. 


From Wisconsin before it was Wisconsin
a glacier hauled these stones you stand on.

They traveled on its rubble.

They are the glacier’s spit, its lost hag’s teeth,
the path it garbled on its travel.

In 1880, the Stockbridge, last of the Mohicans
were removed to Wisconsin: The white edict

frozen, impassive as a glacier.
This field, the farm, these gabled houses

all rely upon that absence.
Now you bend into the field to clear it.

You think of frozen fist,
of ice-sheets melting. Glaciers lost

in too-warm early weather.
A west wind blows in from Wisconsin.

Each stone you touch is cold as bone.
As if it holds some trace of spirit.


In the scenic village (touristed in summer)
you read John Clare in an old lady’s old cottage.
In the town café

college students and weekenders huddle by woodstoves.
Farmers talk greenhouses, order seed packages.
On weekends your husband comes up from the city.

You drive icy roads between chafed farmhouses.
Valentines glitter in raw village windows.
You shovel snow and walk to get groceries:

Run by the horse-barn, climb the town mountain
try to dislodge miscarriage, faulty friendship:
In the distance, war drones.

Our country murders somebody’s children.
You read field guides.
Prepare to work one farm for a season.

Welcome few visitors.
Pray for texture.
Your economy is your life as a watcher.

You think:
You have been given time.
You hear it tick.

O says the clock:
You have. Given time.

Clearing Field

We bow into the rows that winter tore.
The shovel grunts inside the mulch.
We tamp it onto muddy beds,

lay the burlap down for paths.
March tenders one warm day:
We prod our bodies out of winter slumber.

Haul and pile the fieldstones by the spring.
Work rows. One foot comes clean and then another.
Unearthing stones is like dislodging anger.

At noon we break along the ragged grassline.
Eat beside the thawing river.
The field around becomes our center.

Our backs are small stones in the sun.