Poems for August 13

August 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today on LBAO, two poems by one of the Midwest’s finest poets, Teresa J. Scollon. This is her first book, but she’s been writing and publishing for some time. Her book is on the shortlist for the Looking Back at Orpheus Best of 2012!

Friday Nights the Whole Town Goes to the Basketball Game

Nick said, “Listen, Bill,
this is no joke. Chinese
tanks. Chi. Nese. Tanks,

Bill. Were spotted rolling up
I-75. What you think you know
about the United Nations

is lies, lies spread
by an international conspiracy
to take over our homeland.

We’ve got to protect our country,
protect our constitutional right
to bear arms. But I’m ready.

I’m ready. I’ve got guns
and ammunition
buried in my front yard.

I’m warning you —
you’ll regret it
if you don’t do the same.”

Bill said, “Nick,
Nick, whaddaya thinking?
What if the Chinese

show up in February,
Nick? This is Michigan,
for chrissake. How’re you

going to get those guns
out of your front yard
when the ground is frozen?

Whaddaya gonna do then,
Nick?”

~ ~ ~

Death and the Photocopier

My father is on the other side of the river
now. I’m here with his ashes, fluttering
scraps of paper in my hands, an immigrant

among people who never knew him.
I’ve only a clutch of articles to show
he lived, he died — pages of the book

I’m torn from — I’m standing over
the machine in a corner of the office
making copies: light and hum, memory,

the fragile drum, bright hot attention
to each detail, the same hard pull and pause
of the rhythm of oars, of hard sobbing.

This is so contained. What I want is to lie
down full length with my hair spread over
a grave, weeping. I want to be still

floating between life and death, on the river
with its fine filtered mist and its view of both banks,
his body still warm, his breath

lingering over our heads. But he’s left
his cooled ashes behind, and he’s already
trekking deep into the country beyond the bank.

I can’t see him anymore. I’m left here
on the stranger shore, trying to explain my passage.
Making copies under false light, in a place

where paper is seen as merely paper,
and not as the remains of living trees,
not as the breath before ashes.

-Teresa J. Scollon, from To Embroider the Ground with Prayer (Wayne State University Press, 2012)

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