by Susan Kelly-DeWitt
I guess like most writers I’d like to defeat time. I’d like the dead to live on forever, along with some trees, flowers, birds and insects I’ve known.

 At some point a seed was planted, and it continues to sprout through my eyes, my ears, my mouth—even my nose (that bloodhound for the troubles of others), which sniffs out jasmine fragrance in late April or early May and then wants to memorialize it, make it live forever on the white page.

 Tendrils shoot wildly from every experience—for instance, this afternoon, a ride on the bus—a short journey from 28th and I to 9th and J. At the bus stop a small dark woman with twins in the stroller parked beside her coughs up a cloud of frosty breathings.

On the bus headed south, an elderly man in a flannel shirt claps his wrinkled hands together, shivering; the skin shines a little, the veins crinkle.

 Two seats behind him a teenager with Praying Hands tattoos and a gold ring through his left eyebrow winks at the girl across from him, then exhales curses at no one in particular.

 Their stories sprout everywhere inside me: vinings.

Homegrown Roses

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

Everyone has a story to tell
that’s set inside a bar.  I remember
the long year I loved a boy from school,
how every day at five o’clock we met
at George’s Lounge, how we became familiar,
the aging lady bartender calling
out in her clear voice–Miller, Miller Lite–
before that big door eased shut behind us.
I also recall being conscious
of the clock, how in the world of the tavern
you are always alive in the future,
even if it’s only ten or fifteen
minutes, long enough to know the baseball
game you’re watching is behind you, that if
you hope hard enough your team can still score,
there’s time and plenty of it.  Imagine,
too, one chilled summer night when I was young
and fleeing my first divorce, found myself
at the End of the Trail in Dayton, Nevada.
I met a man who bought me drinks, who fed
the jukebox till I thought it would burst,
held me close enough to hear his heart.
I don’t remember when we decided
to pretend–this is a bar story,
after all–but we told the other patrons,
four tired cowboys and a black-eyed woman,
that we’d just been married, this was our
honeymoon and we were happy.
One of the cowboys wandered outside,
broke a rose from a battered bush, placed it
in a beer bottle, a gift for the bride.
I still have it.  And now every year or so,
when I return to my truck in the dark
after work, I find a single rose anchored
under the wiper.  My friends think I should
be afraid of this, as if this flower
were a dead chicken or a stalker’s signature.
But it’s just a rose and all it means
is that I’m forever joined to a man
who’ll never know my real name, a man
I couldn’t possibly pick out in a crowd.
Now, your turn.  Tell me one of your stories.

Home Cooking

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

What I’m about to tell you is true.
It was in the paper some few years back,
but I’d forgotten until you asked
about my sister, asked if I thought
she was a pretty baby, asked if I’d
taken good care of her.  The answers are yes.
She’s the one with the rich red hair, my father’s
clear grey eyes that can be blue, can be
startled into green.  But that’s not the story
I wanted to tell you.  Here’s what happened:

Somewhere in Florida a young woman worked
the counter at Bubba’s Bodacious Bar-B-Q,
worked hard because she had a pretty
baby, a daughter she hoped would one day
ease into beautiful.  People said, that sure
is a pretty baby, and she believed
them, too much a mother to own that that’s
just what polite people say.  She heard
talk about a children’s beauty pageant
coming to town, and this could be her child’s
ticket, but entry was fifty bucks
and how’s she to get that when all she did
was wrangle ribs apart for customers
who never heard of ten percent.  Now Bubba’s
doing good, she figured, kept an extra
cash box.  So late one night after all were gone,
she carried the big knife, the one Bubba
sharpened while he chewed and spit,
she carried this knife into the back dark
and jimmied open that box for fifty bucks.

I’ll bet all that money shined with promise,
with the pure beauty of opportunity.
She can’t remember hearing Bubba’s footsteps,
how he came up behind her, how she turned,
and the knife, the big knife, sunk right into him.
What she’ll always remember is how she
stood there in his blood and clutched twenty
dollar bills into nests, how she knew then

her daughter would never be beautiful,
would always hunger for the wrong things:
a boy to bring her a bag of blueberries,
his long, hard kiss, her heart wrapped in his hand.

Does this answer your questions?  Yes, my
sister is both lovely and dangerous,
and yes, yes, we did the best we could.

Hometown Girl at 30

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

Someone more romantic might say
it has to do with the rhythm of spoons,
the toy piano sound of silverware
tossed onto a table.  Someone else might
say it has to do with the way I move
across the floor, my thick-hosed legs aching
to be quick.  All I can say is I like

waiting tables where truckers gulp my strong
coffee, tell lies they hope will loosen
my grip, lure me into their cabs come dark.
Sometimes I’m sorely tempted, and I’ve gone
to a few who were young and good-looking
and on their way to somewhere I might get
a card from.  I like the big button

I wear pinned to my chest–Try Our Famous
Cherry Cheesecake–I like the way I make
things shine (napkin dispensers, the easy
necks of catsup bottles, the long counter
I rest my body against).  I like the noise
of Alvie in the kitchen singing
“Delta Dawn,” the sweet smell of onions

Roberta chops for chili, I love knowing
I’m at home here, another small town girl
with big dreams.  I love knowing that someday
I will walk out of here on the arm
of someone with promise, that everyone
will miss me, will say, Whatever happened
to that local gal who told those stories?

Walking Away from Home

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

Nobody knows where the boxes came from,
only that they were always there, under
the sink, stacked high in a corner
of the closet–shoe boxes, shoe boxes
everywhere.  My mother wrapped her gifts
in these–candies, hair ribbons, small sweaters…
All I remember her giving me came
in an old Stride Rite or Hush Puppy,
the label blacked out with thick marker,
her own handwriting scrawled across the lid–

My sister says the memory makes her
smile, helps her sort through our mother’s things.
My sister asks again:  What do you want?
I tell her all I want are those rhinestone
pumps our mother wore in her pageant days.
My sister finds this strange, and sad.
She doesn’t understand that this time
all I want is a pair of shoes, I want
something beautiful but predictable,
I need to know exactly what I’m getting.

From this House to Home

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

Has he called in the cats now, made certain
all are accounted for, that their bellies
are full, that they have not become food
for coyotes come down into porch light
for water?  Is he reading a book
under the cool warmth of our down
comforter, clearing his throat between
chapters as if he’d actually
uttered the words, lived in their world?
What is he doing right now?  I am
feigning sleep in an iron bed in my hometown,
listening to the hum of air conditioner
and my parents’ deep breathing.  Today
we had our reunion in weather
so thick I could barely breathe.  My clothes
were all wrong–the blue jeans and boots,
sweat streaming from under my cowboy hat–
brought sympathetic smiles from those in shorts
and cropped tees, their over browned bodies
glistening in games of horseshoes
and washers.  The women chased children,
sought shade, stretched on blankets, shared
photographs.  My sister brought potato
salad for fifty, cored onions
all afternoon, slipped fat slices of butter
and beef bouillon inside them, wrapped them
in foil for the grill, the smell of bratwurst
and beer a reminder of why we were there.
It was a good day, slow and full.  But now
I am ready to return, to truly
come home, to him, to our house in the high
desert, our often angry way of life.
I don’t belong here among women
wearing sundresses and sandals, clothes
the colors of Easter eggs.  I’m coming
home, sooner than we’d planned.  This is not
a place where women wear hats, and my family
is older now than I will ever know them.

Our Saturday Drive Toward Home

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

I eat powdered donuts from the box,
the sugar dusting my denim shirt.
He drives, sips coffee, fiddles with the radio.
Anyone who sees us at a stop sign
will think we’re comfortable, two middle-aged
people out early.  No one will know how
unsettled we feel, how eager we are
to fill our life with things.  We’re going to
garage sales, we’re going antiquing.
I’m here this morning as his new lover,
and we’re out to make a home together,
to furnish ourselves with a history
we have no time to create.  There’s an urgency
to our years, to our sense of common dream.

We’ll load his truck all morning with our finds–
a hand-cranked ice crusher, a 1950’s
highchair, a chaise lounge that’ll cost a fortune
to reupholster.  What we avoid
are the sad boxes of family photos
everyone seems willing to sell (that one
could be my German grandmother, prim
in her high collar, and that one could be
his great-uncle come down to town
from the Tennessee hills).  We’re honest enough
to know we need each other, know that we’re
desperate for completion, but there’s a boundary
to how far we’ll go, how much of a bargain
to bargain for.  So on this Saturday
we’ll shop around, knowing at every stop
that this is surely that moment between
history and desire, that moment
which can only be filled with the feel
and smell of the familiar, and even
if it’s earned in this dishonest way,
there’s no turning back.

Calling Home

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

The man I love calls me doll, calls me baby.
He phones me everyday, his sweet, sweet girl.
Sometimes we talk about his mother,
how she lost thousands on worthless coins
she’d read about in the back of a magazine,
how it makes him sad to think of her alone,
wrapping the coins in doilies, trying
to save something as legacy.
I tell him about my grandmother,
her farm sold, her move to town, how she ate
cat food for months, how the clerks allowed
her to buy the cans, knowing she had
no barn, nothing left to feed.  I tell him
that this made my father cry.  He says he’ll
never let anyone hurt me, that when I’m old
I’ll still be his sweet baby, his
little doll.  I try to imagine
an old man betrayed by circumstance,
by loneliness, but I can’t.  It’s almost
always the women left behind to live.
Oh, Sweetie.  My poor little baby doll.

Coming Home for the Cat

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

I know what she’s going through.  I know how
anyone who’s loved a cat, allowed one
to sleep against her face, allowed one
to lay its full body along her outstretched
legs until they go numb, can grieve for months.
I once met a woman so attached
to her cat she couldn’t imagine her
house without it, left the cat’s body
on the coffee table, an honest wake,
until her grown son had had enough.
I know another who keeps her cat’s ashes
on the mantle in a little cedar
box, In Loving Memory burned into
the lid, the cat dead some several years.
I even understand how hard it is
to get them to the vet.  Cats, unlike dogs,
cannot be tricked into your truck.

And I understand because I used
to love a man who hurt me with his heart.
We had a cat.  Sometimes I think if I
had not stopped loving him, if I had not
left for the arms of a boy who held me
as if I could break, that cat would be alive.
I would’ve been there to see the sores,
the open-mouthed breathing, I would’ve been
there to save her.  That man saw nothing,
did little but bury her when she finally
gave in.  At least that’s something.  I live
in another city now, too far away
to visit, but I’m sure she’s an angel.
Yes, love for an animal can make you whole,
especially if it’s all you’ve got for now.

Home Maintenance

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

Sometimes my father’s hand shakes, sends fat drops
of paint to splatter my patio.
He’s fond of this work, and I like the way
this man feels in the sun, healthy and honest
and responsible.  I work next to him
on the shorter ladder, my hair sticky
against my neck.  He says, This heat’s a bitch.
I say, Wears my ass out.  I’d like more talk,
but it’s too hot, too hot to wrap our mouths
around vowels, urge consonants into
the air.  We’ll finish my house by Saturday,
my father will go home, live through another
familiar summer in his own backyard.
We both know he’ll never be back, that this
job is his last large gift, that he will tell
my mother about the heat, tell her
this paint will last seven years at most,
that he worries about who will help me
next time, who will work beside me in the sun,
who will love me in ways simple as sweat.

Letter Sent Home: Please Hand Cancel

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

You know what I’m talking about, you’ve seen
the headlines too–how So and So Collapses
in an airport, a doctor diagnoses
exhaustion–how So and So goes away
to rest, to reclaim some sense of self.  I always
imagined this luxury of tiredness
affordable only to the rich, movie stars
and rock ‘n’ roll celebrities, people
whose daily lives played out as documentary.
But now I know that’s a lie, because
here I am on a spring morning so tired
I can taste a dream on my tongue.  I’ve gone
away, left you to yard work, home maintenance,
the late afternoon walk to gather our mail.
I said I needed rest, a place to refuel.
I lied.  I need much more than sleep, much more
than careless dreaming.  Sometimes I lie so
much the truth’s hard to tell and has a false
ring to it.  Last night I dreamt we were making
love in an old hotel off Union Square, San Francisco.
We thrashed and clawed each other against
the rumble of delivery trucks below
our window, the sounds of a city
very much alive.  Only after
we’d made our slow journey back into this
world did I look out the window, saw
the billboard–Ken Griffey, Jr., large as sky.
I knew then the dream was a lie, that I was
in the wrong city, with the wrong man, perhaps
even a bit player in someone else’s
small blue dream.  This is what some people call
a moment of truth, that tiny second
of clarity we liars hope to own but
only lease–no matter how earnestly,
no matter how often we pray.  The truth,
in its raw, pure power truly’s a gift
to be cradled.  So there you have it .

I’ll write again, I promise you that much.

Before You Leave Home, Remember This

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

I know you’ve come from some other woman.
The New Orleans night is all over your clothes.
You’ve watched me come out of mine
with the calculation you give things
earned and now owned.
See these thick breasts once
a high and proud prize in Georgia.
See these blue laced legs known early
as the smooth refuge of an eager heart.
See everything–see this band
embedded in the fullness of my finger,
bought those days we laughed at the lack of things:
Rent money, good meat, movies.
Remember that was in Florida
where every day came on white and clean.
And remember that I was a blonde.

A Home Full of Color

by Gailmarie Pahmeier

“Y’all have no idea how much
it costs to look this cheap.”
–Dolly Parton

I, too, believe in makeup, believe in
the luxurious artifice of color
that couldn’t possibly come from within.
I want my eyelashes as long as spiders’ legs,
my cheeks the startled tones of too much–
sun, drink, fevered loving–and my mouth
a darker, more defined wound.  I love

most the men who aren’t afraid, who’ll kiss
my red lips straight on, take the color
onto their own, leave it there until
some other woman touches a tissue
to her tongue, rubs out my being there.
It is, indeed, expensive to be cheap.

Think of Jezebel, alone at her dressing
table, her meticulously rendered
applications–hands, hair, face, feet.  She knows
they are coming to kill her, that her blood
will bracelet the hooves of horses,
perhaps even imagines her hands and feet
gnawed from their limbs but still lovely,

lovingly tendered, an offering of sorts.
I’ve lived long enough to know what can happen
to a face, to the body earned and deserved.
Applying makeup is a way of saying,
here’s who I am, enhanced and ready for
anything.  Come on now, come on and kiss me.

The Coach has Classes of Sixty

by Publius

The coach has classes of sixty.   That’s OK, though, because some of our language classes, say Advanced Chinese, have four kids, so our average high school class size is 32, the exact state maximum.    The coach is holding down his end of the arithmetic average.   Anyway, three weeks ago the school closed the gym for renovations, so the coach and his kids are now housed down the hall in a classroom built for thirty with only twenty desks.   Needless to say, there’s no basketball court in that classroom.

So this morning, first thing Monday, I hear the coach say to another teacher that the district finally started the renovations in the gym.   “They did an hour’s worth of work last Friday, and have scheduled an hour’s worth of work once a week for the next fifteen weeks.”

Some days I come so close to asking …

My lunch gang has a jar where we save for our end of year party.   We charge a quarter each time someone asks a how or a why question.   Me and the art teacher just throw in a five now and again.

Which reminds me of the computer class without computers.   When I taught middle school near here, I noticed one day that all the kids are going around with cardboard boxes.   Big ones.   With one whole side cut-out, a big hole.   They mention that a computer class just started.   I don’t get it, but I know better than to ask.   Later, during my free period, I walk by the new computer class.   First I see the board, and there’s a very detailed assignment about going from one URL to another and like that.   Then a few steps more and I can see the kids.   There are no computers.   The kids are intently staring into the holes in the cardboard boxes set-up in from of them.   That’s the computer — the box with the hole.   The hole is like the screen.   They have cardboard mice with a string to the box, cardboard keypads, and they’re staring into the hole and typing and moving the mouse and the teacher is telling them, “Once you get to such and such a page, remain there.   There will be an icon marked Continue but do not, I repeat, do not …”

Floating Off the Page

Poetry needs immediacy. Just about everyone agrees about this, hence so much writing in 1st person, present tense. What is less commonly considered in poetry’s demand for intimacy and just as real intimacy is difficult between real people, the intimacy between the poet and poem is equally challenging. This means honing in, bearing down upon the pen. Absolute fidelity is required. If we don’t bear down on the pen, go into the poetic experience so intensely that everything else disappears, we risk words floating off the page. For me my concentration must be so total, I risk shattering as if the page were a sheet of glass, a magnifying glass in which I must see the poem as pure transparency.

Intimacy begs for passion. Passion is what drives the wheel and poetry is circular more than linear, a round that resounds. I am utterly passionate about my work and I spend more time going at it, into it, through it than I do in any other area of my waking like. When I encounter words like detachment, I hear a guillotine drop. A severing occurs, words become disembodied, just parts of speech tossed about like body parts.

Everyday I make love with language, try to flesh it out ever so sensually. There’s an eroticism involved. Lovers know this. They muse into each other until nothing stands between them. That’s the secret—disappearing into the passion of the poem’s moment in time and that’s all we have, moments in time. Surrender is involved—to the light, the darkness and everything in between.

Distance. That’s another word that scares me. How many of us were taught we need to gain distance from our most intense experiences? Once again, I see words floating off the page. Poetry needs to driven, riveted to the very heart of our deepest, most powerful, most human acts. Doing this may feel like the flesh is being ripped off our bones, but backing off may lead to lines of steel. It’s easy to back off. Even my dog knows that command, but to stay in, truly in, ah that’s really something.

In Stanley Kunitz’s beautiful, absolutely intimate poem called “Touch Me” he asks, “what makes the engine go?” Immediately he responds with “desire, desire, desire.” He posits the cricket as the small machine that makes the engine go. Poets, then, as crickets making a solitary music by which they hope to mate with the world.


by John Samuel Tieman, Ph. D.

I was always disappointed that I wasn’t beaten during high school.   That’s because I’m Catholic.   Catholics are supposed to be beaten by nuns, or at least have little scars on our knuckles to prove that we took piano lessons.

So it was with some relief that yesterday I had this recovered memory.

The nuns hated their lives and, therefore, us.   Such was the 60’s at Mercy High School.    Which made us quiet in church and submissive in school.   Except for Mario DiAngelo.   DiAngelo was forever giving shit in Religion Class to Sister Mary Immaculata.   Questioned everything.   So one day when he asks about the sex lives of popes, she takes her breviary and, with a swing worth of the St. Louis Cardinals, smacks him so hard her prayer book explodes.   I mean her whole prayer life explodes over DiAngelo.   Leaving him dazed and deeply religious.

Thinking About Irina Ratushinskaya

by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

I’m not quite sure what got me thinking about Irina Ratushinskaya recently but something did, and brought back how closely I followed her work during the Eighties; poets all over the world took her case very personally. Many of us wrote letters protesting her imprisonment and asking for her release. (Here is a link to an appeal in the New York Review of Books on June 30, 1983: )

Arrested in 1982 for her involvement with the human rights movement and for writing poems that were considered anti-Soviet propaganda, she was tried and sentenced to seven years hard labor and five years of internal exile; almost immediately she was sent to a labor camp where she lived as a “zek” and continued secretly to write poems by carving them into bars of soap, memorizing them, and then destroying the evidence by washing them away. (She also copied poems in minuscule script onto strips of paper which she managed to smuggle out; a number of these were published in the 1984 collection Poems and later in Pencil Letter.) Reagan and Gorbachev negotiated her release in October, 1986, an agreement timed to warm things for the summit in Reykjavik. Ratushinskaya’s Soviet citizenship was revoked; physically frail after years of harsh camp conditions, she emigrated to the U.S., where she lived for two years (as the poet-in-residence at Northwestern University) before moving to London, and then finally back home to Russia in the late nineties. A book of her poems, Beyond the Limit, came out in 1987, shortly after her release; Gray is the Color of Hope, a memoir, appeared in 1988. If you haven’t read these, you should.

Since then Ratushinskaya has published a number of volumes, including Wind of the Journey, poems in Russian and English from Cornerstone Press (2000), translated by Lydia Razran Stone. Here is poem 35 from that collection:

    The cock has sung
    But angel horns are still.
    We live on a narrow ledge above
    The precipice of time.
    We sense the end is near.
    But, heedless, children run.
    There are no dreams that will
    Assuage their urge to fly.
    What power then is this?
    Drawing them to the abyss?

I also located a number of new poems in the May 2008 issue of The International Literary Quarterly:

Why do I think of her now? Perhaps because we still have so much to learn from the Russian poets—not just Ratushinskaya but also Akhmatova, Pasternak, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva. In this time of inflammatory talk radio hosts and shows, and of senators who shout “You lie!” to the president in the middle of a congressional address, I say to myself, let us look to the Russian poets and be both heartened and instructed.


Lesson Plan: From An Inner City High School

by Publius

There are a lot of reasons to quit this job.   Kate did.   I don’t blame her.   But of all the reasons to quit this job, the three best are depression, humiliation and rage.

A freshman turns in the homework.   I look at his t-shirt, and see a disarming photo of a nice looking young man.   Then the script below the photo reads —

R. I. P. Kooley

01/22/90 – 09/18/09

It’s depressing.   I read about this killing in the paper.   A drive-by.   Kids killing kids.   I ask.   The freshman tells me that Kooley was his cousin.   Then he changes the subject.   He looks at a picture of my wife and me, a picture on my desk.   I tell him how it’s a shot of a particularly pleasant memory.   He tells me how he’ll never get married.   “Too much drama.”   He changes the subject, but the topic is still sadness.

And this happens all the time.   So far, I’ve lost two students to drive-bys.

That’s one reason to quit.

Dan studied archeology.   At lunch, he regales us with exotic yarns of the Middle East.   He thought about continuing in that field, but wanted a family and time for a family.   “Kids instead of digs.”   Now, he’s got two little girls, but not much sleep.

Dan was publicly humiliated yesterday for the high crime of tardiness.   Five minutes late in the morning, he still had more than enough time until students arrived.   But, in front of several of us, he was mortified by the principal.   At lunch he tells how he’s again considering that doctorate he never got.   “Why should I put up with this?”

‘If not you,’ I say, ‘then who?’   People talk about reforming inner city schools.   But only a few are actually willing to work in them — and that’s all that really counts.   Reformers annoy us more than help us.  We’re aided neither by uplifting liberals nor condescending conservatives.

There are about 200 job openings in the district today.   We used to have 65 teachers in my school.   We’re down to 25 teachers, although we still have the same number of students, 800 and change.   Each of us teaches two extra classes, and gets one break once every other day.   There are many subjects we simply no longer teach.

Thus we come to Publius’ Rule # 57:  If you’re not depressed at times, if you’re not incensed at other times, then you’re not engaged.

Kate was rookie of the year last year.   Great start.   But she feels rage, because she’s bullied by the boss.   The boss writes her disciplinary letters, we call them “nasty-grams”, every morning for a week.   So yesterday she just says Fuck this! So I write –

    teacher ed.
    we haven’t said ‘pedagogy’ in decades
    we’ve theories about seating charts
    playground is a duty like lunch or hall
    we’re hideous as dictionaries or yellow
    shirts in fluorescent lights
    near an intersection of broken glass we ride
    an elevator that once smelled of the best of intentions
    so when I heard you just said Fuck This! and walked
    out just like that
    I loosened my tie and graded a theme
    and wrote Fuck An A, Kate! on a paper

Life Lived in the Open Wound

by Elizabeth Kirschner

I’ve lived most of my life, particularly my writing life which is a significant amount of time each day even on weekends and yes, holidays, too, in what I call the open wound. I don’t think I am alone in this, but believe the poetic disposition is particularly tuned into wounds. Some may have been incurred in adult life, others engendered in childhood. I have many wounds from my beginnings, practically since conception, as both my parents were abusive. They were masterful in their capacity to be brutal.

All of us are among the walking wounded, but for the poet, wounds are wombs where poems take root. Sometimes I see my soul, literally so, as a wounded web and consider that my work is to transform that web into a cocoon. Poems incubate in these cocoons, sometimes for years, even decades, till suddenly a wing appears. That wing is the word and the forward motion of that wing is to migrate. Poems, then, as winged migrations. Some migrations are exhilarating, others so exhausting the wings feel leaden and the labor is all about survival for both poem and poet.

The journeys are long and when we imagine the treks of birds and butterflies it seems impossible that these tiny creatures can travel such distances. Poems, too, must go the distance and when they do, it’s breathtaking, even the darkest of poems is utterly breathtaking.

Wound as womb I want to say, wound as womb in which seeds tick. That tick, tick, ticking is what creates the poem’s rhythm and cadence, the poem’s musicality, a trait too often overlooked. I was first trained as a singer so the study of music preceded the study of poetry. I sang all the time, but when I truly encountered poetry for the first time some thirty-five years ago, I knew that all I wanted to do was sing on the page. My wounds, then, are also musical. A scar can’t sing, but a wound can as it has both voice and a story to tell.

In the end, that’s the gift wounds bring us—a story set to song. If I ignore my mortal woundedness, I risk ignoring my humanity. Imagine the wound as sacred. Imagine the wound as schooling us. For me, that’s where the pull of the poem is and if I can manage living in the open wound, I can also believe in healing.

Wounds can blossom, flower in time, through time, over time and at this moment I see the battered child I once was as a flower girl attending the wedding, the till death-do-us-part wedding that married me to poetry with complete fidelity. Finally I see the wound as a vow. I once wrote, make love with your wounds, and I do that, just that, day after day, year after year and the consummation, my friends, is beautiful.