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Photo: Courtesy of the author

 

SEAWATER, AND OURS A BED ABOVE IT

by Katie Ford

 

We wished that if we raked

the sea-carved skeletons from beneath

the house the true soft back of earth

would show a constant bone.

But those same shells trawled from the gulf

held back malarial waters

confused by houses raised above them.

 

We said this house is breaking

when one end sank and one beam cracked—

(in my honest sleep I said

our house is dead)—

as our hound clicked over the floors,

scratching the same raw second

we did not learn the law of,

 

that we live and die and live again

into dawns we feel it is right

to wash only our feet in the basin,

letting the water pass over us

into the ground.

 

And we do know, don’t we:

We will be overcome by waters

where I stand with my lanterns and cans,

my useless preparations and provisions,

with the God I loved, I hated, and you.

 

I might not know you, nor you,

me, even though we’ve washed each other

with salt. But we know how we will end:

 

Waters will sweep the shells over our eyes,

and we will recognize

where we are

from what we saw

in museums and papers, from what we heard

in the agate voice of the scientist

who spoke in the quiet

only the truth need not rise above,

 

who, somewhere inland, takes tourists

through a glass garden

where tropicals and ferns

are rained on periodically

by a false mist

to show how spores used to shine

from even the undersides of the world.

 

/

Originally published Colosseum (Graywolf Press, 2008). Reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press.

 

 

*


 

WHAT WE GET

by Katie Ford

 

I waited for a silence with its boards stripped off,

its sills pried away, all glasswork, all September light

with no latch. And when it came,       

 

sometimes it was easy to think of nothing at all, have no question

at all, to sit and stare at the cracked, orange house next door

where the rodents scurried in and out, storing

 

green bulbs dropped from our trees—olive nuts, our choked-back eyes—

for the mild southern winter in which nothing dies,

only goes a way a while.

 

I wanted the far away. I wanted not to feel

caught. Look at the myrtle tree pulling up the yard.

Look at the belief I can’t live by, how it didn’t follow

but was here before me like the fields of tall, planted cane

 

this is what we get when we ask to be saved:

a land where everything grows, and there are many killings.

 

/

Originally published Colosseum (Graywolf Press, 2008).

Reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press.

 

//

Katie Ford, born 1975 in Portland, Oregon, is visiting Oslo Internasjonale Poesifestival this weekend. She is the author of Blood Lyrics (Graywolf Press, 2014)Colosseum (Graywolf, 2008), and Deposition (Graywolf Press, 2002). Ford is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Levis Reading Prize. She teaches creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. / NWCC says thank you for the poems!