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!