~This poem was previously published in The Evansville Review (2008).
Fire Ants Invade Hong Hock See Buddhist Temple
No one ever said
the path to enlightenment
would be easy.
Nor did they mention
it would be strewn
with fire ants
falling from the sacred Bodhi tree
onto the backs
of worshippers seeking shade.
No one warned
that letting go of pain
would be a daily koan
to wrap psychic arms
around in holy embrace.
But there they are—
real as wounds—
a colony of fire ants
the monks cannot kill,
knowing they could
return as one next time.
The vacuum transfer
was a failure. They can’t even
flick the beasties from their skin
(Do no harm).
Welts rise like prayers.
The worshippers decline
in numbers; something
must be done.
The monks say
if someone comes unbidden
to get rid of the ants
it is the will of the universe.
They’ll just be over there,
praying, eyes closed
tight against seeing.
~This poem was previously published in The Evansville Review (2009).
Remembering is Short
Remembering is quick and sharp as a stumble,
unexpected as a fly
or flurry of moonlight.
Remembering is a swift kick in the groin,
the tang of an apple
or stipple of firefly light.
Remembering is the glimpse of a woman’s breast
or the slip of a blade,
fleeting and intangible as a wink.
forgetting is a dead star whose light
we continue to see.
~This poem was previously published in The Los Angeles Review (Spring 2010).
Blackbirds haunt the roof next door.
Ravens, you say. Blackbirds are smaller.
The hairs on my arm flutter
when you breathe next to me in bed.
My body will one day take flight.
It already has, you say.
I dream talons. Dream birch tree and musty farmhouse.
I love you in this light, you say.
You know how to wake a girl properly.
My wings unfold, lift the tangled sheets from our bodies.
I am the dreamt kiss that lingers on your lips.
We haunt our own house for hours.
THE STORY BEHIND THE POEMS
Each of these poems came about in a very different way for me. The oldest of the three, “Remembering is Short”, came about as one of a series of poems I wrote as a meditation on memory as a concept: what memory is to me, as well as whether objects could have memories of their own. “Haunting” was written as I watched an old farmhouse and historic tree demolished next to our home, and a new mega-mansion erected in their place. One evening, around dusk, a flock of what were probably actually crows congregated on the bare wooden framing of the new house, and the poem grew out of my secret wish that the new house would be haunted by the site’s past.
The newest of the three poems, “Fire Ants Invade Hong Hock See Buddhist Temple,” was my way of trying to get some inspiration out of the fact that the home we were living in at the time was frequently overrun by tiny sugar ants. As I was researching pest control options, I stumbled on the story of the Buddhist temple and found great satisfaction in the irony of the situation.
ABOUT BERNADETTE GEYER
Bernadette Geyer is the author of The Scabbard of Her Throat and recipient of a Strauss Fellowship from the Arts Council of Fairfax County. Her poems have appeared in Oxford American, North American Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. Geyer lives in Berlin, Germany, where she works as a freelance writer and editor, and leads online poetry workshops for The Writer’s Center.