~This poem previously appeared in Kansas City Voices, Salzburg Review (2015).
Civilized People Keep their Silver Polished
My mother polishes her father’s silverware
on the dryer downstairs because
he’s asked her to, and there’s no room
to do it elsewhere. The basement bathroom
hasn’t been clean since my grandmother died.
In the living room, her Greek statues dangle
from bird cages, her piano untuned and unplayed.
In some of the rooms, it still smells like her.
My mother tries to go through each room
with “a woman’s touch”—as if she’s
some spin-off Midas, who can make
the ugly shine—but my granddad
won’t let her throw away anything
that might come in handy one day.
In his workshop, rusting hammers wait
to fix and be fixed.
chiang mai love poem
~This poem previously appeared in RHINO (2017).
the ladyboy jumps into our song taew
battered feet in heels too small
wig tilted, false flower falling from her hair
underneath: her throbbing adam’s apple.
what I remember most clearly: her hairy legs, scalded
from the knee down
as if someone rolled her through a parking lot of bike mufflers
& the ends of her skirt burned as if bitten.
she holds up her fingers, fat like bananas with callouses
she talks like any girl: please, kha. no money, kha. just need to go a few blocks, kha.
& all I can think to ask her is: how did you get in our taxi without money?
she presses for a stop & jumps over the back of the truck bed
into the pitch black Thailand night.
what about the burns on her legs? won’t they get
infected in this elephant heat, bare
in a mosquito city sky—
he is so she is so bare
with love, she will be eaten raw by fire
for love, I am still afraid of the idea
of being touched by a man.
~This poem previously appeared in Contemporary Verse (2016).
Things to Do in My Hometown: Higashimatsushima
after Gary Snyder
Become a spirit & wander as a lantern
through a nostalgic alleyway.
Thrift shop in the ruins of a mall.
Make miso out of seaweed from a backyard,
make udon from the debris in a living room.
Try to remember friends’ names, & what
they looked like before they were found.
Watch the water recede.
Watch someone at the top of the hill
build what looks like a shed for a dog.
Imagine living in a dog’s house, imagine being
a dog, living in a neighbor’s house.
Make a list of places to move to. Go through the house
& find what has & has not been affected.
(Is the milk still good? The natto? ) Make a map
of where all the buildings used to be. Go to the woods
to find something that’s living. Go find a fox,
ask how many tails it takes to outsmart disaster.
Tell the fox what it means
to be a survivor, & watch the fox
tend to its young. Think about what it’s like
to be the tsunami: filling the earth,
subduing it: to be fruitful & multiply, multiply, multiply,
dominion over fish, birds
and over every living thing that moves about the earth.
THE STORY BEHIND THE POEMS
I write largely from what I see and experience. I didn’t speak until I was about three years old, and I think this was in part because I was too busy observing the things around me. Two of my poems here (“chiang mai love poem” and “Civilized People Keep Their Silver Polished”) come from moments in my own personal experience that I can’t stop thinking about, that I felt compelled to transcribe and bear witness to.
However, I’ve begun to explore going beyond myself and inhabiting personas, trying to understand things beyond my experience through poetry. “Things to Do in My Hometown: Higashimatsushima” came from a writing exercise in a workshop with Michael Dennis Browne where he asked us to write a poem in the style of Gary Snyder’s “Things to Do In Seattle. This was around the time that I was beginning to be haunted by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, so I tried to imagine Higashimatsushima (one of the affected towns) as my hometown and what I would be thinking or doing to try to reconnect with my home and cope with the destruction. I found that the exercise gave me quite a bit of room to imagine, explore and create a connection between the real and the magical.
It seems like my poems either come out pretty solid the first time or require several rewrites until I get to the heart of the poem. I have been writing and rewriting “chiang mai love poem” since I went to Chiang Mai in 2010. “Things to Do In My Hometown” was largely unchanged from that first writing prompt exercise.
ABOUT MEG EDEN
Meg Eden's work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, RHINO and Gargoyle. She teaches at the University of Maryland. She has four poetry chapbooks, and her novel "Post-High School Reality Quest" is forthcoming June 2017 from California Coldblood, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.