Saturday, May 26, 2018

#265: Three Poems by Sophie Cabot Black

~This poem was previously published in Bloom (2015).


How tired the day of me realizing
Again not the way wanted, the waste
Of each body by mine and yes

I kept myself capable and yes
When entering a room I was the center
But how unchosen I stood

In a slow undraping to catch
Any task of your broad and apparent
Hands; no longer do I know what to cover,

The cat in the corner overseeing
My fall toward not how I have changed
But finally how I could not bear you.



Carefully I suffered, and neither asking
Nor standing in front of what I think you
Comes any rest. Never so clear that none

Is without my doing, and now all that
Wretched light against the mercy of why
I took the lamp. When the veil is torn

Not much is left except to talk
Of how you will not come back.
Whatever is made in absence

Becomes the reason. Without leaving
The kingdom we would never know
What was wanted; where light spills

It burns. Sorting all out to be
Where you might. Whoever rises is
Who went first. No respite

In the kingdom. I become
The mistake, the place of it,
Note left hammered to the wall.


~This poem previously appeared in Salamander (2009). 


To leave behind
An outline, which then
Becomes form. Held up,

It is called beauty
For the ability to contain
What we did not know

We wanted to know.



“Salvage” was written between the deaths of my two dear friends, Lucy Grealy and Jason Shinder. I was writing poems that were attempts to understand what Lucy, who wrote two great books, along with a chapbook of poems, had left behind in her all too short life, and an ongoing conversation with Jason, who had cancer, about his next book of poems (which was to be his last). This idea, both audacious and daunting, of what is left after a life lived, and what we choose to call beautiful (which was both Lucy’s and Jason’s themes throughout their books) had a good hold on me— while I also found myself turning back to revisit classical philosophy and ideas of truth/beauty.

The other two poems are part of a cycle concerned with issues of power and surrender. Both potent in affairs of the heart, but also as seeking context, belonging. “The Penitent” began with the painting by Georges de la Tour of Mary Magdalene; already I had begun a series of poems with Psyche as the pivoter: the dynamics of sexual encounter, how these become transcribed, re-enacted, again and again. And how us women make ourselves small, small enough to fit in, to be useful, and yet to be attended. And how this never goes away, the ongoing-ness of the overlords of power, their hands all over us, written into our bodies and how we hold what we have endured, from time to time giving handing it over in order to breathe freely, or for someone else to take note, or dream of a evenly matched, fair world. Revisiting the old stories is home to me, also always the place to begin: I get much out of them no matter my stage or phase of someone who wants to live with words.



Sophie Cabot Black has three poetry collections from Graywolf Press, The Misunderstanding of Nature, (Norma Farber First Book Award) and The Descent, (2005 Connecticut Book Award) and The Exchange (2013). More information:   SCB at Graywolf Press

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