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Category archive for: Brenda Shaughnessy

Artless

is my heart. A stranger

berry there never was,

tartless.

Gone sour in the sun,

in the sunroom or moonroof,

roofless.

No poetry. Plain. No

fresh, special recipe

to bless.

All I’ve ever made

with these hands

and life, less

substance, more rind.

Mostly rim and trim,

meatless

but making much smoke

in the old smokehouse,

no less.

Fatted from the day,

overripe and even

toxic at eve. Nonetheless,

in the end, if you must

know, if I must bend,

waistless,

to that excruciation.

No marvel, no harvest

left me speechless,

yet I find myself

somehow with heart,

aloneless.

With heart,

fighting fire with fire,

flightless.

That loud hub of us,

meat stub of us, beating us

senseless.

Spectacular in its way,

its way of not seeing,

congealing dayless

but in everydayness.

In that hopeful haunting

(a lesser

way of saying

in darkness) there is

silencelessness

for the pressing question.

Heart, what art you?

War, star, part? Or less:

playing a part, staying apart

from the one who loves,

loveless.

from Our AndromedaFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Drift

I’ll go anywhere to leave you but come with me.

All the cities are like you anyway. Windows

darken when I get close enough to see.

Any place we want to stay’s polluted,

the good spots taken already by those

who ruin them. And restaurants we’d never find.

We’d rut a ditch by a river in nights

so long they must be cut by the many pairs

of wrong-handled scissors maybe god owns

and doesn’t share. I water god.

I make a haunted lake and rinse and rinse.

I take what I want, and have ever since what

I want disappeared, like anything hunted.

That’s what you said. Disappointment

isn’t tender, dried and wide instead.

The tourists snapped you crying,

and the blanket I brought was so dirty

it must have been lying around

in lice and blood that whole year we fought.

It wasn’t clear, so I forgot.

I haven’t been sleeping, next to you

twitching to bury my boring eyes.

The ship made you sad, and the ferry, and canoe.

All boats do.

from Human Dark with SugarFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Card 6 The Lovers

When standing naked, no mirror,

this is just me. Just me, justly

before a lover who breaks

this wholeness as if

he were a mirror

but with his mouth.

When you say I am beautiful

suddenly I stop being so

because you have claimed that.

from Our AndromedaFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Parallel

The dark cracks separating

the white boards

think they’re alone.

Why must I be burdened

with knowing

there are so many?

Or is this what god thinks?

Or am I what god thinks?

Or am I alone?

from Our AndromedaFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

All Possible Pain

Feelings seem like made-up things,

though I know they’re not.

I don’t understand why they lead me

around, why I can’t explain to the cop

how the pot got in my car,

how my relationship

with god resembled that

of a prisoner and firing squad

and how I felt after I was shot.

Because then, the way I felt

was feelingless. I had no further

problems with authority.

I was free from the sharp

tongue of the boot of life,

from its scuffed leather toe.

My heart broken like a green bottle

in a parking lot. My life a parking lot,

ninety-eight degrees in the shade

but there is no shade,

never even a sliver.

What if all possible

pain was only the grief of truth?

The throb lingering

only in the exit wounds,

though the entries were the ones

that couldn’t close. As if either of those

was the most real of an assortment

of realities—existing, documented,

hanging like the sentenced

under one sky’s roof.

But my feelings, well,

they had no such proof.

from Our AndromedaFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

You Too, Not Just Me

Never just me.

However you need,

however, I’ll be.

Like smoke slid

in like previous whiskey,

fire wisps,

fire drowns.

And follows itself

into new form,

first

afraid it’s too alike.

A fraud must

believe, too.

Then, forgetting

how unlikely.

A centaur’s first street

fair, alone.

Then so lucky,

only a dream is so lucky.

Sometimes laughing

with others

who must sense

us, condensed,

frontbodied, pushing

soft walking

circles onto a ledge.

Imperceptible

where your face

turns into breath

and vanishes

in the home.

Can’t matter

in the home.

Some fire

makes form

only folly,

however all three

follow us to take

your shape

down with mine.

from Human Dark with SugarFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Headlong

Be strange to yourself,

in your love, your grief.

Your wet eyelashes a black

fringe on brown pain

and your feet unbelievably

sure, somehow, surfing

your own shadow,

that too-large one cresting

just now, too soon for you

to get inside the curl:

the one place in the ocean

where it’s safe. And safe

only for a half-breath

(a fish’s sip with

hooked lip),

only for that one blink

of an eye already shut (tiptoe

to the foreshadow) against

the headlong wall of salt water.

from Our AndromedaFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Sorry, T.

but I’m a ghost. Do you understand

that the person you love

is fleshy and heavy from hip

to boot to make up for this?

There’s a name for it: Brenda,

but I can’t fool everyone.

Even if I have convinced you,

and I don’t bruise easily, that I am yours

to strong-arm and throttle.

Even when you force me to become

of this world—of this cold floor.

I can do so only for a moment.

When the moment falls off

and primal fool-seasons

affix their wintry incubus,

I tend to stomp around to another

bed. Hurting you vaporizes me,

which is why I love others.

I don’t leave a flukeprint in the sweat

of things. The ground won’t greet me

like a domestic animal when I walk.

When I talk you glaze over like the sun

on shifty pavement.

I won’t see the lip of a step

before I bloody my knees again.

(The blood isn’t so bad, but for a ghost

it doesn’t make sense.

Others can draw it, they don’t know.

They make it into a potion for themselves

but you try to make me look at it.)

from Human Dark with SugarFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Inappropriate Dreams

I can’t tell you

how often.

You in the grocery store

embarrassing

everyone with

the lettuce.

Elsewhere, food

in the file folders.

It’s not supposed to

be there, get it?

Another time you

were rolling down a hill

like a blueberry

rolling toward

me, a bear who will

eat anything

this time of year

but wants

just you. Then

you are not you but

the plum of a pebble

that I skipped

into the lake

and found somehow

night after night.

from Our AndromedaFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Brenda Shaughnessy
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.