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Intro to Poetry

Professor Nordhaus assigned me

Galway Kinnell’s “The Hen Flower,” section 2

of The Book of Nightmares, instead of section 3,

“The Shoes of Wandering.”

Who wouldn’t rather go with Galway

to The Salvation Army to try on “these shoes strangers

have died from”? But instead, I got the hens,

unable to understand the ax or the eggs,

and me, not getting why it was the hen

who helped Galway know

how little he knew, how we sleep on the feathers

of hens, how these feathers are all that lie

between us and darkness.

How hard it must have been to write

“Listen, Kinnell,” and then to stop writing and listen

to the hens in their sawdust beds.

How hard it was to read and then go back

to my room in Grace’s house where she let me stay

for free while I went to school

so I could learn again and again that everything

dies, even the poem, even Galway

who died this week and brought me back

to that classroom where I sat behind

a dark-haired girl named Mona.

She only spoke once in class, the day we discussed

a poem called “Breasts.” I learned then that she wasn’t

shy, she just didn’t care much for shoes

or hens, but breasts she liked, she kept almost

cupping her own under her sweater as she talked

about the poem until I thought she was going

to actually show them. Which is where I think

the poem was going.

from Dresses from the Old Country (2018)Find other Laura Read books in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in Laura Read Poems

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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.

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