poemoftheweek poemoftheweek.com poemoftheweek.org poem of the week

02-23-2016

Carrie Fountain 

 

In the Distant Past

Things weren't very specific 
when I was in labor,

 

yet everything was 
there, suddenly: all that

 

my body had known, 
even things I'd only been

 

reminded of occasionally, 
as when a stranger's scent

 

had reminded me 
of someone I'd known

 

in the distant past. The few 
men I'd loved but didn't

 

marry. The time, living 
alone in Albuquerque,

 

when I fainted in the kitchen 
one morning before work

 

and woke up on the floor, 
covered in coffee.

 

The visit to the psychic
who told Jon he was just where

 

he needed to be in life,
then told me I was born

 

to wait and that if 
I demonstrated patience

 

I would someday be 
the instant winner

 

of a great and luxurious prize, 
though what it would be

 

and when it would come 
she could not say. Finally,

 

it was coming. It was all moving 
forward. Finally, it was all going

 

to pass through me. It was 
beginning to happen

 

and it was all going to happen 
in one, single night.

 

No more lingering 
in the adolescent pools

 

of memory, no more giving it 
a little more time to see

 

if things would get better 
or worse. No more moving

 

from one place to the next. 
Finally, my body was all

 

that had ever been given 
to me, it was all I had,

 

and I sweated through it 
in layers, so that when,

 

in the end, I was finally 
standing outside myself

 

and watching, I could see 
that what brought me

 

into the world was pulling 
you into the world,

 

and I could see that my body 
was giving you up

 

and giving you to me, 
and where in my body

 

there were talents, there 
were talents, and where

 

there were no talents 
there would be scars.

 

Nostalgia Says No

Your father is a man with a mustache 
and black hair sitting on his haunches 
in the sunlight unhooking warm cans of beer 
from a six-pack and forcing each
with an easy shove into the white heart 
of the ice chest. But no, that was 
years ago. Where is the crunching sound
the ice makes? Where is the slow melt 
of the passing day, the dead center 
of the birthday party, the piñata swaying 
heavily overhead? And the now-dead
with their hands folded and their legs 
crossed in their lawn chairs, when did they 
stand and walk out of the yard, oblivious,
saying, Save me a piece of cake, saying, no 
I'll be back, save me a piece of cake. 
Is it really that easy? Remind me: 
oblivious is a word with no eyes or

Prayer (Rinsed)

By now I feel rinsed 
by time, by what

 

can happen and what can't 
happen, rinsed too

 

by surprise, by the accident 
and then the discipline

 

of love, the body 
I've come to, which I am,

 

even now, leaving behind, 
and the mind, the weird

 

guilt of the passing hour, 
the shame of clocks, the way

 

the day opens its wet, blue 
petals then whitens

 

in the center and falls off 
heavily into night, rinsed,

 

even, by the conversation 
I'm having with myself

 

right now, waiting for the next part 
of this sentence, for the next

 

airplane to pass overhead, 
above the city, through

 

the equanimity of sky, making 
that sickening sound of force

 

and action that is simply 
the sound of this prayer

 

being made and this prayer 
being torn apart again.
                       

-from Instant Winner

BIO: Carrie Fountain’s poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Tin House, and Poetry, among others. Her debut collection, Burn Lake, was a National Poetry Series winner and was published in 2010 by Penguin. Her second collection, Instant Winner, was published by Penguin in 2014. Born and raised in Mesilla, New Mexico, Fountain received her MFA as a fellow at the James A. Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. Currently writer-in-residence at St. Edward's University, she lives in Austin with her husband, playwright Kirk Lynn, and their children.