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04-25-2011

Elyse Fenton

 

Gratitude

Wreckage was still smoldering on the airport road 
when they delivered the soldier- beyond recognition,

 

seeing god's hands in the medevac's spun rotors-
to the station's gravel landing pad. By the time you arrived

 

there were already hands fluttering white flags of gauze 
against the ruptured scaffolding of ribs, the glistening skull, and no skin

 

left untended, so you were the one to sink the rubber catheter tube. 
When you tell me this over the phone hours later I can hear rotors

 

scalping the tarmac-gray sky, the burdenless lift of your voice. 
And I love you more for holding the last good flesh

 

of that soldier's cock in your hands, for startling his warm blood 
back to life. Listen. I know the way the struck chord begins

 

to shudder, fierce heat rising into the skin of my own 
sensate palms. That moment just before we think

 

the end will never come and then 
the moment when it does.

Clamor

Staking fencing along the border of the spring 
garden I want suddenly to say something about 
this word that means sound and soundlessness
at once. The deafening metal of my hammer strikes
wood, a tuning fork tuning my ears to a register 

I'm too deaf to understand. Across the yard

 

each petal dithers from the far pear one white 
cheek at a time like one blade of snow into 
the next until the yard looks like the sound 
of a television screen tuned last night to late-

night static. White as a page or a field where 
I often go to find the promise of evidence of you

 

or your unit's safe return. But instead of foot-
prints in the frosted static there's only late-
turned-early news and the newest image of a war 

that can't be finished or won. And because last
night I turned away from the television's promise
of you I'm still away. I've staked myself

 

deep to the unrung ground, hammer humming 
in my hand, the screen's aborted stop-time still 

turning over in my head: a white twist of rag 
pinned in the bloody center of a civilian's chest, 
a sign we know just enough to know it means 
surrender, there in the place a falling petal's heart would be.

-from Clamor

BIO: Elyse Fenton is the author of Clamor (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010), selected by D.A. Powell as winner of the 2009 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. Winner of the 2008 Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod International Literary Journal, her poetry and nonfiction have also appeared in such journals as Bat City Review, The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, and The New York Times. In 2010, she received the University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize for Clamor.

Born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, Elyse Fenton received her B.A. from Reed College and her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon. She has worked in the woods, on farms, and in schools in New England, the Pacific Northwest, Mongolia, and Texas.  Check out her website at www.ElyseFenton.com.