It’s April 30, the last day of Poetry Month. Or is it the first day in the rest of your POETRY LIFE? (Just agree it’s the second one; it’ll make me happy.)
We thought we’d cap our celebrations by sharing poems by two outstanding past Poetry Fellows: Patrick Donnelly’s Oxygen Catastrophe and Ben Berman’s Endings. Patrick is a Deerfield poet with one published collection, another to-be-, and a poetry manuscript review service to help poets prepare their work for publishers. Ben is a Boston-area poet/teacher, who, along with winning an MCC grant, has won an Artist Fellowship from the Somerville Arts Council and a Really Great Guy Award (from me). Enjoy.
OXYGEN CATASTROPHE by Patrick Donnelly
Mon vieux, you say cremation,
you can’t help feeling, is a gesture
ungrateful to the body
and the giver of the body.
But I (who have for years at a time
lived, reclined, frolicked, pranked, played the fool
in low, unworthy rooms, far too full
of gratefulness, of a kind, for my body) wonder:
do you mean the same dear giver
of the sweet sweet air
that is already burning
your body, mine, our memory, my memory of
a black and white collie in the spring,
Originally published in The Laurel Review
ENDINGS by Ben Berman
Last night, I dreamt
of returning to Zimbabwe.
Busses were running,
women were selling
tomatoes and I kept telling
Mavhundutsie he couldn’t
be beating me in darts,
he was dead. And when
his wife brought me tea,
I refused because she, too,
was dead. Where was Dolly
Parton and the six-six mute?
Where were the overweight
ladies of the night? I remember
one monsoonish evening,
coming upon a shop that sold
soap and dried fish. The owner
offered me a blanket and corner
until the rains died down.
He brought out orange drink
and chunks of bread. The ground
is wet, he said. And I agreed.
Too wet, he continued. I agreed
again but didn’t understand
what he meant until he dragged
a long, wooden box into the room.
My brother. And then again,
the ground is too wet.
And because I used to believe
it was the escalating hardships
that elevated us towards the sacred,
that the struggle, alone, validated
a voice, for a long time I thought
the story ended there – moving off
the blanket to lie on the cold floor,
wresting, rapturously, to sleep.
But the truth is I also woke up
the next morning and walked home.
And when I arrived, Maxwell
needed help with his homework
and Chikasha reminded me that
someone has to chop more wood.
And someone has to weed the field.
Originally published in Cream City Review
Patrick Donnelly (Poetry Fellow ’08) is the author of The Charge (Ausable Press, 2003, since 2009 part of Copper Canyon Press) and Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin, forthcoming from Four Way Books, and is an Associate Editor of Poetry International.
Ben Berman (Poetry Fellow ’08) has received a Somerville Arts Council Fellowship, among other honors, and teaches at Grub Street and at Brookline High School. Read a nano-interview with Ben on ArtSake.