"Poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes, indeed."
- Mary Oliver
Erica Anderson-Senter is a poet who lives and writes in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her poetry can be found in various publications online, and her first collection, Midwestern Poet’s Incomplete Guide to Symbolism, was published by EastOver Press in 2021. She graduated from the Writing Seminars at Bennington College in 2016. She joins us remotely over Zoom from her home.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Erica, what poems have brought for us today?
PORTRAIT OF A SUMMER NIGHT: A MOTHER HIGHLIGHTED
I am years from that night near the Muncie reservoir — FM radio buzzing
through my mom’s truck cab and summer-air parting my bangs.
She is sad, again, and now, this side of memory I can only understand:
her husband, a drunk, throws money at pull-tabs and room temp
whiskey and other men’s wives. But her face, straight ahead
and concentrated—beautiful with August night perfume, pinched and pained.
She is talking: lips moving, her hair, my hair, and probably Bonnie Raitt
on the radio. I can’t make you love me sound pressing in. Jesus.
She is beautiful. Even sad. Did I know—I mean to say, could I know?
The woman who, weeks before, woke me from warm sleep
to curl in my brother’s bed while she collected the man who hits her—
her small nose bleeds often.
What can I say? Did I ever love her well?
Can I move her bangs;
will she hear me whisper how much I forgive her
A GLOSSARY OF RIVER WORDS—A STORY OF LOSS
Oxbow [noun]—a bend in the river
as in walk this way to my car,
turn slightly, keep moving, don’t
look back. He’s still at his door
waving on a September morning.
we were yoked, only 2 hours before,
his mouth on mine, hands on my surface.
Alluvium [noun]—material deposited by running
water; not the rain pelting his window;
tiny streams coursing, creating tiny paths.
He is next to me while it rains—he used
to call me his ‘river baby’, ‘water witch’,
Delta [noun]—he has not touched me with his tongue
in months, what is left behind
resembles clay heart,
silt, and gravel.
Fluvial [adjective]—we would walk in creeks
That cut through the woods
Near my house —filth in our boots,
Kingfishers belting and swooping;
We stood near the water, in quiet.
Limestone [noun]—his brother is his only family
who knew my name. He was my sun—
how is this, this imbalance moving
swiftly, stopped, and tucked beneath
rocks? Flakes of quartz catching light.
Estuary [noun]—the wide part of a river
near the sea, where fresh and salt
I am confused by this
I tell him as he leaves my bed—
And as we meander, heartwise away,
I write this, the definition of sin:
art of drowning under grief alone;
the thing that sinks a girl;
stones in my pocket as he swims away,
heavily and more.
HOW TO LEAVE A CHICAGO PUB AFTER A PANIC ATTACK AROUND 11 AM**
You take your tame body
and the tight fist of grief trembling in your chest
and you just walk outside.
You allow the steel-cold sky to propel you east
toward the lake, full of rusted ship bones
and fish with human teeth.
You take your very breakable body away,
long bones, ligaments, and all the wet blood, unsteady.
Remember, blooms of your ancestors fell from branches,
soaked the air with rotten-sweetness.
You can feel death on your tongue meat,
the spot reserved for sugar.
You teach your body to go,
a congress of starlings flaring from tree-tops.