"If you exist, then you are loved / by existence."
- Louise Erdrich, "Advice to Myself #2: Resistance"
Denise Breeden-Ost wrote her first poem—a riddle about a Crock-Pot—while walking home from kindergarten. A few decades later, her first novel, Making It All Right, can be found at Clockflower Press. Denise lives on a ridgetop near Bloomington, Indiana with a small family, a large garden, and innumerable trees.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Denise, what poems have you brought for us today?
Head on Arms on Table
It might look like despair. No-one is looking.
Eyes closed on a day of too much light,
darkness cradles her forehead
like the palm of her dad's hand.
In the silence between how to make things right
and what to make for supper,
her ribcage opens, effortless
as that sweetest breath at the edge of sleep.
Under the cool oak of the table,
through pine floor and basement rock,
the whole weight of the Earth
bears gently, steadily upward.
The Lake Above
Maybe we could dive down into up,
haul out under that moon, hear the crickets
in those wavering black trees.
What if we already did?
Maybe we forgot, as our inner gravity righted itself
--the way the adults don't play anymore,
the way we feel ourselves forgetting how to pretend.
Heads tipped back,
we hang on the edge of belief until our necks ache.
When we stand up, we stand down,
walk home on bare feet
twinned through the warm earth.
Later, I'll peer into puddles like mirrors,
wondering why I expect to see you there.
When you are ready, return--
you whose hands blessed her last days,
who cannot quite believe she is gone.
Come again to her house and sweep out the dust,
her lost hair and skin resting light on every surface.
Scour her last bath from the tub,
shake her footprints from the rugs.
Take each thing from where she always kept it.
Set all her empty shoes side by side
around the bedroom baseboard.
Pry from the walls the small brass nails
where she hung perfect sand dollars.
Dump the forks, upside down, in the spoons place.
must be moved.
Then eat at her table,
something crisp and hot to wake you up.
Look around, and see what your eyes tell you:
That these things have lost their names.
That this house has forgotten its stories.
That no-one lives here anymore.
What is brittle grows soft in the rain,
lies down under the dark sky.
Already the leaves smell like earth--
Earth, where the tiny ones uncurl again,
open their gentle claws
to build the world out of the world.
Lie down. Under the dark sky
the tiny ones will taste your skin.
Don't be afraid.
Already they are building the world
out of you.
You've been listening to the poetry of Denise Breeden-Ost on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.