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.
Erica reads "In the Naked Night," "The One Where a Small Horse Eats the Heart of a Man Who Left," and "Notes on Being a Ghost."
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Erica, what have you brought for us today?
MIDWESTERN POET’S INCOMPLETE GUIDE TO SYMBOLISM **
Every bird is a metaphor; in the center of this country, in between rivers with native names, guilt waves her hand: a beauty-queen in a hometown parade. A poet is her trauma and her trauma is probably a man — white and condescending. Possibly her youth pastor or math teacher. If she mentions booze, it’s her dad. If she mentions fish or the late night fisherman, it’s absence. If she mentions Tennessee, it’s freedom. Other images to consider: dead deer, hips, peonies, morning sunlight (or is that metonymy), the moon, egrets flying west, sparrows with broken beaks, snakes wound, accidentally, in hay bales. Mothers, here, like any spot in the universe carry big bags —let’s not go beyond that. Lovers are bon-fires after homecoming games and honestly, in a poem, grief scores the winning points. How many country roads conjured to replace time and space?
Each stanza a bluebird, each semicolon a horse, each enjambment an alley cat infested with fleas,
every moment of longing a red-tailed hawk.
SOMETHING I MIGHT SAY
If you and I sat face to face I might say
I've opened my body to many men--
I don't know what many means to you,
but not more than three is what I actually mean.
I might also say: I've run many miles--
these legs and small feet moving quickly--
but many here means much more than three.
I might also say that I'm ashamed of that one
night I put salt on nightcrawlers and with delight
watched them turn inside out. I might tell you
I run because I'm afraid to look like my mom's side.
I might tell you I'm afraid to not be loved.
I might also say that my only true happiness
is a lake in Tennessee and what does that mean
for the rest of my life? I might be terrified to mention
that sometimes, only sometimes,
when I made my mother upset she made me bleed.
What I might be trying to say is:
I'm not sure how I exist in this space--
in this body--in this air.
Anyway, I might end up completely alone.
Anyway, I might end up complete.
THE DEFINITION OF PRAYER
In some ways we know it like we know blood and
teeth and breath. In some ways we will never know
it: it is tight buds of virgin flowers swirling open
slowly—don’t we need time in the sun?
Prayer is vast—earliest galaxies bending around light.
Prayer is one small fingertip, a knee kneeling in soft
dirt, the kitchen table you had as a kid, a boy
under the Buck Moon when you were
16 and your body tensing when he was near. Haybales,
trailer parks, milkweed, decomposing bodies of small
animals on the hot pavement, streetlight in the earliest
sigh of morning, two flies bumping against the window.
Prayer is pressing your palm on your dying papa’s chest,
gasping for air—please, you pray. Please.
You've beem listening to poetry by Erica Anderson-Senter on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.