The Bethany Poems

by Maureen Alsop

Saintes Femmes Au Tombeau

Were I a resting place. A place prepared for you among the many rooms: horizontal male
countries in which slender fields speak perennially and exact—but you speak of another
house. One I might bless and be bound in remembrance for. The long table is lit there for
you, and supper laid. Frescoed swallows descend. Broadcasting the sweetest backlight with
instruction. Orchards sated by breath. I was only a tourist fingering symbols of your
wayfinding— a phonograph, stereoscope, peaches, exhumed centuries. Secret oysters drawn
open to half-patterns; words measure ash, touch your namelessness. I will continue
voyaging your continent, my specter.
 

[From instruments which bathe the balance of your absence with fullness]

— reluctant text, I dream you. Street directions have each other. Harbor’s navigations,
possibility. I make statements about another time. These are a musculature series,
underscoring the causation of my own skin. On behalf of geography, matter’s distance as
exile, as heaven, I must grow louder. I must vie the newness of rain. But louder is not
sexy. And it is not rain, but that which we call home that exiled you anew.
 

For children in which thunderstorm is a poem about lightening

Children of water and commonplaces, She of the husk naming the desert under her hand.
She, distilled with sleep. Lucidity is not mythic. I have always worshipped trees. I have
always tasted salt in the middle of the yellow embryo. Love bricks the edges. I was never in
peril though I extracted divination’ s poison-arrows and scars and silk vines. Bloodletting
gave reply to the saints. All matters blur. The skin of monument flowers rust. Virginal
spiders weave new dimensions. She knows child, summer is mud, camphor, cactus,
momentary unlikeness and likeness. As with the old world’s hindsight you will see Her
robes shift a mercurial fire.

Maureen Alsop, Ph.D. is the author of the full length collection of poetry, Apparition Wren, and several chapbook collections. Her poems have appeared in a variety of journals including PANK, Kenyon Review, Blackbird, AGNI, Typo, and The Laurel Review. She teaches creative writing for the Inlandia Institute.

Tell us whatever you can tell us about “The Bethany Poems.” These three poems, were inspired by the work of the poet/ artist, Bethany Ides. Bethany’s work offers a fully engaged perspective on poetry, one that embraces multi-layered incantations of image, song, and enactment. Excerpts from her opera Children Get Stuck In Places as well as “Hark the Harbingers,” from her Compilations provided me with a new perspective on poetry’s expansiveness. These aural, visual, fragmented narratives culminated, for me, as a response regarding process. The etymological definition of the word “inspire” is to “fill the mind or heart with grace and also to prompt or induce someone into doing something; to inflame or blow into.” These three poems arrived fluidly following my first encounter with Bethany’s performance work. Meaning in Bethany’s work seemed to derive from the artist’s expression not only of voice, language, image, but of the whole body; Ides enactments transpose human interactions utilizing the full momentum of an intuitive/dream construct. Her work posits new possibilities for poetic landscapes, challenges linearity, and gives an opportunity to experience poetry through a wider medium. I imagine these poems possess another life beyond their written space, and look forward to my continued contemplation of such possibilities.

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