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Month: September 2018

Short Silver Series

by Wendy Barker

THE SILVER TONGS’

ends are shaped like bay scallops,
whose numbers have diminished in

recent years due to the loss of sea grasses
on which they fastened, and the overfishing of

sharks, who devoured the manta rays that gobbled
the scallops’ predators. Such delicate, rounded pincers

are not designed to grasp anything heavier
than a cube of sugar. Scallops: ancient symbol

of the vulva, primal force within the earth. Around
an oval table at dinner, the way a guest’s fingers

handled a pair of lustrous tongs could provide
the sterling moment of an evening.

MOTTLED

as if with curdled cream or vitiligo,
the silver sauce boat’s copper layer

underneath shows through like flesh below
the crackling skin of an oven-browned hen or

the torn hide of a roughly sheered ewe. A boat:
vessel for transport on water. Across the tablecloth

it floated gravies of our holidays. Thanksgiving—
turkey drippings, chopped giblets, white flour. Rivers

down mountains of mashed potatoes. Copper’s less
precious than silver, but these days the baser

metal is stolen from alleys and back yards, a hot
commodity now it’s used for fiber optics, plumbing,

and anything electrical. How a boat causes ripples in
still water, how the sun can shimmer through

clouds, sudden patches of shadow, light across
grasses of your own back yard.

EVEN TARNISHED

the sterling bowl’s
repoussé iris petals swirl

across its rounded center, but
on the base, a crack somewhere,

so water placed inside—to hold
fresh-cut jonquils for a while—

leaks, staining the surface
of a polished table.

THE SILVER BASKET

was designed to grace
a small table, for passing

among guests to scoop a few
nibbles of sugared almonds or

walnuts from its shallow bowl, but
now it holds a cluster of polished

stones that for the Chinese mean
solidity, stability, the ground—

almost too heavy for this
dainty vessel to lift.

THE TRIVET’S

lacey silver ferns,
spiraling tendrils are encased

within glass that allows us to glimpse
the mahogany table’s surface the trivet

is meant to protect: the cracks,
the gouged grain.

 

 

Wendy Barker’s sixth collection, One Blackbird at a Time, received the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and was published by BkMk Press in 2015. Her fourth chapbook, From the Moon, Earth Is Blue, was published by Wings Press in 2015. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2013. Recipient of NEA and Rockefeller fellowships among other awards, she teaches at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Short Silver Series”?

A few years ago I began contemplating various pieces of silver that I’d inherited from my mother and grandparents and wondering about the stories they held within them. My mother’s British background was radically different from my own, and somehow meditating on these little these pieces helped to begin to understand something of the stories that had been withheld. Writing these pieces helped me begin to trace some of the uglier, even frightening aspects of my mother’s family history.

Girl with One Arm Down the Drain (erasure poem)

by Nance Van Winckel

Nance Van Winckel is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Our Foreigner, winner of the Pacific Coast Poetry Prize (Beyond Baroque Press, 2017) and Book of No Ledge (Pleiades Press Visual Poetry Series, 2016). Of her five books of fiction, Ever Yrs, a scrapbook novel (Twisted Road Publications, 2014), is her most recent. The recipient of two NEA poetry fellowships, the Paterson Fiction Prize, a Christopher Isherwood Fiction Fellowship, and three Pushcart Prizes, Nance teaches in the MFA Programs at Eastern Washington University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Her author website is: http://www.nancevanwinckel.com; her visual poetry website is http://photoemsbynancevanwinckel.zenfolio.com

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “turnagain arm”?

So I’m erasing myself. Who better to do such a job? I like this project of taking early poems and trying to upcycle them into something new, spare, and perhaps with an echo of 2018 rather than 1988. This one has some complicated issues for me in terms of such a revisitation: seeing now how I saw childhood then, thinking about my “adult coloring book” and a possible place in adulthood (come on, really!) for a page from there, and then the drain itself. Opening the drain. Let the drain drain, for pete’s sake.

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10/15 • Charles Wyatt
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11/26 • Bruce Robinson
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12/24 • Bree Pie
12/31 • Sara Backer