Rosemary Winslow

Last Lines from Her Tao


            A cento in memory of Ann B. Knox


With spruce standing dark against empty blue,

a declaration of life, a shrill cry: Swallow, sun-dog, kitchen table,

and was held by an unbroken whole.


And later play a family game of "Who Am I?"

And sudden silence opens all around you.

And drop the broken bits into the compost crock,


compelling drift toward nothing,

drawing clear and gleaming, toward the sea

that opens for us to fill


loneliness that takes silence to hear

a jay, the click of a knife cutting beans

of the whole fabric, the dinner, the company, myself.


And let my body follow and my will do nothing

with its ordinary chill and mist rising from the tarmac,

crossed, satisfied that he has changed the world,


was known for his work with high desert flora.

Against the edgeless threat of an uncharted road

was a brick wall.  But behind that, what?


The slant of gold light.  This thing you can know

but what it means I do not know.

This is the given world—


draws off singing words of gratitude, of praise,

or returned to lie waiting in the earth.

Sun warms my back, the river slides on.

(Last lines taken, in order, from

Reading the Tao at Eighty, by Ann B. Knox)


First Lines from Her Tao


            A cento in memory of Ann B. Knox


As a girl I'd lie in the meadow doing nothing,

Say mountain, and a valley, its stalwart essence

goes unnoticed, a faint wash separates earth from sky.

Easy enough when the task is laundry.


The clean line of a garden spade satisfies,

Yes, yes, I know, a single drop of rain.

I didn't forget.  I chose. 

I'm tired of half-knowing what I know:


A potter centers on her wheel.


At dinner last night, Charlie spoke of a woman,

you're in the kitchen slicing beans, the dogs—

an awkward move and my crystal goblet overturns.


You mean can I watch the neighbor's dog piss/ on the tulips?


For three years my neighbor nursed a grumpy husband . . . .

The boy sets a row of rocks across

my college friend, the philosophy major.


Book of the Way, the title translates.

We can't know when easy is.

It's a skill, a craft, and takes,


If you look for beauty.  When Aunt Kate died,

her recipe, knowing was sudden:

some order is already in place—gravity.


We dropped her ashes from the bridge, and they sifted—

I'd heard of it, of course, but had never entered.

(First lines taken, in order, from

Reading the Tao at Eighty, by Ann B. Knox)

A Ghazal, in memory of Ann B. Knox, poet & friend


If I descend to sing you back, your refrain at eighty, Follow the Way,

turns me back.  Gentle strength, I looked up to you.  So, I refrain, follow the      


you exited, reading your poems, your best joy, strains of uplifted you,

the boat your smile was to carry your friends out of pain.   It was a way


you learned living in Moscow through the Cold War, Stalin's reign, not the life

you desired.  You met terror with grace, the best strength gained, you could

          listen the way


love allows.  You gave us poems that said compassion with humor is the sane


Heart—yours—wrote, a "quick kiss on a child's brown hair," and brain can't 

          fathom the way


a "sly smile" kept secret a special ingredient for rhubarb fool.  Some maintain


love lasts, and my guess is heart's laughter gains heaven.  It lightens the way.


Like heaven's feast, Shakespeare's model for happy endings, your table had

        plain china,

simple flowers, a union of fresh bread and red wine flowing through our time

          there the way


the Picasso sketch of Woman's hips—curved in ink stains, black on white, in

          the wall behind

your table—curved through all time.  After we ate, we sat circled in the midst

          of your paintings, the way


life circles.  We are born in pain, we go round and round, we pass out again. 


loves, joys, drop like mercies.  They bud, they open, ripen, fall, some hard, the



your lovely roses fell—your young child, a husband, your own life—down

          again, as every thing

does.  You knew it, you looked to it near the end, writing Reading the Way


at Eighty.  Wise with restraint your poems, you, refrained from the bite.  You

          held Eden

a promise of innocence even after the seine of experience kept you from there. 

         You'd learned The Way,


the Ancients spoke of, Ann:  Accept this too.  Nothing lasts.  All things flow.


sang through life's knocks.  I hear your singing now. Listen, Love, See, Follow

          the Way. 

(Quoted phrases taken from Reading the Tao at Eighty, by Ann B. Knox)

Rosemary Winslow teaches writing and literature at The Catholic University of America.  Her poems and essays on poetry have appeared widely in journals and books, most recently in Beltway, Poet Lore, 32 Poems, The Schuykill Valley Journal, Voices from Frost Place, and Don't Call It That and is forthcoming in two anthologies:  Pinstripe Fedora and Valparaiso Poetry Review.  She has published numerous essays on sound structure in poetry in Poetics Today, Language and Style, Composition Studies, The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Poetry, and other places.  Most recently, her essays on meter, prosody, versification, and stylistics appear in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Fourth Edition Her awards include the 2006 Larry Neal Award for Poetry, as well as awards and grants from The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts, NEH, the Vermont Studio Center, and other foundations.  She lives with her husband John, a visual artist, in downtown Washington, D.C.



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