The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Terri Brown-Davidson

The Woman Who Makes Things Up


"They're different," she said.

"Unlike others you've taught."

My boss wired with horn rims

That made her look stern, like some grand

Chattering elder

Bearing witness for the tribe

Though her teeth flashed white

When she smiled.  Her assistant—

While my new boss intoned—

Studied her lap as if some fascinating

Rent in her skirt trapped her gaze

And I was nowhere except newly hired,

My poetic dreams defunct.

I trembled at the opportunity to confront—

To be forced to stroke—

Another Student Body. 

How could I write poetry

When, each morning, the students,

Eyeing with snarl-toothed scorn

Poor grades,

Strolled yammering into my classroom,

That stupid beige room harboring

Dead poetry dreams

And lint-soft illusions

Dissipating before their faces?

Pinch me, I'm dreaming,

The first boy said, his face freckled bland

And white

As the virgin screen I stared at

After class, still shivering from my mass encounter

With students who proclaimed

Wallace Stevens a freak.


But Jazz Girl dwells in me still,

The alter ego whispering "To hell with all that comp"

When images cluster mothsoftening

On my cheek

And winged phrases feather my skin

And I remember who I am:  that woman

Who makes things up.

Some nights I go home

And grade papers,

Dream about orangutans

Wrapping me in hirsute, auburn arms

That warm me before I sleep.  In class

We discuss "The Emperor of Ice-Cream"

Until the poem crumbles

And the images go limp

As a fish pulled three weeks ago from the freezer.

"That Emperor guy's a freak," the freckled boy announces. 

And the class, dismissed,

Darts away toward quotidian dreams. 

On Seeing Heather McHugh Read 


A poetic neophyte,

Clumsy in tracking both vehicle and tenor,

I watched a woman sit cross-legged

On a bare, stark stage,

Lit by a rush of fluorescence so floodlike

It drowned then cleansed her. 

Her broad, pale face,

The forehead molded and spotlit, swollen,

Her rounded cheeks sunken into twinned shadowed triangles,

Gazed forward as if into a black hole imploding. 

Examining us—her bittersweet, breathing darkness—

She swiped sinewy hair strands behind both ears,

Her raw, metal glass frames

Touched with a refractive bronze. 

Her voice, then, wafted above me,

A mystical monotone,

A blunted-off version of the boys' down the block,

Harrowingly dry,

Snake rasps slicing through sudden melting butter, 

Her voice—mellifluous—slithering toward rapture. 

Oh, to be a poet like that,

Tender, tart, rhapsodic, asp-witted

And aphoristic,

A Brit in New Englander's clothing,

Deliciously understated,

Succulently sullen,

But with a bite.


After hearing her read,

For hours

I can't write a word. 

Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication