The Woman Who Makes Things Up
different," she said.
"Unlike others you've taught."
My boss wired with horn rims
That made her look stern, like some grand
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
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
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
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
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,
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
A Brit in New Englander's clothing,
But with a bite.
After hearing her read,
I can't write a word.
Terri Brown-Davidson's work has appeared in LA Review, Triquarterly, The
Virginia Quarterly Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Puerto del Sol, Denver Quarterly,
The Literary Review, and other journals. Recently, she was the guest editor in
fiction for The Pedestal Magazine. She has received the New Mexico Writer's
Scholarship, the AWP Intro Award for poetry, a Yaddo residency fellowship, and thirteen Pushcart nominations, as well as a nomination for the
Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her first book, The Carrington Monologues.