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Jenne' Andrews is an American poet. She has three published chapbooks including the recent Blackbirds Dance in the Empire of Love, Finishing Line Press 2013.

A full-length collection, Reunion, Lynx House Press, was published in 1983; after a long hiatus to raise Golden Retrievers in Colorado, recent work has appeared in The Passionate Transitory, Belletrist Coterie, The Adirondack Review and Vox Populi, a journal of culture, politics and poetry published and edited by the august Michael Simms.

A bilingual collection of "Italiana," Bocca, Voce, Delirio, with translations by Lorenzo Luciani, will be released by Finishing Line at the end of 2016 and her latest collection, And Now, the Road, a finalist for the Autumn House prize in 2014, will be released by Salmon Poetry Ltd, Ireland, a highly regarded international house, Jessie Lendennie, Publisher, circa 2017.

Andrews holds the MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Colorado State University, is a literary fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts, and was full-time Poet in Residence for the St. Paul Schools from '74-78. She lived in St. Paul from 1971-78 during the first wave of the Twin Cities literary renaissance, and spent the summer of 1973 in Reggio Calabria, Italy.

The poet lives in northern Colorado's Poudre River Valley with her husband, fiction writer Jack Brooks; the couple has recently imported two British Golden Retrievers and expects a litter in June-- see the Ardorgold website for details. Contact: jenneandrews2010@gmail.com .

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Poem: A Road and Its Scars

I recently posted a narrative about our family and my mother's illness, "An American Travesty: 50's Medicine Dooms My Mother"-- at Loquaciously Yours.  This poem companions that piece.  It is also, despite prevailing literary taste eschewing personal melodrama, a personal epic-- a love letter to myself as a trauma survivor.  It is my hope that the speaker in the poem is in some way, each of us and that the intimate nature of the work invites the reader in.  jra.



A Road and Its Scars

Prologue

Oh quietude of the night, the ice-coated blades
Of grass in their garrisons on either side

Where the way parts open:  I risk it now,
I leave my beloveds to themselves.

i

Someone writes of the road that takes him home
and he is glad of it.  I write of the road
that takes me away and on

That it has a soul, has become a soul
from half a century of tears over it
the wetness of its shining

When a rain cloud disperses moonlight there.
How on the road I am aloft, not of
and bound by my past

Nor burdened with a wooden door, its keys
and rooms that invite yet warn--
the road my lover, the road

Toward all, ever cresting
unto a horizon claimed
by the yearning eye

Ever commanding a heart
to contain and confine
its own breaking:

To entrust all to the surface
that is a way to an ebullient radiance,
a fairway of lightness.

ii

Before midnight’s reckless journeys
across time
like a back way through the dark

Before the cascading decades
forced a mirage
from a life's half-troubled hours

They rocked in Minnesota’s winter
darkness, in a barn apartment
pn old steel springs, making me

In the sweet rut that kept them warm. 
they were young; he had come home
from the Phillipines with a medic’s

Hardened dreams. She had a wide pliant
mouth and coiffed dark hair,
he had a genial smile, warm tan hands.

I was made from the thrusting in the dark
the ripe flush of his rapture
her hips held high, her voice

Softly taking him higher.  I know not
how it was for her; she gave
unto him, for a child not at her breast

But to be swaddled at her heart.
I gestated then
over restless draft mares dancing

On the barn’s wooden floor
with sharp, tufted hooves. 
I was as a dolphin

In the wound of the womb high up
in its night-dark water
my head pressed upon her

And I pummeled her ribs.
I slid into the cove of her arms  
minute vowels from my mouth;

She didn’t give suck, she warmed milk
in a glass bottle and rocked me
on her shoulder.  I dreamed

And below us the wild-eyed mares
pawed and called to the farmer
in the barn’s cold wheel-barrowed deeps.

iii

Love’s winter-hardened mares
pulled their load of stones across dawn--
she was a vigilant mother then

Her moon-face came over me
And I touched the cheeks
Of the moon, and its soft dark hair

And watched her mouth move
With lulling rhymes whose sibilance
I remember

And how she would bathe me,
scrubbing me hard
on the bed on a towel

Holding my head under the water--
that I would cry
and they would laugh and scold.

Forever afterward at times
and after my brother came
her face would shine at dusk

In a luminosity that lingered
when I played the piano
and she rocked and drank.

To forestall the abjuring litanies
of the delirium that had begun 
to claim her, I played on.

iii

Before I could span a chord
There were Albuquerque’s
Dusk-filled years, its pinon smoke

And the doves in the banks of tamarisk
On the Rio Grande;  el bosqueCanciones.
And road the first, a death road

Camino del muerte
That took our dogs and cats unto itself
Pressing them into the asphalt

So that it was a slab for death and then
A graveyard and a girl on her stick horse
Saw this

Slipping out of bed and riding out  
To visit the grave of dogs
Under the leering moon
.
Patrick’s black legs carrion for the buteo
buteo, buzzards turkey-necked,
Saw-voiced, like the slurred lies

A girl is told when she asks what has become
Of her mother. 
I was riding my conjured horse

In the gardens of hollyhocks and Virginia creeper
When she vanished the first time
Taken away to the hospital on the desert

The sanitarium of adobe called Nazareth
Forced to endure jolts of current
To reconfigure her brain to stop

The voices of my aunts taunting her, wipe away
Memory, erase her wedding day and birthing us.
When we came she didn’t recognize me

Then she called to the girl
With the Buster Brown haircut
And hand-me-down brown dress

Standing on the linoleum
With clean hair
And she brushed cobwebs from her face.

To calm me, Father rocked me
In the dark, kissing me
On the mouth.  I went down

Into the gloom
Of the bed, turning my face
To the adobe wall

And I listened to the owl in the tree
Counting the hours until morning
Dreaming a roadway from the garden

Bridged over the river to a valley
Filled with imported white Arabians
That wanted nothing with their great

Black luminous eyes, their delicate
Noses, blowing, arching their necks,
But to be near a girl.

iv

This lost Child was mother
to the woman who remained
a child. In ‘79 coming back

On I-80 in my red VW bug
one set of ashes tossed into the wind
Mother in the nursing home

At my back a damned love, someone
forcing me onto the highway home
not home.  A road away

And then toward the granite mortuaries
of the mountains.
snow clogging the tracks

I got stuck there, slinging back brandy
from a silver-plated flask
and I made a blue road on my wrist

That opened, spilling forth dark roses.
in the blood-surge of that lost hour,
the stopped-in-its-tracks silence

She said, looking at me like Jesus
“You did this because of me”.. Drink this
 because of Me… I heard

But it was untrue: I had maimed
and scored myself, forgetful
of the dolphin vigor of my own soul.

It called to me at the last
and I saved myself, stitched up, wrists casted,
liberated again:  live or die

On that thoroughfare of being and its true
lightness and right of way
snaking through the bluffs

Into the ether
of the Never Summer Range
buried in cloud-cover.

What was all of this:
hunger,  folly
belated cris d’coeur.

v

One needs a road
to a future, a road to populate
with others galloping on horseback

Unpaved access through wet fields
roads away from the reliving
of how a crumpled father

Sighed in the kitchen and a mother
dreamt drunk
in a urine-soaked armchair.

Yet some years later, relapsing in the darkness
of the kitchen in the double-wide
thinking I would saddle the white mare

To ride in one circle, someone with me
I still fell, and in falling
my leg shattered.

The trauma center,
a morphine pump, nurses murmuring
litanies of stats like nuns

With silver rosaries. On the big screen
starlets mutating to bluejays
calling in beetle-chewed pinons

Mother’s ghost wailing in the night
abjuring doctors, loco
staff writing Rx’s

For the doomed and damned
fallen rider
in the shames and shambles

Of alcoholic relapse. The nursing home then
for rehab and long shining hallways
like funhouse mirrors

Polished every morning
by of a janitor in a white mask.
I assailed these in my wheelchair

Rolling up before the crucifix
in my room, Bach on the stereo
indivisible beauty coding to me:

Bear up, keep on--
then the Buddha-bellied administrator
stood over me, in her skirt of flesh

Warning me that should I call out
when the old woman next to me
spoke in her tongues

Of love and war, should I swear out loud
I would be locked away.
I went a.w.o.l then, calling a cab

Hobbling in my brace out the door and then
down the dirt lane over the bridge
to the home not home I needed

To make mine again
with its wolverine ghosts
of failed love

Plundering and feasting
on the festered wound of my fear--
I’m not enough

I’m a dispossessed Eve after the fall
but once more
when I couldn’t walk

I built a way of light and dark
of solitude and privacy
a sanctuary, and time-traveled away

Until I imagined freedom
and roused myself past my fear
forcing the dead leg to heal

So that I walked again--
even crooked, remembering
that throughout time

There have been comings back to life
of the dead, the damned, abruptly
upright, in a miracle’s daunting

Vigor. The flight-path
of a road away into snow-lit air
freedom of being

And the singing in all weathers
the whiting out
and full releasing of a soul.

iii

If you can’t run
You make a way where light comes
You weave it for yourself

Of a magnum mysterium
The chords of a requiem mass, and forever
The transforming moonlight

Whale-bodied mares dreaming
Along the fence line--
You go there after Holy Communion

And how when they said take eat this is my body
You felt the nearness of the priest
And your breasts tingling for him

And were ashamed—to pull over
Well out of the streetlight
To assuage yourself. 

You go there
To show yourself that you can spin wings
By dreaming of wings, and sing

Beneath your own breath
Imagining a proscenium
Where you lift your face

To the house lights
In an emerald gown about to stun
The world with your coloratura. 

For a road is a dark scar
Made by the weight that travels it
The beautiful burdens it carries; yours.





cc 
copyright Jenne' R. Andrews 2011 

6 comments:

amyjosprague said...

Jenne, this is my most absolute favorite poem you have written!! I was so drawn in by not only the poetry but the story--and the wisdom, all that you have come to know! Some parts--heartbreaking. Breathless. Aching. But guided by a strong-willed, sharp mind, no apologies. Balls to the walls--I so love you!
Amy Jo

Semaphore said...

I'm a person who weeps at movies, books, and poetry... and I wept at this, this most passionate cri de coeur.

Brendan said...

Yes, it's absolute breathtaking: reading it without taking a breath, ingesting the whole road in one feral lungful of air. As a full-circle poem, it must travel a long way -- this could easily break into installments - but to get all the way from there to here in one ride takes a dolphin fortitude, which you impart by making the journey yourself, and then writing it all the way to this end. A poem is a road; each line a transit; here a scar, thus a ladder of scars, the wounds which became wounds. You make that point most eloquently. - Brendan

jen revved said...

Amy, Sam, Brendan: thank you-- each of you inspired and contributed to this-- Brendan I had just read your poem about coming home and I thought I would try something incantatory... I suppose I got carried away. Thank you each. xxxj

Promising Poets Parking Lot said...

you have lovely imaginations...

reflective on life's aspects.
a master piece.

Steve Isaak said...

Excellent work, as usual.