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Posts Tagged ‘Diana Pinckney’

[with 3 poems by Diana Pinckney]

No hesitation. Out the back door she takes my hand and we hike down through the woods, steep switching trail, slick moss rocks, sliding on last fall’s leaves. Big brother is not with us today; she is the explorer. I wonder if she’ll hold back at the wash but she hops rocks across the rivulet and even runs ahead of me along Dutchman Creek. Threading the briers, skirting mud, twigs in her hair – she is all go today.

When we reach our destination, the shallow pools that linger from winter floods and may be dry by August, I hesitate. Not so many months ago she would make me check the playroom floor for millipedes, back away from pillbugs on the porch steps, want to be carried to the car.

I squat in a squishy place beside the water and show her clumps of clear jelly. Most of the eggs have hatched, some larvae still in their shivery globes, many tadpoles swimming free. With one finger I push algae aside so she can see them wriggle. Instantly her fingers are in the water, too. Tickling the tiny black wigglers. Oblivious to muck and slime. Pappy, can we come back here tomorrow?

This is what I would wish for her at five and all her life – to be innocent and yet be bold. To face the new and the scary and not look away. To discover, to wonder. And to remember the immense power of NO! bursting from her body, now when her brother thwarts her playful imaginings and always when the world conspires to steal that innocence from her.

And, for as long as I’m able, I wish for her to still want me to carry her.

 

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Who is completely innocent and who is entirely beast? Diana Pinckney’s poems are subtle like a rustle in the night but lucid, windows breathing light and fragrance into the world. Her language and lines are effortlessly elegant. Her poems seem to arrive from all the points of the compass to create community: persona poems in which the reader comes to inhabit a new being; poems of family, loss, commemoration, revelation; ekphrastic poems that uncover hidden truth in painting, sculpture, representation.

And woven throughout her book, The Beast and the Innocent, lurks the wolf: tyrant predator, misunderstood victim; purity and profane. Who is the threat and who the threatened? Aren’t we all only doing what it takes to survive?

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Ghost Wolves, for My Grandchildren

You may see one in a zoo
***** and ask, does he howl
********** and I may say, what would

he howl about? What, you ask, does a wild
***** wolf sound like? What could I answer? Wind
********** when it rises from the deepest

canyon to the tops of spruce
***** or the fog’s blue surge, the drift
********** above dying embers. Smoke alone

moves toward the stars in a world
***** where nothing is heard and only the moon
********** knows then the last tree falls.

Emptiness that whispers
***** after the wilderness
********** has forgotten what it longs for.

from The Beast and the Innocent, Diana Pinckney, FutureCycle Press, © 2015

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My Brother Sings
after Raymond Carver’s “What the Doctor Said”

He sings when the dogwoods are blooming as I drive
him and his wife along the highway from Asheville,
away from a hospital where we waited in the doctor’s office,
sitting in gray chairs, joking about my allergy

to their six cats, ow I can’t sleep in their house
and still breathe. I watched my brother move
his fingers over swollen knuckles that he used to
crack when I was little just to tease. There to hear

the results of the lung biopsy, now we know.
Traveling through Blue Ridge mountains, we see
dogwoods, redbuds, cherry trees heavy
with April’s abundance. When my brother

begins the song, his wife in the back seat on her cell
interrupts, Dabney, will you please stop singing
while I’m telling Sis you have cancer. Oh, sorry, he says.
He glances at me while petals drift with us

down the mountain. Our laughter’s almost soundless.

from The Beast and the Innocent, Diana Pinckney, FutureCycle Press, © 2015

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The Beast and The Innocent

Of course, dogs and cats go to heaven,
my mother announce from her deathbed.
Welcomed into heaven, my childhood cat
will groom Grandmother’s canary, feathers the same
yellow as the black cat’s eyes, the bird

he ate when I was seven. In paradise
pointers lap at duck ponds while cockatiels
screech and perch on each dog’s white- or black-
spotted back. Heaven’s way is,

as we have heard, the lion lying down
with the lamb. A place where Christians kindle
the eight candles of Hanukkah, Muslims unfurl
prayer rugs for Hindi, and the roped Tibetan prayer

flags flutter good fortune for the Chinese.
The wine and wafer bless a round wooden table, a feast
celebrated with unleavened and leavened,
mango and oyster, babel unlimited. And the spaniel
that killed my brother’s rabbits will lie

on the wide-bladed grass of my youth, all manner
of four- and two-legged creatures leaping
over him, some stroking the red-and-white silk
of his fur for pure pleasure, for the grace.

from The Beast and the Innocent, Diana Pinckney, FutureCycle Press, © 2015

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There are two kinds of barbecue in the known universe: Wilbur’s Style, and all the rest.  Head east on 70 past Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base and the aroma captures you about the time Goldsboro is fading in the rearview.  Pork shoulders and hams cooked all night over a hardwood fire (at Wilbur’s they favor oak, not hickory); basted with the secret Wilbur’s sauce (I’ve tried to recreate it – boil cider vinegar with salt, black pepper, white pepper, red pepper, nothing else, and you’ll come pretty close); most of the fat trimmed off (but not all), chopped, and heaped on a plate with field peas, turnip greens, and hush puppies.  OK, OK,  I’ve given up eating meat, but I can still savor the memories, can’t I?

When I asked folks a few weeks ago to come up with a name for a new poetry form that embodies the essence of the South, sweet tea and barbecue were mentioned more than once.  I kind of like Arthur Powers’s suggestion –  Sou-Ku – and the one Ruth Moose has come up with sounds more than Japanese – Sentea.  Do they still sell Nestea?  But in the same way that our Southern Sentence Poem is a poetic form all our own, I think its name needs to be wholly ours as well, and not beholdin’ to some 3-line cryptogram.  Especially when you see the examples folks have sent: we are clearly opening ourselves to the Southern Loooong Sentence Poem.

So I’m still hoping to hear from you with a great name.  And keep sending those poems . . . !

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Once again, here are the elements of a Southern Sentence Poem:

1     It is a single SENTENCE.
2     A word or phrase has to PLACE the poem in the American South.
3     It requires a reference to the PAST.
4     It captures something of Southern CULTURE.
5     It ain’t got none of them damn Yankee semicolons.

Here are several that people have sent me:

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Arthur Powers

I stand on Polk Street
looking East over Oakwood cemetery
and watch late afternoon sunlight
sepia the Confederate headstones.

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Diana Pinckney  – The Garden Party

Aunt Blanche’s yard dripped pink
punch and azaleas, offering shrimp

sandwiches, ham biscuits, cucumber
rounds and cheese wafers so yummy,

yet not a crust in sight on the scalloped
linen, daffodils and petit fours abundant

for family and friends so chummy,
invited to honor and bless the newly

engaged couple, the bride
and groom dreamy as budding

dogwoods with no one batting
an eye that the hostess batted hers

from her second story bedroom
window, having sampled more

than her share of the punch,
forcing Uncle Edward to take charge,

his large hand now patting the key
in his seersucker jacket while

Aunt Blanche, bejeweled in her silks,
nodded and waved, greeting and calling

down to all, Have a good time, ya’ll,
then dipped as she sipped

more of her own pink sweetener.

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Jane Theis

On our evening walk, the Crepe Myrtles,
bowing and dripping from that day-long shower,
nodded us down the mossy path
where the ramps came up last spring.

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Ruth Moose   –  Shadow Tag

Run, run

Feet                      freeze

Harwood Street, Woodland

stop

Dew cold grass

In the barefoot nights        hold

Bee stings, wasp stings, hornets,

sweat flies                   stay

Tobacco juice, sweet snuff stuff

Childhood pain of

loss.

[Editor’s note – Ruth’s poem had wonderfully complex formatting which I can only partially reproduce on this verpfluchte WordPress blog.]

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Beth A. Cagle   –   Story Tellin’ at ‘Possum Trot Diner

Laughter of square-shouldered
uncles erupts
deep in my throat as a
bucking mule jumps
out of me, hoofing his
hopscotch in corn,
braying by grandfather’s
elderly oak,
leaving my youthful dad
caught on the clothesline,
dangling with overalls
rolled to his knees.

[First version published in The Blind Man’s Rainbow, Fall 2003]

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Fort Macon Beach.  I’m twelve.  Is this dream or memory?  Either way it’s true.  My little sister snatches from the foam’s edge a clump of stringy green seaweed.  Shakes off coquinas and mole crabs.  Drapes it on top of her head and down around her shoulders.  “I’m a mermaid!”

Of course I believe her.  Because what is a mermaid?  A creature that rises from a strange and exotic world to challenge all our comfortable assumptions.  One who challenges and enthralls only to slip from our grasp.  Who breathes a cold hot enfolding incandescent oxygen like no air we’ve been able to imagine.

Any six-year old who will pull ickiness from the surf and adorn herself with it must surely be a mermaid.  It explains a lot.  My sister who cycled the Eastern Seaboard when she was barely a teenager.  My sister more at home in a kayak than a staff meeting (but who can dominate a staff meeting).  Who for her forty-first birthday backpacked a hundred miles of the AT with me. Who works her healing power over mind and spirit with Jung and the Buddha at her shoulder.  I”ve always suspected it — she does breathe from some atmosphere I’m still trying to discover.

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Meet the mermaids of Diana Pinckney’s Green Daughers.  Dream or memory, the poems are true.  The voice of the watery mother whose daughter is struggling, torn — isn’t it the voice of all mothers?  The voice of her daughter tempted by a world out of reach, agonizing for her unknown future — isn’t it the voice of all children?  And poems for each one of us — for which of us does not long for deep roots, for a fundament to which we may always return, for sustaining love?  Yet don’t we gaze at night into the “sky full / of all her gods and animals” and believe that there is mystery beckoning just beyond our perception?

In the way the next receding wavelet parts the shards to reveal a lettered olive, whole, smooth, its cryptic glyphs revealing a message for my eyes alone, in this way I am still discovering the layers of meaning in Diana’s poems.

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What the Mermaid Wishes for her Daughter

I turn to the land and imagine
your long, strong legs kiking a road
I can’t follow, climbing from lavender valleys
to the highest peaks, the whole blue earth
at your feet.  And those strange
creatures — men who slipped
like minnows from my grasp —

may you unlock the mysteryof at least one
who listens when you laugh
in your sleep, who cares to chart
a woman’s pleasures and pains.  Sailors
have told me love is what
brings the boats home.  From where
I sit, nature decides our days
and turns the wheels at night.

I knew you were borrowed, but
you nourished me the way the shore
feeds the sea each day, a glossy
bond unbroken.  What you
carry from this place is not
lent, but given.

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Diana Pinckney lives in Charlotte, only a few hours drive to the coast when the wind and the traffic are at your back.  She teaches poetry at the Cornwall Center.  Green Daughters is her fourth collection and is available from Lorimer Press.  Get to know Diana and read more of her work at dianapinckney.com.

Diana will be the featured poet at the Sam Ragan Poetry Festival of the NC Poetry Society, March 24, 2012, Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities, Southern Pines NC.

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