Monday, April 20, 2015

I35 Creativity Corridor: Siobhán Scarry, Bethel College, KS, April 20

Old Highway 81

Siobhán Scarry is the author of Pilgrimly (Parlor Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Colorado ReviewjubilatMid-American ReviewNew Letters, and SentenceA Journal of Prose Poetics. Scholarly work has appeared in Reading Duncan Reading: Robert Duncan and the Poetics of Derivation (University of Iowa Press, 2012) and in a special joint publication of Paideuma/Sagetrieb devoted to the work of George Oppen. She holds a PhD from SUNY Buffalo and an MFA from University of Montana, and is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of literature and creative writing at Bethel College, Kansas.

Old 81

Up from the shorn fields in insect waves, this undulating migration of small black birds, 
ribbon raveling free of any machinery of longing that might fasten –

            Fieldlift. Foxed culverts.
                        Pre-stressed concrete company in its morning ablutions: idling, idling

I plucked myself out like an oculus

tore at the roots, left the searching feelers to desiccate in the scorch and shine

We wake and water, snack and hairbrush, shape hands into shoehorn, then travel the road
to Hesston – plumb line into the hot heart of the country

            Milo. Wheat. Soybean.
                        Etched longitude of 1855: Sixth Principle Meridian of the U.S.

Surveyors set the staff and compass here for fear of “Indian trouble” further west – reason
for the road as vexed as our nation’s reasons for being

            Hold us all
                        responsible for the enormity of our decisions

Why must hands ever take that shape?

            Reed break. Scissored apostrophe. Shelter-crouch.
                        And we add our names to these fields of living things

See Fig. 1: a body torqued through necessity’s engines into an arc, to harbor your small body 
& my own, amniotic world in the world until in rushes all the rest, without shelterbreak of 
these first and foremost –

            Plastic bags snagged and ghost-fluttering in the long lines of hedge, singing of the wind
            Signage that makes an error of possession: The Church of Christ Welcome’s You

How the errant apostrophe in “welcome” digs at the mindcalm of morning & birds & broken 
balers & boxcars boxcars oiltankers ad infinitum neighbor us on the path to preschool drop-off

A first philosophy: nipple-latch and snack pack, wielding, working, worlding with love &
every fiber fashioned into the protean shapes care will take, this thin bright stretch of Kansas

            Liniment. Landscape. Poultice. Price.
                        (for so long I could not rend or render the self toward anything futural)

Old 81, Meridian Highway, rural two-lane, no rumble strips at midline or shoulder, road forcing 
the instincts forward, tight to the wheel, return to first feeling, self-preservation –

            This law I learned to love again (major mover)
                        my mouth, this clotted shape of sound, the only way I know

to come back to the error of apostrophe, daily roadside call to prayer at the altar of inevitable
misstep, each day I soften to the fact of errancy, move closer to forgiveness of my own –

            Haircut & shoeshop. Nightterror. Gardengrow.

The line of starlings lift and breathe toward the blank page of sky, and from the backseat, 
reverent of all that is new, you tell me mama, I can’t see where it ends

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