Vasantkumar, Laichas, Clark et. al.

Vasantkumar, Laichas, Clark et. al.
May 24, 2024 Plume

Chris Vasantkumar on “I Can’t Tell if the Light…”:

Parts of it might read as surrealism but this poem is true to life. Having just moved, during a break in the pandemic into a new rental–tumbledown, mcm, squatting at the edge of a green defile, resembling, I imagined, the more bohemian and down-at-heel days of Laurel Canyon, we found that the walls of the house–in places more glass than wood– did very little indeed to separate us from local forms of non-human vitality. One clerestoried bathroom in particular, its walls clad in untouched late 60’s jungle wall-paper would fill each night with seething winged masses of insect life. In the morning, their bodies floating on the soapdish, in the sink, on the tiles, everywhere. It also soon became clear that this was a phenomenon we had very little control over. Eventually, we came to terms with this. This poem was one of the results of this coming to terms, a reflection on the idea of a house not as something that divides or protects you from nature, but as located within and in articulation with broader cosmoses of life–some visible and known, some unseen and beyond language.



Tom Laichas on “Guardian Angels Witness More Lives Than Yours”:

Thirty years ago, near the ruins of Bonampak in Chiapas, I saw a small girl capture a monarch butterfly. She plucked the wings from its body, and tore them into tiny pieces, no larger than sequins. Then she gathered all the bits of wing into her palm, closed them in a fist, and threw them as high as she could. A slow breeze found them, and they glittered among the trees for many minutes. The girl, delighted, laughed, and seeing her happiness, I suddenly remembered that I too had captured butterflies, taken wings from their bodies, and held those wings in my own palm as if I had created their beauty. Every few years, these memories become urgent, and I write, sometimes for the girl, sometimes for myself, and sometimes for the dying insect.
Patricia Clark on “What My Father Wished For” and “Love Poem to a Red Fox”:

“What My Father Wished For”

Who was I as a teenager? In some ways I can barely remember her; at other times, moments come back that sear me with shame. Of course I wanted my parents to be different than what they were: doesn’t everyone? The times were tense in the late 1960s—rising violence, assassinations, protests, war, racial tensions. I didn’t know the first thing about what adults went through. They seemed fixed in their roles and all I could see ahead of me were traps to avoid. I had to write this poem—to tell how awfully I’d acted one morning, a morning no one remembers now but me. I had several goals: to exorcise my shame, to set the record straight, to elevate my father back to his rightful height.


“Love Poem to a Red Fox”

Wordworth’s idea of nature as teacher, nurse, spiritual nourishment has stayed with me since reading “Tintern Abbey” and other poems from The Lyrical Ballads in graduate school.

The red fox I see in the ravine near our house has become a symbol for me of freedom, wilyness, beauty and the wild. When I catch a glimpse of it, I am satiated and saturated, filled with joy, granted a pure moment here and gone in a flash of a white-tipped tail. Then I savor what I’ve experienced and do my best to capture it in words.



Robin Rosen Chang on “Checkerboard Mesa”:

This poem was inspired by a road trip through Utah with my sister, a plein air artist. At Checkerboard Mesa, in Zion National Park, I felt compelled to lie on the mesa and absorb its energy. I took some notes immediately after, but it wasn’t until years later that I was ready to begin working on the poem in earnest. Initially, I spread lines across the page, leaving ample white space between them, similar to what I was doing with some other poems from my Utah trip. However, I soon realized this poem needed a different form. It wanted to be an epistolary piece and one that reflected the mesa’s solid foundation and deep history. Once I embraced this new form, the words and ideas flowed.



William Trowbridge on “Post Mortem”:

Thanks to an old Don McLean song, the date of the crash became known metaphorically as “the day the music died.” That black and white image of the Cessna wadded up against an Iowa farm fence in the snow has stayed with me and, I think, many of my generation. And it did seem to mark the end of something beyond the event itself, perhaps our 1950s innocence. Or America’s. Or of something unnamable. I didn’t know if others would want to hear about this distant event again, but the poem insisted on being written.



Sarah Anne Stinnett on “SHINE, NOT BURN”:

In the early months after my father’s sudden death, I couldn’t bear the stillness and silence of driving. It felt like the world, empty of him, pressed hard against me. He was a musician—music surrounded my upbringing and binds my family together—which made listening to songs excruciating, too. So, I’d take refuge in audiobooks as I traveled back and forth across states every few days to be with my mother. One night, deep in the story of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I zigzagged and barely missed a white wolf splayed across the highway. I heard its whimpering just seconds before my headlights reflected its bright white fur. That split moment of passing interlaced in memory the stories of Jocasta Cameron, the dying wolf, and my early grief. This poem is one among an extensive collection of elegies to my father. Though, it took more than a year after it happened to open my ears, remember, and listen to the sounds that brought these words to the page.



Clare Rossini on The Rock Poems:

My mother died in April of 2014.  In the months that followed, I began writing long, unfocused poems, pools of words eddying around memories of my mother and the months before and after she died.   I keep a small granite rock on my writing desk, and its image kept popping up in the drafts.  Over time, the rock became the Rock, a kind of geological Virgil,  guiding me through the underworlds of grief.

Six months after my mother’s death, my father died, and few months later, my beloved brother Tony.   The Rock drafts were tucked in a folder and pushed deeply into a file drawer.  I was tired of grieving!

A year ago, I pulled out that file and started reading, my eyes darting between my words and the granite round that still sits on my desk, pale gray and silent.  One spring afternoon, I took a long breath.  Then started work on “The Rock Poems,” a series including not only the mother elegies, but poems that explore many other subjects, both personal and political.  I’m not finished yet–or perhaps it’s the Rock that’s not finished with me.