Poem 1

Four poems by Dianna Henning

POETRY NOW, Sacramento Poetry Center, June 4, 2012
Dianna Henning holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She taught creative writing for California Poets in the Schools, and through the William James Association’s Prison Arts Program. A long-time SPC member, Ms. Henning has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent book, The Broken Bone Tongue, which was published by Black Buzzard Press, (Austin, TX), was recently reviewed in Hawaii Pacific Review. Dianna’s work has appeared in: Crazyhorse, The Lullwater Review, PoetryInternational, Fugue, Swink, and many other journals. Her most recent work can be seen in Blue Fifth Review, Notebook Series;FutureCycle, on-line & print form. WHEN OXYGEN One fish, the most beautiful with mystery’s muted shades of black and silver-gray, skimmed the pond’s surface, browsing algae on cement sides or so it seemed— I never looked to check if the waterfalls still ran, believing the fish ate, not thirsted for air—then slowly, so one could almost reach down to pet it, it lolled sideways. With fish net I tried to right it as though righting this beauty might give breath back to the world. Above, the leaves stilled on pond scrim, only the middle clear. Then with my three inch fish in net, my beauty, I stumbled onto a nearby mole-hole where the fish easily slid into the darkness I swallowed. FOR THE PORTABLE GODS The bronze-black smoke from burning tires climbs a scaffolding of air to smudge what’s visible. Our neighbor must think piled tires are burn-barrels, never frets rubber might catch. The trouble with living in the country is neighbors aren’t hand-picked. But I like it here better than anywhere; the land as lumpy as grandfather. Here, the little secrets of the wind sweep through curtains into the room to greet us. When I stand still enough, my heart is god’s heart, and everything beats as though the gods were visible through the smoky silt of doubt. MAKING THE VISIBLE BREATHE There’s so little world where I am not. Where I am not is nowhere visible. There are elastic bands that hold together the earth, only you can’t see them. But I am not held together by rubber bands. What holds me is what I hold. Memory, you are an erratic bat. Your once-upon-a-time embrace gone helter-skelter. When clouds clotted the sky, I ironed them. Not with steam but with the hot flat of my iron. Voices from the past simmered: Your grandfather tracked a bear for days. Ruby asked for it when she got pregnant. Their voices like cumulus clouds, something that rumbles into waking. There are days I cannot remember and faces that are places, but the voices remain intact. I was once held by a voice. His arms were all-embracing. Because of that I am now visible. WHEN THE SUN ON A BOY’S BACK The boy skipping over rocks at Deer Creek doesn’t intend a sousing, a heavy swatch of sunlight strapped to his back, feet cumbersome in oversized sneakers. His attention swaggers from tree roots he ropes by on, down to the water striders he stoops to catch, studies one in his palm before washing it off. As though roots were lathed slippery by the boy’s dripping hand, he loses grip, his body teetering between composure and dread. More shocked by my watching than by his abrupt spill into the creek, he pulls himself up, his T-shirt and shorts strangely molded to him. He avoids my eye, acts as though he intended this dunking, dips into the water, splashes himself. Aware how much a boy measures strength by saving face, I don’t offer him a hand. He heads downstream, his wet clumped shirt reminiscent of roots that steadied him.


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