“I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I’ve been knocking from the inside!” ~ Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks)


Didn’t I feel like this at least a few other times before,
didn’t I roam the streets crazed with grief and worry

when you disappeared, taking your off-the-shoulder tops
and halter dresses, your makeup bag, your winter coat,

your paperbacks, leaving only a note taped to the door? Didn’t I
drive looking for any trace of you, whip around at every wisp

of hair disappearing around the corner at the mall? And you,
and you, didn’t my heart lurch through the clattering elevator

of my throat, and plummet down again into my gut with every
phone call that came or didn’t come in the dead of winter,

in the middle of the night, with sobbing at the other end?
Didn’t I press my face against the white sheets newly

laundered, smelling of newborn skin; and scour the tubs
with chlorine bleach, all the while making fevered

supplication to a litany of gods? Yesterday I trimmed back
the roses, watered the mint, poked at the gravelly soil

with the tip of a garden spade and my inadequate knowledge
for growing things. On faith, I try to take what the Sufi poet

says: don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet,
but the roots are down there riotous.
Yes, yes, I see how they

come back, even thrive, though they might nest now in some other
form. But tell me what happens, after the snake has made its way

up the trunk of the dead elm into a den of flickers, emerging later
with a new bulge sleek in its black belly— Except for the wind,

and cries of birds that haven’t learned anything but account
for duty, nothing troubles the branches of the lilac trees.



In response to Black Snake Moan.

3 Replies to “Brood”

  1. My this is wonderful, Louisa. Love those riotous roots (like a snake-ball or mad Medusa hair also seen at corners), reweaving perhaps into nest. Love the momentary ambiguity of a possibly-pregnant snake, a less-than-immaculate conception in a mysterious den of flickers.

    Since Dave’s initial post, I’ve struggled with my own unreasonable sadness and heavy gut. What an arresting take on human distrust of nature’s ends, and our choking guilt as we then recapitulate those very stories, one egg at a time.

    I vote for a Igloria/Bonta chapbook of egg poems, including of course Dave’s Ab Ovo.

    And under stray thoughts, I at first email read mistook the poem to end “except for the wind”. I liked that version as well.

  2. Thanks, Robbi and Julie— a book collaboration with Dave *would* be interesting. At first I wasn’t quite sure where this poem would take me; or that it took me to the places that it did. It was quite intense for me, as well (the writing of this one).

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