I Collected Dead Things As A Child – Nita Penfold
starting with insects, variegated and delicate,
pinned carefully into the cigar box —
iridescent Tiger beetle, round striped bumble bee,
green stick figure of a praying mantis —
my whispers to them went unanswered.
Then a pheasant wing with my feathers like intricate lace
in the wild thrush colors of earth;
turtle shell green and mosaic-patterned,
raw fleshy part inside rotted away;
small skull I could cradle in my hand,
its bone tarnished with a dark shine.
Each one a message from something large
that beat against my eyelids at dusk
dusting them with mystery.
This week I am sharing excerpts from a new anthology offering variations on the theme of drought entitled The Absence of Something Specified which features a strong range of poets including Emily Rose Cole, Carrie Etter, John Sibley Williams, and Laura Madeline Wiseman among others. The editors have collected poems that range from a direct treatment of the subject of drought to how it plays out as a metaphor in people’s intellectual and physical lives.
The poem above navigates its meanings through both the mind and body. I’m moved by the way each stanza of the poem knocks on imagery and physicality for something beyond. Whether it is “whispers…unanswered” or the “dark shine” of bone, the absence of the anthology’s title is engaged with a near-spiritual directness and fascination. The poem ends with a turn: the speaker senses their interrogation “beat against my eyelids at dusk,” and the analytical world becomes mysterious again via physical means.
I share my own contribution to the anthology below. My poem, “Reading Hunger” (originally published in Gulf Coast), comes from my experience of reading Knut Hamsun’s stark and stoic novel, Hunger.
Special thanks to the editors – Quinton Hallet, Colette Jonopulos, Laura LeHew, and Cheryl Loetscher – for putting together such a fine collection of poems!
Reading Hunger – José Angel Araguz
after Knut Hamsun
He calls it: the festival of what is not eternal,
then goes on describing
an old man’s eyes
as being made of dry horn,
and you can see it,
the almost animal beauty in each person
when unaware of anyone around.
Each person’s solitude bubbles up
like a spring,
a short-lived light
As the rock dries,
the dark gives
more and more gray.
Soon, you will be like this: rock, no water.
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