This week’s poem is drawn from the poetry feature submissions! For guidelines on how to submit work, see the “submissions” tab above.
One of my favorite things about reading a new poet is being introduced to their ways of noticing. Whether it’s what they notice in the world around them or their interior world, this kind of noticing leads naturally to the noticing that plays out in language through word choice and phrasing. This week’s poem – “Inheritance” by Dah – captivates through its evocation of a unique sensibility and way of seeing.
First, the poem sets itself as being about seeing, about “Adjusting to darkness…” and “beginning to see.” From there, we get a catalog of sensation and detail starting in the second stanza. The speaker’s voice has a directness that is near terseness; for example, “wind-slap” and “moldy apples” are rendered through enjambment across line break and phrasing. One gets the feeling of overhearing someone sussing out the right words for things.
This terseness opens up to the third stanza’s longer sentence about Death Valley. While this sentence is broken across four lines, the phrasing is only interrupted in a natural way at the end by a list. Yet, the pace continues to change. The third stanza’s last line is an interrupted sentence, taken up by the fourth stanza. There is subtle momentum that brings the reader closer in attention to what is being detailed. This attention is rewarded by the final interruption of the last two lines; here, the action of hearing “flapping, swishing” wings interrupts the pacing in a way that doesn’t disrupt the sense of the poem. Instead, the action of these lines, and of the noticing and wording of them, ends the poem with a lyric turn reminiscent of haiku. We are left, like the speaker, listening close.
Inheritance – Dah
Adjusting to the darkness
my eyes dilate. Stars cast faraway
doubt. I’m beginning to see.
Against my face, a wind-slap
rattles my teeth. On the ground,
like musty breath, moldy apples
splayed open in crates;
I pocket the seeds and head west.
The expanse of Death Valley
is an exhausting sandbox
strung with ghost-rivers,
white sage, wild mules.
Under a littered moon
meteorites are agitated sparklers
or troubled spirits.
I hear flapping, swishing,
a red tail hawk.
Dah’s sixth poetry collection is The Opening (CTU Publishing Group 2018) and his poems have been published by editors from the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Africa, Singapore, Spain, Poland, Philippines and India. Dah lives in Berkeley, California and is working on the manuscript for his eighth poetry book. He is a Pushcart nominee and the lead editor of the poetry critique group, The Lounge. Dah’s seventh book, Something Else’s Thoughts, is forthcoming in July 2018 from Transcendent Zero Press.