Wild in the Plaza of Memory

via Tucson Festival of Books
Here are two poems by the inimitable Pam Uschuk. I had the pleasure of getting to know Pam a little bit while she was the 2011 Visiting Poet at the University of Tennessee. She speaks to the possibilities of poetry effecting change in our present day better than any poet I've heard in quite a while.

If you ever have a chance to hear her read or to attend a workshop, I urge you to do so. In the meantime, you can read new work in her latest collection, Wild in the Plaza of Memory. Pam is also the Editor of Cutthroat, a journal also worth reading.


Ode to Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca

Federico, sometimes you come to me as a little rain
straining up from the south, smeared
with the scent of orange rind and blood.
Smeared with rabbit blood frenzy, coyotes
ring the house howling the hour
the moon ticks like a gypsy watch
above the pool where the heron sleeps.
Where the heron dreams, a smear
the size of the moon is actually a guitar
moaning the syllables of your lost name.
Federico, when you come to me, the unbearable
longing of trees roots deeper in the sky, flies
among stars like a comet in search
of its dead twin. Federico the wind tonight is arctic
silver, not green, not forever green,
and I think how easy it is to die, skin basted
with orange blossoms and loneliness
as if loneliness was a horse a poet could break
or deny. Tonight, you are the slivered silver moon
ticking above cedar and sage that remember
their roots in the olive groves of Andalusia.
Green rind of death, how dare you spit
out the syllables of such desire? Federico,
some nights you fly through the window,
the eye of a hawk on fire,
black gaze gone to blood, gone
to the ropey bones of moonlight,
to guitars laughing in blue pines,
to the wet bulls of passion,
to the weft of love abandoned
to oiled rifles in an olive grove
on a sunny day before I was born. Did
they so fear the delicacy of your hands?


What Came True

Blue mountains came true
and the stars writing our history across
night’s eyelid even today
when I see you among giraffes, hundreds
of miles away, snapping with your third eye,
camera shots of those lashes
longer than hummingbird wings.
The body as memory came true,
the shady notions of mountains
bared their teeth and were true. In
the hazy Italian Apennines that we drove
through long ago, rescuers dig
out two hundred bodies crushed by earth
shivering in its thin unreliable crust.
The heart as flower came true
until the moon like an interrogation lamp
stripped the bedroom of privacy,
electrocuting dreams of kindness
on its short circuit betrayals.
What have we learned in all these years
but habits exhausting their own circles,
stupid tongues dragging in the dust?
Or balance laughing and tucked under a hawk’s wings,
holding out dawn’s lilac attar, a mouthful
of rain water, the blue grist of sky
to rub against our hollow palms?


Pamela Uschuk
from Wild in the Plaza of Memory
Wings Press, 2012