The Democracy of Night

 

I just came across some old poems of mine in FRIGG and I’m astounded again by the journal’s wispy, dreamy aesthetic. It’s not often that poets have a visual sensibility, which is odd, seeing as metaphors and imagery are our stock and trade.  I thought I’d share a couple of these old (revised) poems and share my inspirations.

My poem “Likenesses” was inspired by Colonial silhouettes on a family wall – generations of women framed one after the other – mothers and daughters – the likenesses of their profiles echoing. How much of our mothers we take with us into the next frame, how many of her shadows are we made of? How much light?

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“Likenesses” was read by my 90-year old neighbor Queenie and her daughter.

Likenesses

Old by association,
my silhouette is pinned
with fixed focus.
Near me, a woman cut
from 1863.

My profile will be cut
in line by each birth, females
pushing us back
a generation
on the picture wall.

In hallways and stairways
I’ll stare at my daughters’ heads
framed inches away.
I’ll know their napes like my name.

I’ll stare at the facing frame
but daughters turn
into mothers,
forward-spilling.

Ada, my thrice-mother,
forebears my short memory.
To me, she is Eve.
Behind her, anonymity.

 

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My poem “What Age Brings” has since become “The Democracy of Night.” It was an homage to my beloved dog who was part of our family from Japan to Germany. When we moved to England, he didn’t quite make it. My girls and I drove from Oxfordshire to the quarantine shelter in Frankfurt to put him down. This poem was written shortly before that, when only his sight was failing.

The Democracy of Night

His eyes are overcast, iridescent
as slobbered car windows.
He’s in there still, in the squall,
paws on the sill of his lids.

By day he tilts his head to see,
sieves light on the circumference
of hazy cataract.
I exist in this bright millimeter.

Soon I’ll be just a voice, a smell,
a familiar ghost
he’ll bump his nose against,
the edges of his world as imaginary
as the one he runs through in sleep.

When our bedside lamps give way
to sleep, his stronger senses waken,
painting a picture of the dark world
with smells and sounds.

His tail swipes children’s fingerprints
from the walls
in the blind of night, reclaiming
the corridors for himself.

At the close of each day
he greets me with surest footing,
animals sensing one another
in the democracy of night.

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