Poem as a Field of Action
We seek profusion, the Mass—heterogeneous—ill-assorted—quietbreathless—grasping at all kinds of things—as if—like Audubonshooting some little bird, really only to look at it the better. —William Carlos Williams, “The Poem as a Field of Action”
I had not been thinking of death when they stung—three wasps hiding in the folds of my shirt, quiet as plaiduntil the last button, buttoned. Who's to say this isn't true? What's missing is the witness, the photo flash,the fragments of wing and stinger settling on the indifferent oak grain. I had been thinking of Voltaire, how he faintedat the first sniff of a rose, of tongue prints, how each is unique, yet there I sat, stunned, uncertain of anything except twelverising welts, twelve—the number of stings it took to unbutton one noisy shirt, fling it off. And then I thought of Saint Agnes,muzzled and dragged to the fire at twelve, her accusers stymied by the hair growing to shroud her nakedness as she gaveher body up, smiling, to her Lord. And who's to say this isn't true? Here's how we corroborate: we all muddle tales, hobblerickety bridges of time and space, grasp and tear the scrim of doubt. We seek profusion, little birds, impertinent facts, safe shirts, hands busywith clay or bread, and we blunder upon miracles of hair and love, honeysuckle, a flutter of eyelashes on a wrist—and we sing—all of us saints, our abundant arms reaching toward bodies, surrendered and buoyant—bodies rising.
Copyright © 2019 by Berwyn Moore
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Berwyn Moore is the author of two previous poetry collections, O Body Swayed and Dissolution of Ghosts. As the inaugural Poet Laureate of Erie County, Pennsylvania, she edited the anthology, Dwelling in Possibility: Voices of Erie County. Her poems have appeared in such places as Southern Review, Shenandoah, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. She has worked as a reporter, a freelance writer, and a respiratory therapist. Currently professor of English at Gannon University, she lives in Erie, Pennsylvania, with her husband Robert.
"Sweet Herbaceous Miracle is absolutely gorgeous writing. Attentive language, rich, provocative scenes with painterly light shining through...Berwyn Moore’s book takes the breath away."
—Naomi Shihab Nye
"Elizabethan elegance, light, and fire-crack pervade this terrific collection. In sizzling couplets and delicious sonnets, Berwyn Moore is ever the melodist—and ever more the skeptical interrogator (of the body, of love, of angels not us). 'Now you have scratched into my dreams,' says the speaker to the rat, and now these poems have scratched into mine. Who could want more from a book of poems?"
—Alan Michael Parker
"A subtle alchemy infuses Berwyn Moore’s Sweet Herbaceous Miracle. Under the spell of her lexicon, a vagrant woman transforms into an angel, wasp bites become stigmata, and a cardboard box turns into a mysterious, sacred dwelling. Her Blakean visions are bound to beguile and leave the reader craving for more."