She moves from farm to town bringingonly daughters. The call of dough thrownto hot stone. In the butcher's shop she losesonly two fingers, while the vacantfarmhouse on whose porch I was neverpictured vanished. There's little the richwon't harvest. Wind threshes only an orchard,in the womb a child burgeons. In the hospitalmother holds the hand of father's body,which takes two weeks to release the doseof radiation it may release while alive.Daughters bear daughters, a dark roof tothe orchard's mouth. There's a sound caughtlike a soft piece of lung or a phrase in the oldlanguage for a hand hot on the back,the back to another cold wall. Across statelines you followed, quick stitching of anorgan to itself. In town she lost onlyone religion. Other daughters watch,sewing butter to butter. This is the breadof the body not left for coyotesand it was birds I firstno longer heard.
“Quick Flesh” from EXCISIONS: by Hilary Plum.
Published by Black Lawrence Press on April 21 2023.
Copyright © 2023 by Hilary Plum.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Hilary Plum is a writer, editor, and teacher living in Cleveland Heights. She’s the author of five books, including Excisions, a volume of poetry; Hole Studies, an essay collection; and the novel Strawberry Fields. Recent work has appeared in the Cleveland Review of Books, the Chicago Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and on the podcast Index for Continuance, which she co-hosts with Zach Peckham. You can find her at www.hilaryplum.com
"Out of hospitals, marriage bedrooms, woodland parks and city centers—the vanishing borders between the healthy and the sick—Hilary Plum’s poems emerge hard-edged and fully formed. She is dynamically attuned to the fragility and ferociousness of our attachments to one another, “a long storm of hello.” Densely lyrical and possessed of austere beauty, Excisions recalls the poetry of Jorie Graham, Victoria Chang and George Oppen, but Plum’s voice is her own—flinty, incantatory and undeniable.
A compass works because our inner core, part crystal, contains intense pressure preventing iron from melting beyond the melting point. This is Excisions’ poetic consciousness. Repairing the illusion of mindbody disconnect, yet in this book there’s no word for cure or its tailspin outside of artistic reconnaissance. We’re at the hospital so much as to redraw transportation schemas—a gas guzzling gurney—one awakens from their dreams in a paper robe staring at the bluest bulge of vein. To be is to recognize intense stares from eyes who don’t yet exist totally inside. Outpatient futurity and fugitivity is the same evolutionary experience of the civilizational body. Between poet and patient is warm sea foam from the moon’s unrest of having to be so old a witness! Plum’s transmissions from the funeral of Aesculapius surrealism. In Plum’s poems, the people with names dig up and brush off the bones.