Choosing a Poet's Life
Despite daunting obstacles, Colby poets pursue their solitary, creative craft
By Gerry Boyle '78
| Bread from Many Ovens |
My grandmother had hands
but no handwriting.
These are stock images in the closet
of the imaginary. In the drawers
that used to be card catalogs
with just enough numerals
to locate a book’s incomplete index,
now you find a lifetime of clipped
fingernails or the pattern of dust
spiraling in the light between the blinds
In the bedroom your mother recovered
from childbirth, or a fever, or her own upbringing.
In the parent drawer the atmosphere is quick to anger.
At least you’d think so judging from the neon
parenting signs. I implore you—
make me invisible, or at least not subject to
the square dance rules of transition, not here,
not in the way the weather changes
every few minutes in non-California.
I always find an umbrella in the lost & found,
but it’s the locket of hair that I’m seeking.
In her early old lady years my grandmother
dyed her hair the color of cheez. Orange lines
to the grade-skipping cousins. It was beautiful,
the way we didn’t talk about death
until we learned to talk about it like rain.
—Rachel Simon ’99
I’m sorry, but I taste relapse when we kiss because I taste
the smoke of his voice, the brass he used to weight that Hell Yeah
careening out of his shot gun body like rock salt. God,
he used to blow me open. He would cover my fingers
and dirty my fingers with the wet soil from his yard
and we popped jasmine seeds into the earth. We blindfolded
ourselves and bound our hands together with white scarves,
downing Speed with Robitussin and fiending to be awake. I remember
holding each other steady in the steady growling sweep of trains.
We trembled like the shutters on his house from the noises inside
each other. Hell Yeah I wanted and wanted him to hold me up
because I was made of shale, but we were shoddy pieces of carpentry,
burned and strewn over the bolted wood and steel of the tracks.
And I was only waiting for someone to sand me down,
so I wouldn’t feel milled by you. I mean by him.
—Liz Stovall ’07
It is always spring where she sits in her chair
under Monet’s blue sky and fields of tulips
Her fragile body bends over the nail clippers
moving them toward her empty hand shaking
both hands shaking she misses and starts over
intent on making her right hand meet her left
Again she misses looks up at the still windmill in oil
her face relaxing into a faraway smile
I went to see the tulips she says to no one in particular
Every day I cut a dozen for the table
She remembers me
sitting with her for another afternoon
the dream fades from her face
she stands and leaves without comment
Long ago she trimmed my husband’s fingernails
when he was too young to work the clippers
burying the parings among her tulip bulbs
I want to gather her hands in mine
clip her yellowed finger nails grown hard
fly her to Holland lay her in a petal bed
—Molly Lynn Watt ’60
| Dad and The Waterstriders |
But a four-foot-nothing boy,
my father and I build a tank.
A bulky vat with gallons of rain.
Water up to the brim.
After work and after school we go to the creek
behind the weeping-willow around the back
of a grey-blue house in Indiana, now grey
as ashes. It was much larger then
when my shoes were velcro, crackling
like a leaf fire with every certain step
a prepubescent makes. I didn’t wear those shoes
in the creek, though; that honor went to a pair
of ragged white ones with not one whole lace.
They were my father’s, knotted in the fifties and
never undone. Skimming the creek surface
for waterstriders and hatchling larva
dad says how happy our minnows are. They grow
so quickly and then they die and then the mourners
eat the dead. With all his ranting about aquatic villas,
I thought he was crazy like a hermit
obsessing over a shoe collection
or maybe just drunk off cheap Madeira.
He watches the tank like a hawk
counting its meal of minnows.
They are friends dad says. They turn
with each other. Detect each others’ ethos.
Dad is more alive than ever, never heavier.
He is glowing like a boy playing God.
Look, he says, they’re schooling.
—Sasha Swarup-Deuser ’07
The ocean all day turning its pages, as if the swelling would come,
finally, to an end; as if the ending this time
would be a different story.
It’s that the gulls cried or laughed when I passed them.
And the gritty itch of sand in every corner, every crevice, every fold.
The air so moist with wild rose scent and krill gone bad
you could tongue brine from the breeze
if there were a breeze.
You think none of this is of consequence?
Even now, as the moon writhes from the grassy dune?
Even as it falls through the dark, like an egg?
—Jody Zorgdrager ’89
The Diamond Sutra as a
Instead of the rich, study the maple in May
setting free the world, one winged rooter
at a time.
Then try telling those seeds to stop
sprouting, to flick-flick their propellers
back onto the tree.
Note the gaze of the pebble as it refuses
the temptation to laugh or in any way try
to improve on silence.
To the pebble, dirt is not a mink coat.
Dirt is not not a mink coat.
Therefore, Get dirty! Sprout!
Then forget “dirt” and “sprout.” Would you
climb a ladder into the light
if there were no light, no ladder,