Word Poetry

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Sample Poems by Jeanne LeVasseur


My Body at Twenty

I remember when my body was new and so
translucent I never noticed it,
like a school of minnows-
those darting bits of glass so colorless
you could see their spines and the moon was a doorknob
that shone on a dark swell of road.
And we were running for the hell of it
because the air was as cool as corn silk
because we were in full flood
and we were running because it hurt to be still,
we were running like matched horses in wet grass.
We were running to find our future
because it was out there
and we were running to get it quicker.
We were running to get out of here
and we were running because - why not?
It was all ahead of us and nothing had ever hurt us
or would hurt us because we were running straight through
the wide open dark toward our one true place,
forever,
right into our story.

Lost Country

It wasn't this cup. But any cup would do.
And the story begins in winter.

The kind of black, starry night that freezes
breath in clouds, a wolfish moon hiding
in a ridge of trees.

Chafing together on toboggans,
sparks struck like arcs of light striking names
against the dark.

He smelled of silage, of cows wanting more of summer,
of damp hillsides and a wild ferment of grass.

Cows steam in the paddock,
their big pink bags look cold and pipes in the barn
are frozen thick with ice

as every night, like heroes,
the cows come back, their heat cycles to pipes
the way meadows cycle to milk.

She thinks she will die here,
sees it all, the toboggan faster and faster -

trees jagged against the sky,
barbed wire waiting,
and the way he will grab her knees

and hold her on,
both of them hurtling faster than memory
can go.

She's drinking ordinary tea, her fingers curve,
consoling, holding other cups, ghosts
beyond this cup.

When the stranger asks her about the cup,
she doesn't tell him: in this,
everything I couldn't hold is brimming.

Instead she hears cows, faint as starlight.
And far away,
the sound of the milk truck cranking over.


1982

Years later, in a city of tombs, I remember
the still hushed moment when a droplet of blood
bloomed on my hand, the man treated for syphilis
or some other disease and the strange suddenness,
after a hundred fluid motions and angles,
of holding the glassy barrel against the dark plains of the body,
the needle always so innocent, wicked and simple.
Without any consequence at all until that speck
quivered immortal, terrible, its red dome
rising like a city of tents where the slums of cholera
are not worse than this universe
teaming with corpuscles and serums, then the flush
on my finger, alive with possibility and
the small falling away of attention that allowed it
to drop so eagerly, infectious, and infinite.
I saw it the moment it fell and felt the black wingbeat,
the death knell, the brief, spiraling hell
over and over. I couldn't wash enough,
my patient was dead of AIDS in a year
and even the tap wide open in flood, even that baptism
wasn't enough to prove I would be saved.


Looking for Heliotrope

Just wait for June and her soft lanterns and streetlight moons,
the stars on parade in the Milky Way and a comet unfurling

its lazy banner. All over America front porches are lit up
like buses and the planet is making its regular rounds.

Jupiter's up close as a doorknob, nothing is broken,
or needs any fixing, it's as local as a rowboat

spinning in summer, my cousin and I on a blackwater
pond brawling with leeches and night after night

the sky going cobalt until we're dizzy and freckled and drugged.
It's the way we want it to be, neighbors on porch swings,

crickets and peepers and a dog with the moon on its collar
just a wisp, a wafer, a clock unplugged.

Yet underneath something urgent, the body, a pond pulsing with cells
where electrons orbit like planets

and from these miraculous spells of attraction come stairways
like the lungs with their long gloves of water

and every so often, on a mild night in June, this sense
of an engine towing its cargo,

purposeful, random, just our whole planet burning its way
through the night.