January 13, 2014

Corrie Williamson: “Love Poem for Naming”

Williamson_photo

This week we feature a new poem by Corrie Williamson. Williamson studied poetry as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, and completed her MFA in Poetry at the University of Arkansas this past May, where she served as director of the Writers in the Schools Program, and taught creative writing. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals, most recently The Mid-American Review, Crab Orchard Review, The American Poetry Journal, Cumberland River Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Shenandoah, which awarded her their 2013 James Boatwright III Prize for Poetry. Currently, she lives and teaches in Helena, Montana.

Author’s note:

Rather unromantically, this poem emerged from laying awake and listening to my boyfriend snore. Perhaps a bit more romantically, let me quote Emerson on etymology and naming: “Language is fossil poetry. As the limestone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, or tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin. But the poet names the thing because he sees it, or comes one step nearer to it than any other. This expression or naming, is not art, but a second nature, grown out of the first, as a leaf out of a tree.” With this poem, I wanted to take simple words and sounds and trace a kind of dreamlike arc towards their historical or emotional hearts, to note both the beauty and the challenge of naming something. It’s a love poem to a physical person, as well as to the process of finding other ways of imagining love. It is also, I’ve always thought, a lullaby – a song to rock the boat of the self to sleep.

 

Love Poem for Naming

Find the word for it, the nightly sound
of breath
beside me. Call it a hand

 

run up and down a length
of taut-skinned tree bark,
poplar, maybe.

 

Arrowed shape
the old shipmakers
harvested for masts.

 

Or possibly call it the rustle in the dry
wheat that grew wild through
our back field,

 

where I built nests when I was small
as I imagined the speechless animals
did, flag leaves

 

brittle, shush-saying over my head.
Hidden there
just long enough

 

for my mother to worry. Come to the porch,
dishtowel on her shoulder,
casting

 

my name over the afternoon.
Keen and honest
as the iron

 

bell in the garden. I would
explode from the chaff,
grassy-haired,

 

a wild grouse. Most nights:
his back.
The moon

 

turns its white face between the blinds.
If I woke him,
demanded, The moon,

 

name it, would he say
a bowl of gold butter
on our breakfast table.

 

The upended shell of earth’s silver
turtle twin. No,
I’d reply.

 

An ivory viking longship, tipping
into black sea. Your shoulder
blades’

 

parenthetical. No, this: your body
is the boat, its fine,
slumbered rigging –

 

that drumming in the keel.

 

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