This week, we are proud to present a new poem by Jennifer Givhan. Givhan is a Mexican-American poet from the Southwestern desert. She is the author of Landscape with Headless Mama (2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize) and Protection Spell (2016 Miller Williams Series, University of Arkansas Press, forthcoming). Her honors include an NEA Fellowship, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellowship, The Frost Place Latin@ Scholarship, The 2015 Lascaux Review Poetry Prize, and The Pinch Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best of the Net 2015, Best New Poets 2013, AGNI, Crazyhorse, Blackbird, and The Kenyon Review. She is Poetry Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal and teaches at The Poetry Barn.
Not only can elegy bring back the lost, it can recall lost versions of ourselves. I mean elegy as any kind of poem evoking the ghosts of the past. I teach a workshop on Hauntedness in poetry, that state of being inhabited by something else—that troubles, darkens, agitates. But the ghost’s presence is transformative, reminds us something must still be done. The selves we’ve shed never go away. The girl I was with Danny resides inside me still. Sometimes I find her lurking in thrift shops.
This poem was inspired by Diane Seuss’s “I can’t stop thinking of that New York skirt, turquoise sequins glued onto sea-colored cotton,” from her Four-Legged Girl, a book I love for how memory bleeds. In this poem, I had to run back into the Housing Works in San Diego, California to recover those thrown-away items I realized I couldn’t live without. I mean, I’ve never lived without them—they’ve been ghosting me this whole time.