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[the horses]

I wanted to ask how do I do this how do I keep doing this

how do I stop I once required the moon no once your voice

moved the moon for hours across the skylight and the stove

burned itself out and the stars followed suit eight hours passed

and the moon passed the glass filled instead with clouded day

with light and distance and both of us so tired my ear days later

still red and tender the hot phone I held going down again into

the cold house the one the baby squirrels came all that winter

into for warmth caught and taken in the box kept for nothing

but that to the barn and set down in the hay and fallen feed

the horses retired to other homes the barn where tack hung

in the shapes of backs necks mouths and brows as though

the horses had not gone but become instead invisible I had

never been happier disliked the intervals of silence and sun

I no longer own a barn a skylight full of the moon a house

that squirrels seek out we both still own the means but what

keeps happening is the moon the day and the moon again

and it wasn’t the horses turning into ghosts it wasn’t

–Leslie Harrison

A big fan of Harrison’s work, I have posted poems by her on this blog before: The Four Elements, The Day Beauty Divorced Meaning, and How I Became a Ghost. This one appeared on Zócalo Public Square, and is IMHO another clear knock out.



The Four Elements

I. Pasiphaë

Wife: word and vow. Invisible. Bound—
as heat is to flame. No god did this,
no pretty, facile cow. A kingdom
of men, blinded. And me—burning
to be seen. Burning for him. I chose,
did not haggle over price. At last,
in the ashes, after, you see me.

I made sure his whores spewed only
monsters. And I am one of them.

II. Daedalus

Falling, all my life. Not clever enough
not to come between a king, his wife.
No map for how to live past this.
I dismantled sleep, built wings, became
the air, took what I loved—rescued him.
But not to keep.

III. The Minotaur

I was a monster. I knew. At home
in the stone prison, innocent, amazed,
I simply was. But then they came—
fair and afraid. I looked, held them in
my gaze, saw it in their eyes: the other.
A monster. Me. Devoured what they had taught:
beauty. Became its absence. Lay down
in welcoming mud, offered up
my misborn head. Took the blows. Was glad.

IV. Icarus

Pick up that shell. Hold it to your ear.
It is not the sea that sings inside,
not beating waves you hear. It is me—
rinsed of ash, earth, and air; no architect,
ant, or string as guide—lost. And drowning.

I carried them all, tried to set them free.
Burned her away in the sun, wore cloud,
escaped the walls, was lovely for them,
but fell for me.

–Leslie Harrison

Leslie’s new book, Displacement, has been one of my bedstand stalwarts for several weeks now. This piece, featured on Poetry Daily, is the flagship that begins her collection. The rest of the poems are arranged under chapter headings for each of these four mythic characters/archetypes. Some of the lines cut right through all my protective membranes—like this: “Burned her away in the sun, wore cloud,/escaped the walls, was lovely for them,/but fell for me.”


One of the many unexpected gifts that has come to me from blogging these last three years is connecting with like-minded people who I would never have met with just my physical presence as a vehicle. One of the best networkers I know writes a blog called Virgin in the Volcano and it was through VV that I met the poet Leslie Harrison.

Harrison’s first book of poems, Displacement, came out this year. As the winner of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, Harrison has been published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and was chosen for the prize by Eavan Boland who also wrote the foreword.

Here’s a taste of Boland’s experience with the work:

Much of the charm and music of this book for me—and I believe for other readers—must have to do with this unabashed contradiction between a voice that has found its place in the poem, and a life that will not find an equivalent ease in the world…

There is a poise and presence about this book—and a poignance about its traffic between secrecy and disclosure—that allow it to have unusual force, and a true grip on its reader. This is a real lyric journey: and the reader will take it too.

I have had Displacements on my bedstand for the last week. Like most good art, her poems just gets better the more I give myself over to the experience. And as I have been reading them for several days now, I can already feel how my insides are getting rearranged.

Here’s one of my favorites. If it rings for you, spring for the whole kit and kaboodle.

The Day Beauty Divorced Meaning*

Their friends looked shocked—said not
possible, said how sad. The trees carried on
with their treeish lives—stately except when
they shed their silly dandruff of birds. And
the ocean did what oceans mostly do—
suspended almost everything, dropped one
small ship, or two. The day beauty divorced
meaning, someone picked a flower, a flight,
a flight. Someone got on a boat.
A closet lost its suitcases. Someone
was snowed in, someone else on. The sun
went down and all it was, was night.

* This poem was originally published in Pool: A Journal of Poetry.

To read another poem by Harrison posted here last March, click here.


How I Became a Ghost

It was all about objects, their objections
expressed through a certain solidity.

My house for example still moves
through me, moves me.
When I tried to reverse the process
I kept dropping things, kept finding myself
in the basement.

Windows became more than
usually problematic.
I wanted to break them
which didn’t work, though for awhile

I had more success with the lake.

The phone worked for a long time
though when I answered
often nobody was there.

Bats crashed into me at night,
but then didn’t anymore.

The rings vanished from my hand,
the pond.

I stopped feeling the wind.

One day the closets were empty.

Another day the mirrors were.

–Leslie Harrison

I was introduced to Harrison’s poetry through friend and fellow blogger Virgin in the Volcano. Harrison’ first book, Displacement, was awarded the Bakeless prize for poetry in 2008 and will be available in July. She lives in Sandisfield Massachusetts.