Poems by Ann Fisher-Wirth

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At McClure’s Beach, Point Reyes National
  Seashore, California

by Ann Fisher-Wirth

From Canary Spring 2011

Ann lives in the North Mississippi hill country, about sixty miles east of the Delta and the Mississippi River, in the Tallahatchie River watershed.

I would ask my family


Wait for a foggy afternoon, late May,
after a rainy winter so that all
the wildflowers are blooming on the headland.
Wait for honey of lupine. It will rise
around you, encircle you, from vast golden bushes
as you take the crooked trail
down from the parking lot. Descend
earth’s cleft, sweet winding declivity
where California poppies lift up their
chalices, citrine and butterscotch,
and phlox blows in the wisps of fog, every
color of white and like the memory
of pain, and like first dawn, and lavender.
Where goldfinches, nubbins of sunlight,
flit through the canyon. Walk one by one
or in small clusters, carrying babies,
children holding your hands—with your eyes,
your oval skulls, your prodigious memories
or skills with the fingers. Your skirts or shirts
will flirt with the wind, and small brown rabbits
will run in and out, you’ll see their ears first,
nested in the grasses, then the bob
of fleeting hindquarters.
                        Now come to the sand,
the mussel shells, broken or open, iridescent,
color of crows’ wings in flight
or purple martins, and the bullwhips
of sea kelp, some like frizzy-headed voodoo
poppets, some like long hollow brown or bleached
phalluses. The X X birdprints running
across the scalloped sand will leave a trail of stars,
look at the black oystercatcher, the scamp
with the long red beak, it’s whizzing along
in its courtship dance. Look at the fog,
above you now on the headland, and know how much
I love the fog. Don’t cry, my best beloveds,
it’s time to scatter me back now. I’ve wanted this
all my life. Look at the cormorants,
the gulls, the elegant scythed whimbrel,
do you hear its quiquiquiquiqui
rising above the eternal Ujjayi breath,
the roar and silence and seethe and whisper,
the immeasurable insweep and release of ocean.




Happiness

by Ann Fisher-Wirth

From Canary Summer 2010

The walk that afternoon came to nothing

they could measure. At the end of the road,
a gnat-flecked lake. He descried a heron,

far among the trees, but though she tried

she could not see it. They walked back home,
past sumac crimson on bitten branches,

weather-scarred bottles junked in ditches.

That night she lay beneath him and he held her face,
caressed her jaw until she yawned

and yawned, body and soul released, at peace.

There would be a last time but this was not it, yet,
this dusty season of goldenrod and asters,

this hour in a high white bed.


Previously published in Valparaiso Poetry Review.



Spleen

by Ann Fisher-Wirth

From Canary Fall 2010

               Ole Miss, late August

But I don't despise the cheerleaders
at practice in the Grove,
who leap and balance
on their partners' upturned palms,
calf muscles trembling, lifting up,
up, on tiptoe. Nor the kids
driving by, I like how they signal hi,
one finger lifted from the steering wheels
of gas-guzzlers loaded
with the summer's boxes.
Nor the girls on Sorority Row
running from one of the houses,
waving their arms like Bacchantes
in a badly acted play&ndash
they jump and scream
and clap their hands in a big
orchestrated semicircle,
because aunts and mothers and teachers,
grandmas and nanas and preachers
told them this
is what happiness looks like.

This summer, unannounced,
the Army Corps of Engineers
drained and paved
the bayou at the end of College Hill,
expanding the airport for football weekends.
They lost the herons, destroyed the places
where turtles could slither
down cool, piney banks
past crayfish towers and cypress stobs
into a murky lake where in spring
their babies would sit on fallen branches
like capgun caps,
nubbins nearly invisible
until pop pop pop pop pop
slow then faster they hit the lake
as they hear you coming.

Oh yeah? Bummer, I hear these students say.

As I pass the crowd of girls
I look for one
who knows she's faking it,
who's counting the days
till she quits.
She already longs
for the vanishing places
where, speckled with light, she can wait,
alive in every cell to solitude,
completely attentive to the water.


Previously published in Tales from the Blue Moon Cafe IV, ed. Sonny Brewer and Joe Formichella
(Macadams/Cage, 2005).



Sweetgum Country

by Ann Fisher-Wirth

From Canary Winter 2010-11

Billy shows us his arm, burned by the sun
where pesticides sensitized his skin
those years of his childhood, playing
in Delta cotton fields. A charred,
hand-sized lozenge marks the tender crease
inside his elbow. Alex holds up her chart
that shows the sickness and death
in her mother's family, from cancer
in Cancer Alley. She has made red circles
for "fought," green crosses for "died,"
she has put stars around her name,
my pretty dark-haired student.
They come to class, my sixteen freshmen,
and no matter what their topics,
they all say, "I never knew this..."

Fords and Chevies that will barely crank
one more time are parked in the reeds
and slick red mud. Early evening sun
pours down on the cypresses and sweetgum,
the Tallahatchie swamp at the edge
of Marshall County. Turtles poke their heads up.
Cottonmouths zipper through black water
or stretch out long and bask on the abandoned
railroad bridge. Men and women of all ages
beguile the hours after work,
the idle hours, with soft talk or silence,
with bamboo poles and battered coolers.
They could use the food.
They fish for buffalo, catfish, bass,
despite the fish advisories, the waters laced with mercury.


“Sweetgum Country” appeared in Blue Window (Archer Books, 2003).



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