a new poem. a new poem!


So I was reading an interview with a poet (Victoria Chang interviewing Allison Benis White) working on her 2nd manuscript.  Her goal, she said, was being sure she didn’t just repeat herself again in book #2.  I have finished the first draft of my first manuscript, though it is far, far from finished.  I am already thinking about #2 and I am very conscious of not just repeating myself.  Things have changed greatly for me in the past few months, so I’m hoping these changes will manifest in my work.  Let’s hope…. (PS: thanks to my poetry mentor Kelli Russell Agodon for posting a link to this great interview!)


Marriage as Occupation


You will not realize you are at war
until the rubble is at your feet.

Moving will become impossible–
forward into the light
backward away from the king’s crumbling palace.

What you thought was the reception
champagne and cake,
tails and trains
are trains chuffing down the track
prisoners’ fingers mourning (doves’ wings) from the windows.

You are every refugee:
the woman in rags, babies threaded to her ratty side
the natty-haired man, a ghost behind the tinted glass,
that single small girl, moldy hand out for bread.

It will come as a surprise, the large envelope slipped through the mail slot,
the golden ticket to a new country.
You won’t remember signing up for the lottery.

When you arrive in the new world
tell everyone you are an explorer.
Explain that your ship crashed on the rocks
you have been swimming for days
your arms are tired, your guts waterlogged.

No one needs to know the truth:
you were not a prisoner
but a willing participant
lucky to have escaped
with your bag full of bones.

27 responses »

  1. (o)

    Great poem.

    Apropos of the last stanza, there was a time when I felt compelled to tell my daughter, “you don’t owe anyone the truth about your private life.” Most of the time the real truth of relationships falls down into the dim spaces between any stories we could retail about them.

    Maybe I’m saying I think you are an explorer, after all. What is it Blake said? Everything that can be imagined is an image of truth. Something like that. Anyway, it’s a great treat to see a Jill poem again!

  2. It’s delightful to read a Jilly poem. xoxoxo

    The title is fabulous. The double meaning of occupation. The flight of the narrator, leaving with only her bag of bones.

  3. Pingback: writing buddy’s determination trumps snow days and sick kids « carolee sherwood

  4. Pingback: writing buddy’s determination trumps snow days and sick kids « carolee sherwood

    • thank you jeanne. funny thing, i didn’t realize i said anything about knowing the truth. i had to go back and read my own poem. i think that means i was in the po-zone when i was writing!

  5. I, too, come to you from Carolee’s blog–and I’m so happy I did. What a great poem.

    I wondered if in stanza 4 you meant refuge–which works–or refugee, which is what I expected, and which also works. Leaving the word refuge will leave many readers wondering if it’s a typo.

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