Finding flow in modern life is increasingly challenging, Slushies, but we sure found it here in two poems by Erica Wright. Loosely defined as the melting of action and consciousness into a single state, flow in poetry allows us to fully inhabit the world or experience conjured up by the poet. Nothing serves to distract or pull the reader out of the poem. How do we get there? There isn’t just one way. It helps when the poem’s form is attuned to the pacing required by the subject matter or focus. Strong beginnings always help — and there are two fantastic ones here — as well as a system of imagery that’s both relatable and unexpected. In “Marine Biology”, we see a conversational style used in parts of the poem that’s deeply grounding, and in “Too Many Animal Stories” the poem’s form supports its dense mosaic of images and moments.
At the table: Kathleen Volk Miller, Jason Schneiderman, and Dagne Forrest.
Erica Wright’s latest poetry collection is All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned (Black Lawrence Press). She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her family where she enjoys looking at the mountains and not camping in them.
Socials: Twitter @eawright, Instagram @ericawrightwrites, Facebook @ericawrightauthor, Author website
Not even my dog knows me, hovers
outside the bathroom as I wash blood
from the porcelain, wipe up the floors.
I feel more at ease with the mess
than the pain. We’re not supposed to
talk about that anyway, my fleet
of would-be mothers who never labored
but birthed something too.
Mine half-seahorse, half-anemone
like something you’d find in an off-season
coastal gift shop after looking for whales
and not finding any whales.
And now my skin turns blue
as if my veins are submarines
surfacing after too long underwater.
Did you know the Navy studies sharks
in hopes of making better ships?
Can you imagine? Mariners on megalodons.
Let’s name them after our ancestors.
Let’s hold the notion of them
inside our heads until they’re real.
Too Many Animal Stories
In the same town where a man’s gun discharged,
killing a woman across the street, we ordered
sandwiches and watched tourists rent inner tubes
to hold their bodies up in the river below.
I’ve been sick for weeks now, bad sick
at first, and now I can hold myself up.
You started grinding your teeth at night,
and it hurts to move your jaw in the morning.
We joke about low points. We joke
about how we’ll never leave this house again.
Of all the days to miss, I can’t say why
I latched onto that one in Helen, Georgia.
We find a movie about the Trans Am Bike Race,
and I make a joke about my dad’s old car
with a phoenix on the hood, its wings
spread with such precision that they never spilled
over the sides. Sometimes a snake hid underneath
and was so long it could stretch its body
from one side of the two-lane road to the other—
tail in one ditch, head in the other—
a perversion of that joke about the chicken.
The thing about being sick while the world has stopped
is that I start to wonder if it’s all a carousel game,
and we’re being punished for trying to jump off.
When I push myself off the bathroom floor again,
the tiles won’t stop spinning. Asbestos.
I remember the real estate agent warned
us about asbestos and not to take them out ourselves.
I like the bathroom. The porcelain tub feels like ice
when I rest my head against the side, wait for stillness.
You take out the trash for us because of the rats.
I don’t mind them, but once when one ran
across my foot, I couldn’t get clean enough after.
The neighbors coo over our new dog,
leave chicken bones for her, which we pry from her teeth.
Sometimes the incisors scrape my skin, and she never
apologizes for her nature. I apologize for mine
all the time. I’d prefer to be hearty, the kind of traveler
who could take a cross-country train alone
and sleep sitting up, living on trail mix and Coke.
Not the one who needs sea bands. They sound like
the bracelets of some strong-willed mermaid
who doesn’t care what anybody thinks of her,
but they’re cheap elastic with plastic eyes.
Outside my window, the wind harasses the trees
and their new leaves, which are less impressive
than the old ones. Last year, a grim lived there,
and I’d make up stories for him before bed.
Not that he slept. Not that I know of.
There once was a hellhound who loathed
the predator rigamarole. He disliked
the rending of flesh and gnawing of bones.
The howling he could take or leave.
One day sheep wandered below him.
They smelled of honeysuckle and dirt.
They didn’t bite each other then pretend
they were joking. He sewed his costume right away.
There’s not much more I can say about the rat
from earlier. He fell from a trash bag
and leapt at me, tiny claws digging into my shoe.
A medium-sized rat. They say they’re more
afraid of us than we are of dying.