Crow Hollow Books

Murder Three, Summer 2016

Emily Shearer

About the poems: “First comes the word, then the thought.”  -Joan Miró    A new work often comes to me as a word or turn of phrase before it shapes itself into thought.  Images are activated by sheer beauty of language, then I let that beauty flow through my pen like a vine, growing up around an idea.  Once the idea has taken shape, I begin to prune and edit and revise, taking the words in hand, cultivating poetry.  I like to take snippets of newspaper articles, museum pamphlets, NPR interviews, children’s stories, travel brochures, Wikipedia entries, anything, and whittle them down to a few key phrases that sound melodious in my head, then expand them back out again in a whole different direction.  I also write travel poetry at the end of the day on those small hotel room notepads.  I have multiple journals and even use the Notes app on my phone to capture potential lines of poetry, then synthesize all that together - word to thought, thought activated by language, language into poetry.  The entire process is entirely undisciplined; I am a slave to the muse.  As such, I have learned one thing:  when she speaks, I stop what I am doing (usually sleeping) and write down what she says!

The artist's space.

Crow Hollow 19

Bread-Breaking Prayer

          Our mother, whose arms enfold as silver light peels off a windblown aspen tree,
               give us this day our daily bread, flaked in salt, fleur de sel we scraped from
               her cheeks, from the tears she shed over stolen or trampled strawberries, wild,
               misguided horses. Hallowed be her name. Hallowed be the bread we stand
               in line for, right and regal in our Sunday garb, or in our hogwashers, or in the
               skin we’re born in. Born to weep, to fall on our knees, to weed the garden, to
               hoe the row, to knead the holy simplicity of yeast and salt, flour and water,
               the ripe stain of grape juice, the forgiveness after broken glass. Remember
               the day we waited in the car, stifling as a casket, while she walked a mile in
               the jungle humid summer sun because she forgot to gas up the station wagon.
               Hallowed be the watermelon she prized us, the box fan standing in the
               threshold of the front door, facing outwards.
         Forgive us this day our misdemeanors and transgressions, our distractions and
               misunderstandings small as crumbs that drop from the table, minute as specks
               irritating the would-be sleeping eye, graining us awake all night, though this
               is no sin; this is necessary awareness. Give us our humus-brown prunes,
               once plums ripe for the taking, and do not turn away as we worry them over
               in our moist mouths looking for the one side with fewer wrinkles, the one
               most reminiscent of former perfection.
         Lead us not into perfection but deliver us from burnt toast and empty peanut butter
               jars put back in the cabinet with their lids screwed loosely on. There is no
               perfection. There is only bread.

Prayer in the Form of Eleven Questions


What the heart craves, is it good for anything
but sugar and helplessness?

If all is quiet and all is wild, where are the zebras, the sandpipers,
the crashing ocean storms in their calm, calm aftermath?

If I walked into the river, would you follow me in
Or throw me your monogrammed handkerchief?

Would I dare to look back at you
as the prayers upon the water drew me deeper?

Would the water close in around my hips, shoulders, hair
floating like feathers behind me, while you watched?

When we sleep, do the worries of our lifetimes go
the way of neon angels, the way of marksmen off their targets, the way of lost wolves?

Some say honeybees don’t die after they sting.
If I lift my lips to yours and you refuse to open to my nectar - what then?

After the harvest, what remains of corn, of turned, tilled soil,
of barn owl’s steady measure, hollow bones?

Why do people have to die, to fold up like a blanket in summer,
never to be unfurled when next frost comes?

Why ask a young girl what she wants? The only answer is
A horse, a bouquet of peonies, a sequined playbill, a pair of red shoes,

ball and jackhammer, stopped watch and racing clock,
pocketful of pennies to buy it all, with bread left to spare.

Will you ask the baker to bake extra bread,
then put a slice in every orphan’s palm

before tucking them in, before turning out the light,
before telling them to wait for dawn to open up again?

Last Rites

Paint red the inside of my coffin
bury me with a fox carcass, crow feather, a horseshoe and a rabbit’s foot
bury me wherethewordsruntogether like watercarrieswater to the sea

You know what, don’t bury me
smoke me breathe me rub my ashes into
the leavening in your bread,
the mercurochrome on your flesh wounds.
i want to run deeper than the music in the birthroom of the gods
faster than sshhh around a whisper,

farther than a ◌ from a ◻
farther than Israel (fig trees in the cemeteries, so mourners have something to eat)
farther than Madagascar, its 500 endemic frog species in danger,
             its very isolation —  until now — providing their protection

There’s an island in Nova Scotia
where horses battle each other for their Viking blood
where mares become gravid by the wind alone.
Leave my red coffin there
Let the crows and foxes dance upon it
before the barefoot horses crush their bones
before the hungry wilderness pulls through its teeth
the oil of my hinges
the fibers of my corpse

and all that’s left is splintery red wood
and my Invictus
and the fig tree you planted
in the place you laid me down