Poetry book, 90 pages, $12 cover price
($10 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)
***This title was selected for publication after finishing as a finalist in the 2007 MSR Poetry Book Award contest. ***
Maureen Alsop, PhD, won Poetry West’s 2006 Contest through The Eleventh Muse and the 2007 Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry. Her poetry was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her manuscript Apparition Wren was also a semi-finalist for the 2007 Walt Whitman Award. She is the author of two chapbooks and is an associate editor for Poemeleon. She currently resides in Palm Springs, California.
The poems in Apparition Wren are sometimes sensual, sexual, almost rawly empathic to the loneliness and suffering of the characters she writes about (look at “Mud Pie Underworld,” “Butcher’s Wife”); sometimes Alsop’s poems are less narrative, and still beautifully candid and strange.
Door in the Mountain
(2004 National Book Award for Poetry)
Twice this winter I deceived myself. The doves
hard worn by the desert saltpan, had vanished. But I woke
to hear them cooing on the roof like little gurgling drums.
It was as if I’d sailed through a portrait of a storm-staggered sails
slapped backward through ink-spun shipyards-and a tremulous
flutter of feathers hung in the air. Later
darkness fell across the afternoon; the milk-gray sky
swirled and wrinkled. That same winter
drops of snow wrested themselves
down into a sheet of pewter. There comes a deathtime
when the world makes strange. And love winces
before her water breaks.
The trill, quivering as the sun crosses
over the half-stretched sound, comes
to quiet now. It’s what you’ve always been:
a little bird shifting past. The felled fruit
lies ripe & wasted in the cherry orchard
marking the place where a very old woman sensed
your nimble rise. She would not know
the careless stint of tilted wing. She kept loving you
as simply as you loved the expectant air. Darkness
gathers in the grass-she rests on her knees
pronouncing your imprint as prayer,
and discovers late your voice
of stone. She sees it is better now,
your dappled song grown
shameless & empty inside the mouth.
Her coat trembles, her blond hair, like sea-
weed, sways with the current; an empty sound, a zero
letter slips from her body. Furs and slushed ink surround
her, while constellations coax her eyes
skyward. Her mouth
caves inward. I drink
champagne. Her eyes fossilize. She destroys
my enemy. She tethers his wrists in barbwire and wrenches
his sniveling knees into shale. In nude
light, she wrings the future from his tongue-grackles
and a tent of maggots blow from his lips.
She eats his cadaver-a black
plate of mud and suet. She saps drowned waters from a vein
and swallows. I think
about the dead woman.
A country left a scar on my palm
in the shape of a chrysanthemum. In quiet moments,
I study this blemish-petals unfold,
my wide past blossoms wider.
Years ago, on that still afternoon,
a dank breeze lifted the shadowed light
in the room where you lay. Outside, the sun
heightened its noon tincture. And, in a blank fragment
of sky, herons matted the horizon shading
our last hours with a gray silt.
I touched my lips to your lips, dampened your brow
with the fragrance of lavender, and my fingertips mimicked
the passage of those birds. I held fever’s rage at bay–
though it bucked and stung.
And each time you spoke,
darkness rolled in your voice.
I am perfect now you said.
I glimpsed a secret harbor in your eyes
as an unknown coastline shifted and stretched
out its arms to you. Clockwork ships
rotated: first west, then east. Your body blushed
and the immense quay upon which I stood,
in the silence of that room, paled into dust.
I lay my hand over your chest
like an exhausted rower
dropping oars into the tide to wait
and to drift. I believe it was my heart
that pierced my hand that day.
It grappled and rose, a thorny callus seamed
from the splinters of that same rower’s oar. Who knows why
one is left on the other shore.