Jean Hollander

April 17, 2008 at 2:59 pm (Uncategorized) ()

The Making of a Saint

The night my wild dog
fell down a tree well
and you tried to heave her out
she gashed and howled,
mauled your hands.

You brought a ladder
raised the maddened dog
who never loved you
up through the broken grate.

In the lantern-like door light
you strode translucent
into the kitchen, rays
bending to follow,
washed your bleeding palms
while the dog romped outside,
celebrated her arising
on faulty legs.

Three days you shone in flames
like a nervous saint,
bandages absorbing the rays
of your infected stigmata.
“Don’t touch me,” you said,
burning as you were.

The dog was not grateful,
nor have I been,
temper and cool, how you
must find us wanting,
as almost in disdain
in spite of our cracked hearts
despite ourselves
you save us.

In the Middle of the World
(for W.P.)

In the middle of the church
a compass shows
where Christ was put
after they pried him from the cross.
They say that compass is
the middle of the world

as here a car speeds by, and on the road
the squirrel circles, runs
around his wounded head
his body like a maddened compass leg
pivots his grume of blood,
he cannot scramble off in a straight line
but radiates around his point of pain

so you and I in our separate
circuits of sudden loss–
for you a son
found in a night-closed pool,
for me a baby’s mouth
locked against breath–
are caught, no matter how
our needles twist and jerk,
we are confined and centered in
the lodestone of those deaths.

Persephone’s Return

Daughter, I put you down in autumn
into deep earth
where you became the later son who took
your eyes, a brazen blue and your white hair
so blond it lost all color in bright sun.

Strange when I thought of you
returned and grown, I saw you in
a doctor’s white that he now wears
as though you could not make it back
in your own shape but had to gather

limb by bone, four winters, your return
in different, yet remembered form,
dragging the gravel of mortality
into his lusty life, making him
an instrument against your brevity

as I still live, from spring to spring
awaiting your return with each new leaf
your coming as each bloodroot grows
from heart of earth
its bleeding stalk holding white blossom out.

Jean Hollander’s first book of poems, Crushed into Honey, won the Eileen W. Barnes Award. Her second collection, Moondog, was a winner in the QRL Poetry Book Series. Her third book of poems, Organs and Blood, was published two weeks ago. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals, as well as in Best Poem Anthologies and other collections. She has won many prizes, grants, and fellowships at writers’ colonies.

She has taught literature and writing at Princeton University, Brooklyn College, Columbia University, and The College of New Jersey, where she was director of Writers Conferences for twenty-three years. She teaches classes in poetry writing and literature at the Princeton Y and other institutions.

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