Recalling Peter Pan On Derby Day
(for Judy Michaels)
The Fairy & Human Relations Congress will hold its annual meeting…the first weekend in May.
Wireless Flash (Weird News)
Do you believe in fairies,
smudged sparrow—will you hang on to toeholds
of light, those pinpoints darting
through the darkened hall?
These days you run through the green
mornings, each footfall a rebuttal
of cloud spots, liver spots, lung spots.
We missed War Emblem’s victory today.
Next year, we’ll get swept by the pound and gleam,
photo finishes and all the controversial dust.
We’re planning to wear gaudy hats
and let horses make divinest sense.
Last Derby Day, just before they were Off!
we explained the race to our Bengali waiter
as we watched it from the counter in that Manhattan bar.
You bet your peanuts on Keats, who faded early.
I put mine on the colt whose trainer saved his life
with a mixture of milk, turpentine and faith.
I don’t recall if he won or lost, but I’m shopping
for a comical hat, something bursting with spring
and belief, like the wires and pulleys I couldn’t see
when I was five—supports that kept the actors
flying out over the stage.
—after Rene Magritte’s “The Therapeutist”
Maybe he lost his body
and they healed him
with a cage.
Maybe his questions dissolved
Why is he called a survivor?
There is a brass drape
over the headless shoulder
and a bird who considers
entering its cage.
How peacefully the air
must flow through him.
He has opened the cage
and that fuzzy bird, his heart,
sits on the ledge looking in.
The head has sunk below
his shoulders, while on the far wall
a weapon oozes blood.
He has left a space
for the answers to our questions.
He has left a space
for the whispers of children,
for belief in humanity,
for our chance to take a stand.
The hand rests calmly
on its walking stick.
The children still have questions.
Where do their gazes go?
Why doesn’t he have a body?
How can he smell the air?
Today, in my sweeping, my Swiffer pulled out,
From behind the kitchen cabinet, a desiccated
Eggplant, shrunken and flattened down.
With the sunken stem curled in its center,
It suggested a plum on a Japanese scroll,
But I knew it was an eggplant
And I gave praise to the eggplant for keeping
Its form, even as it shriveled to this light
Porous thing—a dried vegetal discus
That I could flick across the floor.
Obeying laws of collapse there in the dark,
It had released no swarm of fruit flies,
No scent of rot or mold, into my unwitting air.
Secret nightshade, sucking in its cheeks,
Drawing the luscious skin down, emptying
Cells in slow abandon—it had kept itself
For me to discover, to pick up and test
The exquisite husk. It had transformed
Silently, and without obvious flourish,
Until I poked around and found the beauty of it.
Terry Blackhawk is author of two chapbooks and 3 full-length poetry collections — Body & Field (MSU Press), Escape Artist (BkMk Press), selected by Molly Peacock for the John Ciardi Prize, and The Dropped Hand from Marick Press. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Marlboro Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Florida Review and Nimrod, with reviews of her books in Calyx, Poet Lore, ForeWord and elsewhere. She received the Foley Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prize nominations and was a finalist for two Marlboro Prizes, the Paumanok Award and the Glasgow Prize, among others. She has received a 3-year artist-in-residence grant from Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and a Teacher-Scholar Sabbatical Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. A former teacher with Detroit Public Schools and a proud alumna of Antioch College, Terry is the founding director of InsideOut Literary Arts Project , Detroit’s writers-in-schools program with service to over 3,000 students annually. She lives and writes not far from the river in Detroit, Michigan. Please visit here and here for interviews with Terry.