January 2024 Poetry Feature: Part I

New poems by ADRIENNE SU, ELEANOR STANFORD, KWAME OPOKU-DUKU, and WILLIAM FARGASON

Table of Contents:

  • Adrienne Su, “Solitude”
  • Eleanor Stanford, “Lover, before the pandemic”
  • Kwame Opoku-Duku, “Glory”
  • William Fargason, “Holy Saturday”

 

Solitude
By Adrienne Su

My body rebelled
against the amorphousness
of American

motherhood, which asked
me to be available
as if I were five

women: two grandmas,
a sister-in-law, an aunt,
and me, whoever

that was anymore
(amorphous from the Greek a,
without, morphè, shape).

Holding the baby
left me intoxicated,
keen to surrender,

the top of her head
so fragrant that I forgot
what I knew of form.

Metamorphosis
figured in my favorite
books, so why not me?

I had not been raped;
I had not had my tongue cut
or been locked away

from all but gold rain.
All things turned to mother love.
It was not the child

who invited harm —
I could not get enough of
the child. I wanted

what I’d been given,
even though, seen from outside,
I had become what

every woman
is expected to become.
Always being touched,

always creating,
I cherished being wanted
and necessary,

was glad to possess
a body that could nourish
more than its own mind.

Yet I couldn’t sleep
though I ached for sleep; something
in me had not dimmed

but been ignited,
a small flame in a temple
that would not burn down

although the village
wanted it gone, broken down
into tree and rock.

If I stayed awake,
I could have both spark and branch,
venture and shelter.

 

 

Lover, before the pandemic
By Eleanor Stanford

I bought a pair
of suede boots
on Rue St. Laurent.
I knelt supplicant
before you, begged you
to hit me harder
then smoked a joint
on your balcony, went over
fine points of Aristotle.
The cross on the mountain
rusted. You are
insane, you text now
from your country
that’s closed its borders
to my own. But lover,
I am the soldier
of nothing. Not blowjobs
or boutiques,
not bitterness
or social distancing.
Lover, I can recall
only two things I imparted
to my sixteen-year-old
this year: the meaning
of no atheists
in a foxhole, and that in sex
pleasing the woman
is what matters. Now
I lie down
in the cold rain and shiver,
wait for the chard to germinate
and the medical system
to collapse.

 

 

Glory
By Kwame Opoku-Duku

That summer, the sky seemed so endless. It
would open up and flood the roads at will.
There was such a gentle thunder.
We kissed under water like turtles.

I am always getting swept away by the current,
always trying to define love.
In Louisiana, my aunt helps my uncle load
his revolver in the morning, helps him put on his gun belt.

I’ve never felt something so strongly, and yet
been unsure about what that feeling really is—
like a child chasing a leaf blowing down the sidewalk
and suddenly turning to run toward sun,
to look up at the sky and see
the whole world, pink with warmth.

In shameful moments of rejection past
I sang short songs about longing—
“The moon was on the other side of the hill
when I needed her the most.”

I am always thinking of new things to tell you—
like, when I call you an oasis,
what I mean is that when I am not
with you, I dream of you, desire to put my lips to you
as if you are water,
as if you are the soft light flowing through the windows like love itself.

Here, Beloved, in the tender excess of our affection,
let us lie together like the animals we’ve always been.
Let us sleep in each other’s juices.
Let us bask in the symphony of each other’s musks.

 

 

Holy Saturday
By William Fargason

I woke up hungover in the dull light
that fell in lines across the sheets.

I didn’t even drink that much. I didn’t
kill myself last night, even though

I wanted to, even though the thought
came in strong and unannounced

like a breeze through a cracked door.
This morning, I walked into the living room,

where, above the sliding doors,
the long horizontal windows cast beams

of light across the floor. In the corners
of the frame, I saw a yellowjacket,

or maybe a hornet, struggling to get out
of a window it couldn’t open. The world

on the other side must have seemed
so close. When I got closer, it fell

to the floor, where I saw it was a bumblebee,
those heroes of the insect world, the kings

of pollination. I grabbed a plastic cup
and a paper towel, scooped him up

as gently as I could—like I was
an elevator the bee was stepping onto,

watching his small legs sense the plastic.
—I could do this one good thing today,

even if the bee didn’t know I was
saving him by containing him, even if

releasing him meant I would be
alone again in my apartment. I took him

outside, into the cold spring grass
and flowerbeds. I bent down among

the mulch. I aimed the rim of the cup
to the edge of a daffodil blooming

in the sun. The bee left the cup and went
straight into the bell of the flower,

covered himself in pollen. I left him
alone and went back inside, to my walls

and my lamps and my air-conditioned air
that came back to me, from the fan

that spun on the ceiling.

 

 

William Fargason is the author of Velvet (Northwestern University Press, 2024) and Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara (University of Iowa Press, 2020). His poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, New England Review, The Cincinnati Review, Narrative, and elsewhere. He has an MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland and a PhD in poetry from Florida State University. He lives with himself in College Park, Maryland.

Kwame Opoku-Duku’s writing appears in The Atlantic, The Nation, Poetry, BOMB, The Kenyon Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn, NY where he is an educator.

Eleanor Stanford is the author of three books of poems, The Imaginal Marriage, Bartram’s Garden and The Book of Sleep (all from Carnegie Mellon University Press). Her poems and essays have also appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, and many others. She was a Fulbright fellow to Brazil, where she researched and wrote about traditional midwifery. She is also the recipient of a 2019 NEA grant in poetry. She lives in the Philadelphia area. 

Adrienne Su’s fifth book of poems, Peach State (Pitt, 2021), was named a Book All Georgians Should Read and was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize. Her new poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bennington Review, Belfield Literary Review, Ergon, and The New Yorker. Su’s essay collection, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, is under contract for publication in 2024.

January 2024 Poetry Feature: Part I

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