K. E. Allen

Within the landscapes of this poem, I recognized what had been my own life.  I saw the petty and paltry possibilities of what I could well become if I did not accept the fierce and demanding call of the imagination, if I did not cultivate a real life, if I did not take responsibility for its shape, its definition, regardless of obstacle or outcome.  It was 1977.  There were no empowering communities of dissent in the small Catholic college I attended.  And for a long time, years, really, I wandered woodenly through the motions of an inauthentic life.  Didn't read.  Didn't write.  Or think.  But Rich's vision, her language, stayed with me, fomenting.  "Strip Mine" sprang from seeds planted decades ago.  As I worked with shaping form and content, a cumbersome clay in its early stages, I returned often to "Snapshots", to "Diving into the Wreck", and her timeless essay, "When We Dead Awaken".  I still do.

* * *

Woman In A Boat

by K. E. Allen
Splashes of light
illumine the sunken wall
of a closed-down seaside motel.
Shore lights, tinted red, flash
through rents in the window shades,
brushing faded yellow bedsheets.

The light turns, to orbit around
a woman stepping into a boat.
Knowledge is faith, says Augustine.

All the light sinks. Starfish are eating it.
They fan their arms like wings, their mouths,
barbed and fish-bright. They suck the light

with salt-sharp tongues; they are silver kites.
The woman swing the oar. It is not the light,
star-eaten, whirling, that helps her see.

Shoal water, mudcommon, circles
the shrinking rope of starfish,
their phosphorescence pearling off

the rock she rows toward, then away from.
Belief is perception, argues the woman.
She rows against the inward tide

of the black shoals. Nodding,
the woman in the boat
hums a little nothing, a song.


* * *

From Woman in a Boat selected by Robert Creeley for the PSA National Chapbook Fellowship competition. All Rights Reserved.





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