ZOË RYDER WHITE
Zoë Ryder White's poems have appeared in Thrush, Hobart, Sixth Finch,
Threepenny Review, Crab Creek Review, and Subtropics, among others. Her
chapbook, HYPERSPACE, was the editors' choice pick for the Verse Tomaž
Šalamun Prize, and is forthcoming from Factory Hollow Press in 2021. She has
co-authored several chapbooks with Nicole Callihan. Their second collaboration,
Elsewhere, won the Sixth Finch chapbook contest (now available). A former public
elementary school teacher, she edits books for educators about the craft of teaching.
Morning Run (or, Passing Driver Yells "Whore!")
When the truck slams past, one man
hangs out his window to spit,
inexplicably, one word.
Men never use the word whore to mean
ignition, sundrunk opalescence/affection,
tomatoes unpicked & split by their own ability
to collect an afternoon.
I am not startled by the word, but his truck is gone
by the time I think to tell the man
I will accept it
the way one particle flies across a room
to grab another. First one, & then all
particles are flying: birds taking wing
from within the throw pillows, raising up
from the sofa, the packed-away coats.
Their clatter as they beat the air: magnificent.
Aimed inland: my swallowed finch.
It's a list of what I cannot touch:
The ferns below the porch on Grant Street, the shape
of the shadows of each old elm, gone these thirty years.
The station floor to sleep on at midnight in Warsaw,
holding whose hand. Spilled tobacco. Knocked-down beer.
A change of socks and underwear, back-pocketed.
The man who laughed with his whole body,
backing into the train as the doors slid shut.
Fires lit here and there along the pavers, a potato or two thrown in.
A stick to poke them deep into the embers.
The antler handle of the bakery on Van Brunt,
the palms that wore it smooth. The corner, the chain link,
the ocean liner sliding between avenues, foghorn
shaking forgotten teeth in forgotten heads--
the whole corpus trembling, in point of fact,
as the ship sheared the neighborhood.
The dried river. The sudden downpour. The sleeping-couch
on the yellow porch. The barrel of slip in the potter's basement.
The water basin, the basil, moon-cut in an outhouse door.
The brackish entryway, weed laying down around the low-tide rocks.
The courtyard rooster, the iron bed, turtledoves nesting
against the windowpane. The needle-kit,
sized to meet any sewing emergency,
buttons bright in their windowsill jar.
The ample spill of sunlight into so many rooms.
The hand of. The lower lip of. Kicked tree,
dropped blossoms, covered grass. Steel Bridge riveted,
bank to bank. The bookracks, the top button,
the next one down, one egg delivery at dawn and
six tall pots of potatoes to boil. The place in the poem
where the goat is lost or the old men step out of their bodies.
Goats' pupils shut like sliding doors in bright light.
How brash to step into their pen. How brash, to embrace
a stranger. How brash to catch a taxicab: by rushing unprotected
for the open street, tossing up an unprotected hand.
Letter Home from Halifax
For months, I have felt the edges of this land
to be an impervious, mossy lace. The brine
seeps in, the brine seeps out.
Outside town in ditches
and gullies, balsaminacae: jewelweed,
every touch-me-not flinging itself
across some distance.
I could say I walk through the center
of the patch, arms outstretched.
I could tell you I love the smell
of drying rockweed with a side
of beer, the tiny hovering flies.
Coins in the dryer sing
a scraping, metal song,
here as they do anywhere.
What I am trying for is synthesis:
a gathering, a lingering of selves
to walk through each other's centers
like a hot wind.
Here in Halifax, the wind is bitter
and the blossoms bright.
The people in me keep me
up late talking, sometimes
laughing, carrying on until
light's first silver blade
cuts across the harbor.
Ditch, July 8
This morning I accepted bird as momentary fact in my eye one moment and the next moment I did not accept it. It wasn't anywhere. The centerline used to persist. But when they dug up Plains Rd., it was over. New tar, and the sign says, "No Centerline." To date, I've told you more than you asked to know about the cat, the flora, the backhoe, the orchard. The child I was. That desire to name everything, I can only hope it had less to do with possession than it did with familiarity. Do you know what I mean? You tend to know what I mean. It's so loud here. The stones are; the dirt. The plants. Is it loud where you are living? I am dripping with air, like everyone. The thing about the bird I mentioned: not to say how a thing happened but how a thing felt. To feel how a thing was said. To feel a thing. To happen.
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