Poetry

Poetry Sunday:
Three poems from ‘Blood Dazzler’ by Patricia Smith

5 P.M., Thursday, August 25, 2005

The National Hurricane Center upgrades tropical storm Katrina
to Hurricane Katrina.

My eye takes in so much—
what it craves, what I never hoped to see.
It doesn’t care about pain, is eons away
from the ego’s thump, doesn’t hesitate
to scan the stark, adjust for distance,
unravel the world for no reason at all, except that it

hungers.

It needs to croon in every screeching hue,
strives to know waltz, hesitation,
small changes in sun. It spots
weeping, then wants to see its sound. It spies
pattern and restlessly hunts the solid drum.

The eye

pushes my rumbling bulk forward,
urges me to see
what it sees.

 

Siblings

Hurricanes, 2005

Arlene learned to dance backwards in heels that were too high.
Bret prayed for a shaggy mustache made of mud and hair.
Cindy just couldn’t keep her windy legs together.
Dennis never learned to swim.
Emily whispered her gusts into a thousand skins.
Franklin, farsighted and anxious, bumbled villages.
Gert spat her matronly name against a city’s flat face.
Harvey hurled a wailing child high.
Irene, the baby girl, threw pounding tantrums.
José liked the whip sound of slapping.
Lee just craved the whip.
Maria’s thunder skirts flew high when she danced.
Nate was mannered and practical. He stormed precisely.
Ophelia nibbled weirdly on the tips of depressions.
Philippe slept too late, flailing on a wronged ocean.
Rita was a vicious flirt. She woke Philippe with rumors.
Stan was born business, a gobbler of steel.
Tammy crooned country, getting the words all wrong.
Vince died before anyone could remember his name.
Wilma opened her maw wide, flashing rot.

None of them talked about Katrina.
She was their odd sister,
the blood dazzler.

 

Katrina

Weather is nothing until it reaches skin,
freezes dust, spits its little swords.
Kept to oceans, feeding only on salted water,
I was a rudderless woman in full tantrum,
throwing my body against worlds I wanted.
I never saw harm in lending that aches.
All I ever wanted to be
was a wet, gorgeous mistake,
a reason to crave shelter.

 

 

“5 P.M., Thursday, August 25, 2005,” “Siblings,” and “Katrina” are used by permission from Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press 2008). Copyright 2008 by Patricia Smith. You can order Blood Dazzler here. Book cover photo: Hurricane Katrina, NASA.

Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art; winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and 2018 NAACP Image Award; and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah is winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, Blood Dazzler is a National Book Award finalist, and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow is a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, and Life According to Motown; the children’s book Janna and the Kings; and the history book Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House, Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, and Best American Mystery Stories. She coedited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir. Patricia is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as an instructor at the annual VONA residency and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program. [Source: www.wordwoman.ws/about] Visit her website here.

 

Listen to the poet read “34” from Blood Dazzler here. Read an interview with the author and poet Kaveh Akbar in which they discuss Blood Dazzler here.

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