Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Poet, Artist, Educator

                 

 

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In the Poet's Spotlight for October 2007:  Laura-Gray Street

Laura-Gray Street’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, Shenandoah, Meridian, Blackbird, From the Fishouse, Poetry Daily, ISLE, The Notre Dame Review, The Greensboro Review, The Yalobusha Review, and New Virginia Review.  Her poems have also been selected by George Garrett for Best New Poets 2005; nominated for three Pushcart Prizes; commissioned by the New York Festival of Song; and included in Pivot Points, an exhibition of poets and painters that traveled internationally and won the 2005 Award for Outstanding Exhibition and Catalogue of Contemporary Materials from the Southeastern College Art Association.

 

Street has been the recipient of a Poetry Fellowship from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Emerging Writer in Poetry Award for the Southern Women Writers Conference, the Dana Award in Poetry, The Greensboro Review’s Annual Literary Award in Poetry, and of fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Artist House at St. Mary's College in Maryland. She holds an MA from the University of Virginia and an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers.  She is an assistant professor of English at Randolph College (formerly Randolph-Macon Woman’s College) in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Index of Street's Poems: Scroll down or click on Poem Title

Poems of Laura-Gray Street (below)  © copyright Laura-Gray Street, All rights reserved.

CROW PSALMS

 

1.         Driving home—immobile clouds 

            bank above a roadside

            of scrub brush, fence post, red earth

 

            spinning fast. 

            Buzzards coast drafts—thugs

            that stroke such perfect turns— 

 

            and crows scaffold on barbed wire. 

            One crow won't budge from what's

            dead in the road . . .

 

            Not dead—held taut, clamped

            to the yellow line: a black snake,

           ditch-bound, its full length

 

            straining like a stalled engine

            to escape. Playing the accelerator

            against the clutch, I stay

 

            at a mesmerized idle

            in the middle of heat mirage

            and tar, all wheels still.

           

            And the crow: grim-beaked, wings spread,

            eyeing the car like a prospector

            gauging cost and profit

 

            —being, being fed—

            bets the odds

            on the course I'll take.

 

 

2.         The crow scatters

            birds from the feeder

            in a gust of chickadees, titmice,

            wrens, then flaps off black

            as a loose eyelash, raucous

            as grit, caa, caa outside

            the unwashed window.

            The weight of a lone

            crow on the power line,

            its cockeyed

            scrutiny, makes us

            speak, hard pleas

            for subsistence— 

                                        Deliver us

            from our own—                 

                                      Meanwhile

            October litters the yard.

            Apples slouch in frost that runs

            all scent to ground, the black walnut

aims its loaded weapons,

            acorns scree the hills

            from under us— 

                                       Safer

            to watch out a window,

            scribbling in clouds of breath

            while crows ransack

            the pecan tree—

 

 

3.         March and still the deadweight of winter

            muffles all with a heavy quilt. Broken snow. 

            Shrub-shaped mounds. Sparrows skirting the edges

            of footprints. Six white inches float us

            above a surface we know only to a shovel's depth

            in spring. 

                            There: fat finial of crow bunched

            on the heaven-most spike of pin oak. As I pass,

            changing angles, the white-gloved sky

            palms the vertical twig and it disappears,

            and the motionless crow

            levitates.

                           It's a trick

            of the eye, surely; crumbs thrown

to the hungry—but who cares

            while the crow,

                                      now tossing off

            like a top hat,

                                   now unsleeving an endless

            black scarf,

                               laughs into thin air.

 

 

published in The Greensboro Review



Back to Index   

INHABITING THE DAMP IMPERVIOUS

 

                 on raising the tank car from the James River

 

Out of the kayak, I sink to the ankles

in ooze. For a moment my feet

won’t budge. I have to think,

 

I’m not being swallowed. But I am

shackled. It’s not a bad place for it,

these clay banks with kingfishers

 

chattering, eastern sliders sunning

on tree snags. In fact, it could be nice

to root here by the river, linked

 

to cycles of day, season, year,

petrifying into scenery. Nothing

vocal or belligerent. Just weather

 

and chemical interaction.

The truth is, I’ve become fond

of the tank car in the river.

 

flood debris squatting offshore,

two decades safety hazard, eyesore,

railroad renegade. I can’t help seeing

 

a creature there, if only the creature

of industry. Maybe it’s the quaint

proclamation stenciled

 

on the barrel-chested drum:

“PURE SWEET MOLASSES.”

I have to admire the bravado,

 

this hollow gong, contents long

gone in a plume of drainage. Still,

what sweetness given to fish,

 

along with chemicals and petroleum

byproducts. At last, the necessary

offices and departments have conferred:

 

tomorrow the tank car will be salvaged.

The fish, nobody asked them.

We think fish have nothing to say

 

about projects or molasses, although

some trains can articulate, if by that we

mean bend. Is that what we are 

 

then? The species with the articulate

tongue? A limb freakishly double-jointed

in ways useless for catching flies or

 

finding our way or cleaning ourselves

or our young. But a taste for sweetness

is shared by many creatures, including

 

all hominids. A menagerie craving

that first sugary tear at the seams,

the tank giving out, then giving

 

way to nonnegotiable forces—

birth, berth, dearth, death, all

spurious fluids; now to be

 

cranked up by crane, wrenched

from river muck, come to an end

again. Steel intention reduced

 

to sluice—but surprisingly little

rust, you see, because molasses

is a chelating agent. Dearly

 

Beloved, only in viscosity

shall we comprehend what is

resurrected, what is preserved.

Back to Index

BEGGARS

 

are branches scraping an empty metal bowl

at dawn—

are urchin birds sifting through bark

and brush, asphalt and gravel—

are raggwool-skeined hills unraveling—

are dove purling from a basket-weave

of pine—

 

are starved—until one cardinal

wells like a needle prick in the pecan tree.

That morsel of color, a hint

of blood, makes me say the pecan husks

still on the tree are winter flowers,

and the cedar is not dying

but variegated—

 

to say my uncle twitching through frowns

and grimaces of drugged sleep

is an infant, and his fingers, playing

invisible keys, are not calculating

—banker, Baptist, payment

in hard, cold cash—but reliving

his photographs: 

 

hay field salted with frost; bluebirds

fresh-hatched and gaping; a box-turtle,

beaked in the satin red of a tomato—plush

as the inside of a coffin—

When are we not hungry?

 

To buzzards, the charitable road

gives dead possum for free—

raw wound scabbed in blood-black,

the ravenous birds now peeling off with

cleric’s rustle, hinge’s creak,

now settling in a tree, muttering cure curate

and eyeing me, the heresy who takes

but doesn’t eat. 

 

But you, my possum friend, what you see

is a mystery, and how it uses you

brilliantly. I steal back time

and again, fixing you

clearly, stain by stain, until your bones

are stripped of flesh and stench  

and dragged away—

I say nothing

nothing, nothing—    

until the chant repudiates, flies

in the face of nothing so nothing the very

 

gasp is something

sharp, insistent, cunning—

something that gives us this day—

beggertick, burdock, cocklebur—

barb and spine stitched into shanks,

shoe lining, socks—

kneeling here in these curious

whispering weeds—

what makes fast keeps feeding

hearing the buzzards curse—

 

O fanatic

may you blister—

Your shadow favors the inbred

emboldened worm,

the ingratiating fly,

and considers not

who cannot afford, unearned,

unearned ligament, tendon, intestine.

 

With our flight you purchased

meat that your eyes alone,

because they eat

dishonestly, steal outright.

We are stained by what we breathe

freely, but you,

by abstaining, contaminate.

 

Approximate, unclean

licker, finish and be off

that we may return

to the stench of friends

who feed us;

 

and after us, flies;

and after flies,

 

wind.

 

 

published in Blackbird

Back to Index  

ON THE LADDER

 

Bucket of apples: beads on an abacus:

counting on balance that’s delicate, visible—

 

If this ladder slips like a book you’d drop

nodding off, simply catch yourself and stay:

 

the way muttering clay fists on rotted walnuts

and rhizomes of iris, and the garden hose loops

 

a ledge in precarious script: the way the jarred

widow spider broods over geometry; see her

 

hourglass tip on the fencepost without spilling

one stitch: the way the mockingbird—still—

 

circumnavigates a crow past its nest tree.

But, gravity encourages us to fall down,

 

and even a buzzard staggers when it lands

on a dead branch that snaps and falls away

 

with a rattle, like the tool shed unlatched

to the dark of potting soil and mulch where,

 

early, a snake carcass raked from the eaves

uttered, out of its belly, the skeleton

 

of a bird. What you heard there

stays with you, weighs on you now

 

the way the ball of your left foot

relegates the sum of your whole life

 

to hollow aluminum. Still, there are 

apples to pick. The ladder sways

 

as you plant your right heel on a sigh

of a branch and step out, trusting

 

the durable bones; depending,

as we must, on the steady breath

 

of trees, on the innumerable

raw and rare materials that bear

 

our figures of speech.

 

published in ISLE

 

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Come back each month and discover the work of other poets to be featured in the "Poet's Spotlight."

 

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