Memory, history, folklore, and the labor that makes a life all shape my writing. Of all these, memory and the aspiration to musical language most shape the poems in Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone, while memory and labor most shape the poems in The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home.
Listen to Janice read "If She Had Lived" from Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone:
She stoops, this should-have-retired
aide, in her polished and re-polished
shoes and white uniform, lifting
this fetaled shape, the body
of a wordless man who only groans,
his eyes startled into clear ice.
His blue-milk skin, blue-veined
and blue-bruised, eases against her chest.
His brow leans into her shoulder. His lips
press her uniform’s rough pleats and leave
damp wings traced in spittle above her breast,
though she does not notice and, straining,
bears the weight as the years have taught,
her knees bent, back levered into straightness,
breathing in, breathing out, muscles tight.
She lowers him as you would lower an over-
filled basin, settling its shallow wash gently,
leaving even the refracted light undisturbed.
from The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home
SHAKING THE GRASS
Evening, and all my ghosts come back to me
like red banty hens to catalpa limbs
and chicken-wired hutches, clucking, clucking,
and falling, at last, into their head-under-wing sleep.
I think about the field of grass I lay in once,
between Omaha and Lincoln. It was summer, I think.
The air smelled green, and wands of windy green, a-sway,
a-sway, swayed over me. I lay on green sod
like a prairie snake letting the sun warm me.
What does a girl think about alone
in a field of grass, beneath a sky as bright
as an Easter dress, beneath a green wind?
Maybe I have not shaken the grass.
All is vanity.
Maybe I never rose from that green field.
All is vanity.
Maybe I did no more than swallow deep, deep breaths
and spill them out into story: all is vanity.
Maybe I listened to the wind sighing and shivered,
spinning, awhirl amidst the bluestem
and green lashes: O my beloved! O my beloved!
I lay in a field of grass once, and then went on.
Even the hollow that my body made is gone.
from Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone