Feature > Poetry
Betty Adcock

Betty Adcock

Betty Adcock's sixth collection from LSU Press, Slantwise, appeared in March 2008. Her work has received the Poets' Prize, the North Carolina Medal for Literature, the Texas Institute of Letters Prize, two Pushcart Prizes and several fellowships including a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry. She lives in Raleigh, NC and teaches in the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program for Writers.

Trying To Say It Without Philosophy Or Grief

Even as we lived in certain rooms (lamp
on that table, the curtains' tassel-ties,
antique clock, framed Audubon)
things were shifting, taking place
in some sheerly other dimension

we couldn't know, our lives taken as if by a caravan
rocking at breakneck speed through landscapes sped
to all-and-nothing: falling trees become saplings newly
sprung through snow and butterflies; October's
brilliant leaves adrift over February's crocus—

and that caravan, is it gypsies, soothsayers, thieves?
wearing our own quick-change faces, driving
what unseen horses, harrows, houses?
as the lamp on this table flickers, and this
chair and this cup dim—

it isn't death I'm bringing up but another
derangement: something out of the Brothers Grimm
dislimning the known, the held world,
with abandon we don't see the way
we can't see the hour-hand in its creep.

Why is it, then, we never took photographs of rooms
we lived in, their tackle and trim, their blurring
breath; never captured the roses on the vase
by the stairs, the bed with its jigsaw quilt,
noon's slab of sunlight on a hand-hooked rug?—

though a corner of kitchen may show in a snapshot
of a birthday cake, or part of a sofa
with the baby on it, or a fireplace somebody's
leaning against—but no whole, no context full
of the matter we made our days among—

and even if we had those shadows, we'd nevertheless
have lost how it felt to turn at the banister, pass
the hall mirror, to walk through the air
of that doorway—
                 the caravan speeding away

with what memory can't hold
which is still, after all, everything
that already was not there even as we sat
together at dinner with everyone caught
in the bright flash, our glasses raised.

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