ISSUE 15
February 2001

Jean Monahan

 

Jean Monahan is the author of three books of poetry: Hands (Anhinga Press, 1992), Believe It Or Not (Orchises Press, 1999), and Same Difference. She is in the process of completing a fourth collection, 18th Century Zebra. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts.
Fire    Click to hear in real audio


Fire is the hardest thing to learn. How
to make a tool of its wild red tongue.
Knowing what to burn. The need to build small:
a tent of twigs and air. Make a tripod and lean all
toward a common center, the smallest, most
fragile cathedral pitched on level ground.
Heat blooms from the core out, quickly consumes
what you feed it and wants more, not more but so much
more, bigger twigs and branches, bringing air
up to its face and conquering. You showed me
and I couldn't get it right. How the tiniest gesture
births a staggering bird, red-orange feathers
and eggs of ash. Again and again, these quick catchings
and snuffings out, these many small rehearsals
I can't seem to learn to bring to light.

 

 

Problem    Click to hear in real audio


A man takes a train from Durango to Yosemite,
traveling 185 miles an hour. On an island off Labrador,
a woman sets out, on bicycle and foot, a book
in her pack. He plans to sleep his entire journey;
she has packed binoculars, a journal, a sandwich.
They met, once; he has hung her face in the corridor
of his thoughts, a stolen painting he sometimes
visits. It's his book she carries. His signature
jumps where she made him laugh, and he asked her again
to spell her name, and she gave it. In his seat,
he twists his ring and watches a flutter
in passing, a grove of aspen in a mahogany
canyon. How many hours before each arrives?

 

 

Jean Monahan: Poetry
Copyright © 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 15The Cortland Review