Leslie Harrison

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Leslie Harrison

Ars poetica—ink

& the words clot in the ink swirl and congeal

& ink was made of damaged trees damaged ground

& I press the letters from my fingers into the ether

& ink is not the absence of light is all the light taken in

& held (prisoner)

& I write the word light with darkness

& the words stall they stick in my throat

& you know what I’m not saying

& the rain keeps falling this angry miracle

& the rain makes a rising tide inside the land

& our houses are short tethered

& the tide pulls the houses under

& every week we send ourselves to intersect in the pathless city

& guns take the people under

& the cicadas drown before they grow wings

& who will whisper to the sakura when the bees die who will sing

& they don’t come in pairs the one queen the thousand others

& so Noah failed to save the bees

& I don’t come in pairs

& so the bees saved themselves

& their hives were boats in the flood

& daily they performed rescue

& they grew sad at the funerals

& they missed their dead

& they missed their orchards their food their skies

& I know the feeling

& they hummed a dirge

& we considered the ruin of the land

& it became autumn for the bees

& the skies clouded over

& the rains came and came

& the bees fell like leaves like creatures shot from a blind

Leslie Harrison reads “Ars poetica—ink”


Shipwreck—what love is

Educated in a series of rectangles marked black

marked red I learned to love in a forest learned

to live I meant to say in a forest love was a thicket

was a city aggressive and lonely full of sharp hard

glass and things pounded flat and as we reached

the outskirts it was all ugly sprawl and strip malls

it was a desert of rectangles and when the train

had wailed on through had cleaved us had made us

cloven and over I learned to live inside the sturdy lives

of trees inside the irregular persistence of a forest

the persistence of its sheltered secret lake the lake

that disappears beneath nothing but itself every winter

Leslie Harrison reads “Shipwreck—what love is”


Leslie Harrison is the author of Reck (Akron, spring 2023), The Book of Endings (Akron 2017), a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry, and Displacement (Mariner, 2009), winner of the Bakeless Prize in poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She lives in Baltimore.