Poem 1

Four poems by Dianna Henning

POETRY NOW, Sacramento Poetry Center, June 4, 2012

Dianna Henning holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She taught creative writing for California Poets in the Schools, and through the William James Association’s Prison Arts Program. A long-time SPC member, Ms. Henning has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent book, The Broken Bone Tongue, which was published by Black Buzzard Press, (Austin, TX), was recently reviewed in Hawaii Pacific Review. Dianna’s work has appeared in: Crazyhorse, The Lullwater Review, PoetryInternational, Fugue, Swink, and many other journals. Her most recent work can be seen in Blue Fifth Review, Notebook Series;FutureCycle, on-line & print form.


One fish, the most beautiful
with mystery’s muted shades
of black and silver-gray,
skimmed the pond’s surface,
browsing algae on cement sides
or so it seemed—
I never looked to check
if the waterfalls still ran,
believing the fish ate,
not thirsted for air—then slowly,
so one could almost reach down
to pet it, it lolled sideways.
With fish net I tried to right it
as though righting this beauty
might give breath back to the world.
Above, the leaves stilled on pond
scrim, only the middle clear.
Then with my three inch fish
in net, my beauty, I stumbled
onto a nearby mole-hole
where the fish easily slid
into the darkness I swallowed.


The bronze-black smoke from burning tires
climbs a scaffolding of air to smudge what’s visible.

Our neighbor must think piled tires
are burn-barrels, never frets rubber might catch.

The trouble with living in the country
is neighbors aren’t hand-picked.

But I like it here better than anywhere;
the land as lumpy as grandfather.

Here, the little secrets of the wind
sweep through curtains into the room

to greet us. When I stand still enough,
my heart is god’s heart, and everything beats

as though the gods were visible
through the smoky silt of doubt.


There’s so little world where I am not.
Where I am not is nowhere visible.

There are elastic bands that hold together the earth,
only you can’t see them.

But I am not held together by rubber bands.
What holds me is what I hold.

Memory, you are an erratic bat.
Your once-upon-a-time embrace gone helter-skelter.

When clouds clotted the sky, I ironed them.
Not with steam but with the hot flat of my iron.

Voices from the past simmered: Your grandfather tracked
a bear for days. Ruby asked for it when she got pregnant.

Their voices like cumulus clouds,
something that rumbles into waking.

There are days I cannot remember and faces
that are places, but the voices remain intact.

I was once held by a voice. His arms were all-embracing.
Because of that I am now visible.


The boy skipping over rocks at Deer Creek
doesn’t intend a sousing,
a heavy swatch of sunlight
strapped to his back,
feet cumbersome in oversized sneakers.

His attention swaggers
from tree roots he ropes by on,
down to the water striders
he stoops to catch,
studies one in his palm
before washing it off.
As though roots were lathed slippery
by the boy’s dripping hand,
he loses grip, his body teetering
between composure and dread.

More shocked by my watching
than by his abrupt spill
into the creek, he pulls himself up,
his T-shirt and shorts
strangely molded to him.
He avoids my eye, acts as though
he intended this dunking,
dips into the water, splashes himself.

Aware how much a boy
measures strength by saving face,
I don’t offer him a hand.
He heads downstream,
his wet clumped shirt reminiscent
of roots that steadied him.


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