On the Ground


A spiritually resonant and politically urgent new collection by the winner of the Lenore Marshall poetry prize

My father was a soldier

who was smaller than my son

when he returned as a ghost.

I begged him to stay with us

but he said: "Not until you come to life."

-from "[Untitled]"

Fanny Howe's bold new ...

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A spiritually resonant and politically urgent new collection by the winner of the Lenore Marshall poetry prize

My father was a soldier

who was smaller than my son

when he returned as a ghost.

I begged him to stay with us

but he said: "Not until you come to life."

-from "[Untitled]"

Fanny Howe's bold new collection responds to the contrast between American imperialist goals and the realities of life lived "on the ground." While our minds are preoccupied with the war games on television, we go on living among our ordinary joys and appetites. How can we live under these dissonant conditions and reconcile our existence with our longings?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fanny Howe employs a sometimes fierce, always passionate, spareness in her lifelong parsing of the exchange between matter and spirit. Her work displays as well a political urgency, that is to say, a profound concern for social justice and for the soundness and fate of the polis, the 'city on a hill.' Writes Emerson, 'The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.' Here's the luminous and incontrovertible proof." —Michael Palmer
Publishers Weekly
Simultaneously tender, political, lyrical and global in scope, this set of short sequences from Howe (One Crossed Out) has at its core the belief that love plays a redemptive role at all scales of interaction, giving intense force to grapplings with intimacy: "I think proximity is the abyss/ between God and us because// every fabric of my body is trying/ to know why saying// I love you / in a time of extremity is a necessity." Howe buttresses details drawn from individual lives with explorations of good and evil not as justifications for action, but as things to know and act from: "I am no one./ I know hell and have hope." Though elsewhere Howe has reinvented Catholic imagery fascinatingly, her direct engagements of it here can be flat: "Satan announces himself without sense/ I am pro-life, I kill from a distance." "The Dragon of History" is similarly brittle, as are some of the explicit references to September 11, the Iraq War and the second intifada. But such facts on the ground carry an anger that in turn carries these poems throughout-"Not even a postage stamp/ and not the spit for it"-revealing connections between small and large, here and elsewhere, where "Time covered sky/ over multiple eyes." (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555974039
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2004
  • Pages: 72
  • Sales rank: 1,143,430
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Fanny Howe is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose, including Gone, Selected Poems, One Crossed Out, and a collection of essays, The Wedding Dress.

She lives in New England.

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Table of Contents

Far and near 3
The World Bank 4
Forged 12
9/11 23
2002 24
The long wrong 28
The dragon of history 30
On the ground 33
Medjugorje 39
Kneeling bus 43
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First Chapter

On the Ground

By Fanny Howe

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2004 Fanny Howe
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-55597-403-1

Chapter One

ON THE GROUND Satan fell behind, it was a taxi's shadow where Man put his foot on the sidewalk

His mouth covered mine and he was gone

Italo once said a kiss on the mouth is a sign of betrayal and pointed at Judas in the painting

(his muscular hand, his brush)

There was an ache in the canvas he had speared himself

That was the day when rain fell until twelve outside the studio and twelve months before that shadow

Not a rink but ashed-over ice Rain on a windshield, a green light

Apartments made of dirt, neon hangers outlined in the cleaner's window

I think proximity is the abyss between God and us because

every fabric of my body is trying to know why saying

I love you in a time of extremity is a necessity

Dreams before waking are eyes into the future where there is no Zurich but an alphabet

beginning with Z so go away before I ask to know

what you mean about wanting to go

Terrified of being the first? of being dirt?

Of being ambushed or embossed? Personally I want to batter my way out of this cage of psychology

and get to the longing I really know about

Morning dusk-his figure furry

Threads of gray hair

and outside, a world without a leader Oil and land mines

lonely words scurrying to work

If the dark bricks hide criminal life so does each body

dedicated to maintaining power by suppressing its delights

Inside this egg the walls are lacquered blue

Creamy tones of windowsill and slat. Dawn from hell on up

I hear a rooster deny, deny, deny or is it Man

Lies smell in every detail as the light increases in this shell

Maybe the end of the world happened long ago A whirl as quick as Judas breaking his neck and every sound is an echo

Poor love in the order of existence

subsists on passivity inside this skin where pain has cut a pattern

and a red heart's a little devil speared by its own hand

and brain of this stranger- is it mine or its own-and its skeleton?

Can I toss them aside like an armful of sticks and set out as a feeling to find Hana and Issa across the night

Happiness has become unbearable so don't stay with me

Ilona said this from the hall

Doors are here for both ways of walking

The split bed and bodies facing where two unanimities make a positive zero

She was hoping to die into Hans so I left her house

I thought I was happy and said to my friend

It's because we are together

The blushing hills were rusty its nerves as icy as his sleeves

Doll's hair, snow like artificial Elimination of detail, a day to be grateful

He had broken parole

with speed-thinning strides a horse passed by without a saddle

A body never forgets The lens is turned on its own tremendum

Only blocks away-tubes, needles, straps at the physician's prison

No sign of reflection, just blood and bone trying to incorporate meds into atoms

When the body escapes without identification this is its identification:

Chunks of moonstone smoothing a curb Honey night snow in the city

She swept up my hair from the linoleum floor and shook out the sheet

A rouge along the shades and drinks to be drunk

In transit, in transit, in stations and camps

little white spots wobbled from wall to phone

Star-lashes batted

-it was truck lights exiting the pike and other war zones

Farther wars report on us:

an arsenal of artworks and theories that contribute to the power of the military

"Beware of the fruits of your labor!"

My father was a soldier who was smaller than my son

when he returned as a ghost.

I begged him to stay with us but he said: "Not until you come to life."


Excerpted from On the Ground by Fanny Howe Copyright © 2004 by Fanny Howe. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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