Spells: New and Selected Poems

by Annie Finch

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ISBN-13: 9780819572691
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 04/02/2013
Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
Pages: 236
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

ANNIE FINCH is a professor of English and director of the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine. She is the author of five books of poetry, including Calendars.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

New Poems

These are the hours to revel in.


BLESSING ON THE POETS

Patient earth-digger, impatient fire-maker,
Hungry word-taker and roving sound-lover,
Sharer and saver, muser and acher,
You who are open to hide or uncover,
Time-keeper and -hater, wake-sleeper, sleep-waker;
May language?s language, the silence that lies Under each word, move you over and over,
Turning you, wondering, back to surprise.


HOMEBIRTH

Home is a birthplace since you came to me,
pouring yourself down through me like a soul,
calling the cosmos imperiously into me so it could reach to unroll out from the womb where the wild rushes start in a quick, steady heartbeat not from my own heart.
This is my body, which you made to break,
which gave you to make you, till you bear its mark,
which held you till you found your body to take,
(open at home on my bed in the dark).


ABORTION SPELL

Let?s keep the world through its own balanced kiss,
the kiss come from women made of our own blood,
the holder, the cooler (redeeming the earth,
shaping the room where we give you your birth).
Hands born of woman will not stop this flood,
this generous, selfish, long-opening gift.


YOUR LAND

As I went walking in the land of our heart,
I found the animals crying.
Their mouths and warm bodies were sudden and slow And they moved slow and hard to the edge of the woods.
Their legs and their heartbeats and skins were dying.
They curled up like snails at the end of the world.

This land is your land, this land is my land.

As I went out walking, the trees became bark.
They turned in their power and knowledge and pain.
Their arms grew wide open, their lives fell apart.
I heard them in peace and I heard them in horror,
And each leaf or hand was the eye of a world.

This land is your land, this land is my land.

As I went walking by the side of the sea,
I found the waves understanding.
They rolled out of silence and into the mist,
And into the light where it seemed they were pouring.
They roiled with pollution and anger and love,
And the currents of freedom kept rolling.

This land is your land, this land is my land.


STONE AND CLOTH AND PAPER

At every gust the dead leaves fall
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ?The Rainy Day?


Two close centuries of stone and cloth and paper chalked your cheeks and carved your hands to broken.
You are not a monument any more, now —
more like a forest

moving shadows under simple trees, dark rivulets mottling snow fading in this warm gray winter,
melting the centuries you didn?t know, Henry Longfellow —
wait — I can hear you —

a low and earnest voice, wind in fir trees, burning through this room, where you wrote your saddest poem,
through this house, where the farm and family built you.
Your sister Ann?s portrait

stumbles, eyes black as night behind a candle.
The marble urn in your red brick yard has fallen,
knocked down in the emptiness of the fountain.
Cries of the seagulls

reach through walls to find you again, pour down the carrying knowledge that grew your branching gardens —
and tell me which old words, which new wings, will carry you from this courtyard.


THE NAMING

Lopez, Jurgens, Lozowsky, O?Connor, Lomax
(Shoes, and spirals, dust, and the falling flowers)
Díaz, Dingle, Galletti, DiPasquale,
Katsimatides

Wounds widen the remembering earth.
Closed eyes see beyond the flames.
Grief opens hands to feel the wind.
Heart beats like ocean and hears the names:

DiStefano, Eisenberg, Chung, Green, Dolan,
(Women running suddenly in their high heels)
Penny, York, Duarte, Elferis, Sliwak,
Yamamadala,

Closed eyes see beyond the flames.
Grief opens hands to feel the wind.
Heart beats like ocean and hears the names.
Wounds widen the remembering earth:

Weinstein, Villanueva, West, Sadaque,
(Spirals, dust and spiraling dust and hours)
Bowman, Burns, Kawauchi, Buchanan, Reilly,
Reese, Ognibene,

Grief opens hands to feel the wind.
Heart beats like ocean and hears the names.
Wounds widen the remembering earth.
Closed eyes see beyond the flames.
Kushitani, Ueltzhoffer, Wong, Ferrugio,
(Breathed in only in or beyond the naming),
Inghilterra, Tzemis, Liangthanasam,
Coladonato —
Heart beats like ocean and hears the names.
Wounds widen the remembering earth.
Closed eyes see beyond the flames.
Grief opens hands to feel the wind.

Sanchez, Talbot, Afflito, Siskopoulos
(Every question with a long sob of naming)
Tarantino, Zempoaltecatl, Thorpe, Koo,
Stergiopoulos,
Zion, Zinzi, Song, Shahid, Santiago,
Ortiz, Pabon, Ou, O?Neill, Newton-Carter,
Miller, Mohammed,
Zakhary, Campbell,
Deming, DiFranco,
Chowdhury, Blackwell,
Zucker, McDowell,
Goldstein, Basmajian ...

Wounds widen the remembering earth.
Closed eyes see beyond the flames.
Grief opens hands to feel the wind.
Heart beats like ocean and hears the names.


FROST?S GRAVE

I think of your quiet grave now and again When innocence has rolled me out of sleep Close to my husband?s side, to lean again Against his breathing human side, to keep Myself breathed in his liquid human breath.
I think of your nurturing grave so often. Death Has made you a place I like to imagine going:
Opening the gate to your grave, entering in,
Reaping your silence where a small tree, growing Generous in the forgiveness of your sin,
Leans over your stone, the grass, your bones, the grass,
The grass. The grass. I like to imagine frost there, hung Like frost on a beach in November, when the sun Rises on winter, just as it rose on spring,
On the humid decision to grow, past everything.


TAROT: THE MAGICIAN CARD

Rain wets the wand, wind moves a sword,
lightning lights crystal where the thundering cup forms me a channel and takes on a word,
pouring the pentacle I gather up.
Time carves the storm in the palm of my hand,
till it fills with shapes that send me down through my river-body. Do I stand at a table the waiting planet surrounds?
Through my own fingers, eyes, and palm,
and through other worlds, huge or small,
one fury spins and turns me calm;
I breathe and watch it land and fall,
holding what I hardly know or see,
filled with the storm that makes, makes me.


KEYS

Phi Beta Kappa poem, Yale University, 2011

Like an island, a key makes a door. In the surge Of its mineral clarity, seas come unbound.

Though an arch curves together, the keystone will stay Braced in gravity, locked by immensity, wound To a temple in air by the spiraling play That could tumble much heavier forces. What?s found Past the musical notes that cascade and converge In a key, past the tock the tick carries away When it?s wound by a key? There are patterns that merge

Meanings, silent until we code them open,
Clued to us by the random knowing tribes:
Carvings, letters, hands, faces, symbols, stars.
Each warm friction?s vibration circumscribes One more seat in the clearing where we are Gathered, circling a home we can?t describe.
What?s the word but a word that can?t be spoken?
Who?d tear pleasure out past life?s iron bars?
Where?s the use of a code that won?t be broken?

A ring of keys hangs like a question at your side.
You move through the answering darkness like a key,
While windows of moonlight branch down the catacombs And rustle each prisoner into mystery.
Each lock, like each room, is alone till the opening comes;
Your ring reaches one, then another. Liberty Repeats down the corridor, doors pulled open wide,
Exploding more showers of sweetness through the combs Whose locks had been waiting for one key to be tried.


BEACH OF EDGES

A drift of snow edges a new drift of sand As edges grow deeper. It?s March, month of edges.
Wet rocks yield to pebbles like opening hands.

The glisten of rockweed trails, splutters, and bends,
And sparkles of rivulets bounce down in ledges.
A drift of snow edges a new drift of sand;

It?s March, month of edges, and I?m left to stand Alone outside time as new light pulls and nudges Wet rocks. Yield to pebbles like opening hands,

Light; pull me from winter. How have I planned For light that?s not winter, for live light that fledges A drift of snow, edges a new drift of sand

Beyond my last sight, and waves me like a wand Out back over the surges of these rocking sedges?
Wet rocks yield to pebbles like opening hands;

I want to go back to him, as to the land;
light, carry me over from the wild old grudges.
A drift of snow edges a new drift of sand;
Wet rocks yield to pebbles like opening hands.


EARTH DAY

All we want is to find the love in the faces of the people we love.
All we need is to find the dark in the nighttime sky, to lie down to sleep in the darkness, where stars and moon keep vigil,
in the silence of a sleeping earth.
All we require is to wake to sunlight in the morning, to simple sky,
to breathe aloud as the sky is breathing,
to drink the water of the earth.

All we need is to touch the planet and find it clean where we were born,
where our ancestors breathed and planted,
where we live with the plants and birds.

All we need is to live with the memory of a future we want to imagine.
All we want is to find the love in the face of the planet we love.


REVELRY

Chairs root. Their trunks are runged with snow.
Curtains grow velvet thick, like bark,
in this warm landscape ringed with dark.
Is passion only revelry?

Voices believe words and move free.
Lust moves our lips. Blood fills our skin.
We bend alive around cup and cloud.
These are the hours to revel in.


ARCHITECTURE

Proportion is life measured open by harmony.
It vaults us to open like atriums, entering our pillared awareness in footsteps, then building our spaces with conscious decision. Its mystery makes earth that our forest looks back for. Its beauty has felt us repeating, then come to repeat us.
Its answers have carved us like mineral and bent us in spirals. Its questions have rocked us past symmetry.
And, if we have voices that build to a word and breathe out through poems, it comes to enclose us by seeding the places we know we inhabit — (make local, remember, name, touch and are stirred in, share with those who understand, love, or oppose us
(because they live here, in the place we inhabit,
and believe what we have grown wise believing:
that belief, like love, rests on no foundation but the shapes we know how to make by knowing how they enclose us)) —
how they unfold us.

CHAPTER 2

Poems, 2000–1990

Point your fire like a flower.


WATCHING THE WHALE

A hard gray wave, her fin, walks out on the water that thickens to open and then parts open, around her.

Measured by her delved water, I follow her fill into and out of green light in the depth she has spun

through the twenty-six fathoms of her silent orison,
then sink with her till she rises, lulled with the krill.

Beads of salt spray stop me, like metal crying.
Her cupped face breathes its spouts, like a jewel-wet prong.

In a cormorant?s barnacle path, I trail her, spun down through my life in the making of her difference,

fixing my mouth, with the offerings of silence,
on her dark whale-road where all green partings run,

where ocean?s hidden bodies twist fathoms around her,
making her green-fed hunger grow fertile as water.


PARAVALEDELLENTINE: A PARADELLE

For Glen

Come to me with your warning sounds of the tender seas.
Come to me with your warning sounds of the tender seas.
Move me the way the seas? warm sea will spend me.
Move me the way the seas? warm sea will; spend me.
Move your sea-warm come to me; will with me; spend tender sounds, warning me the way of the seas, the seas.

Tongues sharp as two wind-whipped trees will question.
Tongues sharp as two wind-whipped trees will question.
(Skin or nerve waiting and heart will answer.
Skin or nerve waiting and heart will answer).
Question will answer two tongues and, or will:
heart sharp as nerve trees; waiting, skin-whipped wind.

Brim your simple hand over where the skin is.
Brim your simple hand over where the skin is.
Wish again, whenever hair and breath come closer.
Wish again, whenever hair and breath come closer.
Closer, again, whenever; brim where your skin is;
hair, wish and breath over the simple hand, come.

Spend come warning me, whenever simple sounds will, will;
move your question. Answer your heart-sharp tender sea-warm will with me. Way of the seas, the seas!
Where skin-whipped nerve trees wind over waiting tongues,
brim closer to me. Again the skin, as wish,
and two of the breath, hand and hair, or come, is.


WILD YEASTS

For Marta

Rumbling a way up my dough?s heavy throat to its head,
seeping the trailed, airborne daughters down into the core,
bubbles go rioting through my long-kneaded new bread;
softly, now, breath of the wildest yeast starts to roar.
My hands work that peaked foam, push insides out into the light,
edge shining new sinews back under the generous arch that time?s final sigh will conclude. (Dry time will stretch tight whistling stops of quick heat through my long-darkened starch.)

How could I send quiet through this resonant, strange, vaulting roof murmuring, sounding with spores and the long-simple air,
and the bright free road moving? I sing as I terrace a loaf out of the hands it has filled like a long-answered prayer.
Now the worshipping savage cathedral our mouths make will lace death and its food, in the moment that refracts this place.


EARTH GODDESS AND SKY GOD

You haven?t formed me. I?m a monster still.
Then give me your body. Give it to me in rain.
Look up and fill me. I am too dark to stain.
You haven?t held me. I hold apart my will
Spread dryness through me. I have a night to fill
in high heat-speckled waves, apart from where
I will come down. I have nothing to share
with breath. I will give it back. There is one to kill,
one to renew, and one to persuade to weep.
My night holds everything except for sleep.


CONVERSATION

Edward Weston?s ?Squash,? 1936

?Delve for me, delve down, delve past your body, crowned by its hidden stem, like a shadowy alarm;
see how you vanish past our dark-shed charm,
throat over throat, ankle to ankle, bound in our different arches, summer-nicked and browned interlocking rings in the chain of wrist and arm.?

?Lie for me, lie. I want to feel you turn.
Mark out the summer?s bending month and learn to cradle the concrete ground till it softens. Stay.
Measure me past my stem. Though your shadows churn,
close yourself over. Encompass me like clay.?


CALENDARS

A poem in chants for four voices:

Demeter

Chorus
Persephone

Hades In the winding of the vine our voices stretch from us and twine —

No, going into the waiting places is not easy. Flowers fade there.

around the year?s fermented wine —

Mostly, it?s surrender of wanting,
or the fear that a flame will be dampened —
or that everything warm will come rushing over me with reproach — or that endless

needles could be ranged in the tunnel —
or that my bare feet would be slippery —

Yellow. Fall roars down to the ground,
loud, in the leafy sun that pours liquid through doors.
Yellow, the leaves go down


or that once I?m down in that darkness someone outside will block off the entrance —

Touches of gold stipple the branches,
promising weeks of time —

Thread with Me

My lover, when you riddle with me —

reddening slowly, then suddenly free,
turned like a key


Oh! the falling flowers have caught me by dipping yellow, purple towards the hunger —

— the hard, the intricate dark
(I hear the notes of your words ring for me cool as the birds,

my lover —

through the long year?s fermenting wine


her thin stems turning, held to be — lost —

my lover, when you thread with me

Now you are uncurled and cover our eyes with the edge of winter sky,
leaning over us in icy stars

through this night-shot


night-shot dark

is never easy.

Flowers fade here.
Voices pull me on through the cavern from the new season. Her voice old, silent —

our hands, our breasts,
our curves curl through our hands and ravel


On damp limestone, a violet curling —

my lover, when you riddle with me the hard, the intricate dark.

Rack me with courage, spring,
come kill me, flowers;

if we are shadows,
come;


make me our shadows

as I reach for flowers.


OVER DARK ARCHES

Naked and thin and wet, as if with rain,
bursting I come out of somewhere, bursting again.
And like a great building that breathes under sunlight over dark arches, your body is there,

And my milk moves under your tongue —

where currents from earth linger under cool stone rising to me and my mouth makes a circle over your silence

You reach through your mouth to find me —

Bursting out of your body that held me for years,
as the rain wets the earth with its bodies —

And my thoughts are milk to feed you

till we turn and are empty,

till we turn and are full.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Spells"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Annie Finch.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
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.

Table of Contents

Preface
NEW POEMS
A Blessing on the Poets
Homebirth
Abortion Spell
Your Land
Stone and Cloth and Paper
The Naming
Frost’s Grave
Tarot: The Magician Card
Keys
Beach of Edges
Earth Day
Revelry
Architecture
POEMS, 2000–1990
Watching the Whale
Paravaledellentine: A Paradelle
Wild Yeasts
Earth Goddess and Sky God • Conversation
Calendars
Over Dark Arches
A Carol for Carolyn
Chain of Women
Ghazal for a Poetess
Meeting Mammoth Cave, Eight Months Pregnant
Butterfly Lullaby
Intimations of Pregnancy
Walk with Me
Two Bodies
Final Autumn
Elegy for My Father
Poems for the Wheel of the Year
Samhain
Winter Solstice Chant • Imbolc Dance
A Seed for Spring Equinox
A Wreath for Beltane
Summer Solstice Chant
Lammas
A Mabon Crown
Letter for Emily Dickinson
A Dance for the Inland Sea
Iowa Barn
Bluet
Landing Under Water, I See Roots
Changing Woman
Spider Woman
The Furious Sun in Her Mane • Aphrodite
Eve
Inanna • Coatlique
Nut
Brigid
Rhiannon
Running in Church
Blood Charm: From the Menstrual Hut
Encounter
Gulf War and Child: A Curse
Being a Constellation
My Raptor
The Wish for Eyes
The Last Mermother
Tribute
The Intellect of Woman
Moon
POEMS, 1989–1980
Courtship • Zaraf’s Star
Goddess
Pearl
Interpenetrate
Strangers
Insect
The Grim Garden
Inside the Violet
Blue Willow
Speak Softly
The Door
No Snake
A Small Sound in the Dark Woods • From the Lost Poems
Such Husks
Now in November
Song of the Sorry Side
Awful Friend
Nightmare
Resolution
Another Pregnant Woman Remembers Incest
Tongue of Language
Dusk
Lesson from a Rock
Reconciliation Bread • Night Rain
Fawns
An Imaginary Companion
The Ages’ Years: A Dialogue
Harvest Seam
Sundown
Shallow Sky
Childless
Wrist-Bracelet
Wine-Glass Woman
Lady Bug
A Wreath of Time
She That
From The Encyclopedia of Scotland
Invocation
One, from “Rockwood” • The Body of the Thing, from “Feeding the Admiral’s Pussycat”
POEMS, 1979–1970
The August Porch
Spells
A Dusk Song
In Cities, Be Alert
List • Still Life
Coy Mistress
When Daphne Ran
Lucid Waking
Sapphics for Patience
Another Reluctance • A Way to See
First Poem
Caribou Kitchen
PERFORMANCE WORKS, 1983–2010 • “Creation Story,” excerpted and adapted from Sheba in Eden
From The Mermaid Tragedy
From Marina Tsvetaeva: A Captive Spirit
From Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams
From Wolf Song • TRANSLATIONS, 1978–2010
The Seafarer
Louise Labé
Sonnet 2 [Handsome Brown Eyes]
Sonnet 5 [Bright Venus]
Sonnet 13 [The Ivy and the Tree]
Sonnet 4 [The Point of Death]
Sonnet 16 [Impotence]
Sonnet 18 [Kiss Me Again]
Sonnet 19 [A Meeting with Diana]
Sonnet 21 [Love Forces My Judgment] • Sonnet 23 [The Tangle]
Anna Akhmatova
The White Bird
Cleopatra
Lot’s Wife • Andrée Chedid
Thirst
In Praise of Emptiness
A Fragment of Sappho
Acknowledgments

What People are Saying About This

Ron Silliman

“Annie Finch is an American original, a master of control who shows no fear of excess, and none of quietness either. With a perfect-pitch ear for the American tongue, she is a formalist as much in the tradition of Robert Duncan and Bernadette Mayer as of Hart Crane and John Berryman. The directness and simplicity of her poems are deceptive –they have depths and delights that appear to go on forever. We haven't had a poet so capable of combining control and excess since the young Robert Duncan.”

Charles Altieri

“Annie Finch understands better than any contemporary I know what poetry feels like and sounds like when it is completely at home in its traditions. . . . She is a major poet, one of very few who understand how lyric lives in part because it can speak for something larger than the ego.”

Carolyn Kizer

“Whenever I get discouraged about some trends in contemporary poetry I think of Annie Finch, a shining light, and I feel better.”

From the Publisher

"An exuberant exposition of Annie Finch's accomplishment as a poet of craft, humor, myth, intimacy and of the natural world."—Marilyn Hacker, chancellor, Academy of American Poets

"Annie Finch understands better than any contemporary I know what poetry feels like and sounds like when it is completely at home in its traditions. . . . She is a major poet, one of very few who understand how lyric lives in part because it can speak for something larger than the ego."—Charles Altieri, University of California, Berkeley

"Annie Finch is an American original, a master of control who shows no fear of excess, and none of quietness either. With a perfect-pitch ear for the American tongue, she is a formalist as much in the tradition of Robert Duncan and Bernadette Mayer as of Hart Crane and John Berryman. The directness and simplicity of her poems are deceptive –they have depths and delights that appear to go on forever. We haven't had a poet so capable of combining control and excess since the young Robert Duncan."—Ron Silliman

"Whenever I get discouraged about some trends in contemporary poetry I think of Annie Finch, a shining light, and I feel better."—Carolyn Kizer

Marilyn Hacker

“An exuberant exposition of Annie Finch’s accomplishment as a poet of craft, humor, myth, intimacy and of the natural world.”

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