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Blood Lyrics

Blood Lyrics

by Katie Ford


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Praise for author Katie Ford:

"Katie Ford has emerged as one of the most recognizably thoughtful poets of her talented generation. Manifesting a rigorous aesthetic combining allusiveness with inwardness, her poems mark the multivalent ways by which the moral conscience registers dailiness with history (also myth) and how consciousness itself perceives the relationship of the small to the overwhelming, the weak to the deadly, the remote to the pressing moment, the insignificant to the topical." —David Rigsbee, The Cortland Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555976927
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication date: 10/21/2014
Pages: 80
Sales rank: 892,557
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Katie Ford is the author of two previous poetry collections, Colosseum and Deposition. She has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Larry Levis Reading Award. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and teaches at Franklin & Marshall College.

Read an Excerpt

Blood Lyrics


By Katie Ford


Copyright © 2014 Katie Ford
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55597-692-7



    A Spell

    Take my lights, take my most and only opal,
    take the thin call of bells I hear,
    just. Take that thin lead,
    wring out my water and drink
    the wrung remains, take all that is nimble
    and sun-up of day,
    break my window to steal my eyes,
    take their cotton, reap their fields;
    as for my industry, it is yours.
    I know in wishing not to bluff
    so lay me on a threshing floor
    and bleed me in the old, slow ways,
    but do not take my child.

    Of a Child Early Born

    For the child is born an unbreathing scripture
    and her broken authors wait
    on one gurney together.
    And what is prayer from a gurney
    but lantern-glow for God or demon
    to fly toward the lonely in this deathly hour,
    and since I cannot bear to wish on one
    but receive the other,
    I lie still, play dead, am delivered decree:
    our daughter weighs seven hundred dimes,
    paperclips, teaspoons of sugar,
    this child of grams
    for which the good nurse
    laid out her studies
    as a coin purse
    into which our tiny wealth clinked,
    our daughter spilling almost
    to the floor.
    You cannot serve God and wealth
    but I'll serve my wealth and live,
    yes, and be struck dead
    if lightning staggers down the hall of mothers—
    and it does,
     so walk low, mothers,
    fresh from your labors.


    Trivial the land, trivial the blue.
    And the sea, too:
    trivial the fight with the trivial.

    The garden plot wasted at the gate
    worked by scratch and spade, trivial—
    seed of spiked grass and leek,
    the finch roiled inside
    so trivial to me.

    Era, caves, cliff-side, creed,
    planked corners of the broken mind,
    trivial now where I am beside
    my only fact:

    the one I love is sick.
    There is no break
    but the one break.

    Children's Hospital

    Our sorrow had neither place nor carrier-away,
    and dared not hover over the child
    whose breath opened as transom
    of a frail house.
    Nor could we put sorrow in the dictionary,
    for ghastliness already shot out its own defining
    in rags of fired light.
    Pigeons would not sleek it
    over their dirty feathers, nor fly
    sorrow against the coop's sharp fence.
    Each day bridgeless, each night birdless,
    all the nocturnals huddled against
    the hidden weight of snow.
     But wake at the moon,
    we could, mumbling, are we
    in a horror show?
—inside of sleep
    our shock-white minds caught on reels
    where a child's body breaks the heart
    and the mother can't know
    if she counts as a mother. I don't know
    if the child heard
    what wept at the bedside,
    orderlies snapping smelling salts
    from chalky bullets against
    all the mothers falling,
    all the fathers under
    what each branch let down.
     The earth, so shaken,

    [O where has our meadow gone?
    that which swept us here?
    the orange cosmos and aster?
    the hollycock and pollen-fire?

     So I sing of hell
     and the brutal body.]

    Sleep and Her Ache

    Both flew brightly
    to my bed

    I nightmared
    far from her

    my body
    her empty tomb

    all the while
    the earth laid down
    its brutal head
    it would not lament

    it might be prudent
    if it could not detect me

    with the sound of sighs
    I slept lightly then


    Lead versus feathers, feathers
    versus months of thunderous metal,
    wherefore she hums,
    no measure of her ready
    but this measure, a humming, a tone
    as winter drags its torpored era here,
    steady as iron is unbending and bronzed,
    hindered badly she unhindered hums,
    so unworried her sounds
    through dangers hundreds and believable
    with feathers neither swift enough
    nor bird enough nor feather through
    and through. While winter
    rakes and stones,
    softly unbelievable she hums.

    Little Torch

    There should have been delight, delight
    and windchimes, delight.
    But she was clawing the beach
    after so much battering,
    a torch lit past the slim pine pitch
    and draw of resin she was dipped in
    at the beginning of the earth.

    They said life might flee—
    then tended the creature as if a torch,
    bundling reeds tightly as day torched
    toward them,
    soaking rags in lime and sulfur
    around barely lit bone.

    Such are the wonders I saw.

    Song of the Thimble

    Here is the whiskey taken down from my cupboard.
    It tastes of caramel and heat and miners and sea.
    Maybe a mother with love long on the brink
    will knock at my door to talk of tubes, taps, fusions,
    to say yes-mine-lived-yours-might-too.
    But there's no such knock tonight.

    I pour just a thimble
    (clean milk is due the nurse by dawn)
    and drink what will not grow thin.
    Again in my mind
    I pour it, I pour it, I drink.

    Upon Waking

    When I woke up sighing, perceiving myself in the freeze,
    perceiving my body in the terrifying orchard, sighing
    and contending, contending and appearing, disappearing
    into sighing, sighing of ornament and cargo, pulling
    down what was broken from twilight and broken
    from dawn, perceiving what in sleep only strengthened
    its contention, though I mistook night as healer, sleep as
    erasure, vespers as lumbering dissolution toward matins,
    matins a leaf made violet since it hangs askance
    grapes in sun, since I mistook the leaf for myself, correlating
    and equating, the determined danger given water
    and meat, when the mistake pulled down and I woke
    not arisen but sighing, sighing so the ornaments knew I
    was nothing to hang upon, no shuttle to loom by, when
    I could not make a word and the given words of each
    book failed me into sighing, it was then, to live, I had
    to say yes.

    The Soul

    It disappeared.
    It reappeared
    as chimney smoke
    burning through carcasses
    of swallows stilled,
    and that it portrayed no will
    was why I followed that smoke
    with this pair of eyes.

    It was that it didn't need
    or require
    my belief
    that I leant upon it
    as a tired worker
    a gate.

    Snow at Night

    I prefer it even to love,
    alone and without ghost
    it falls a hard weather,
    a withdrawing room
    that revives me to stolen daylight
    in which I feel no wish
    to brush a gleaming finish
    over the sheen-broken glass
    I've arranged and rearranged,
    an apprentice of mosaics
    who will not be taught but asks
    to be left alone with the brittle year
    so carnivorous of all I'd made.
    But the snow I love covers
    my beasts and seas,
    my ferns and spines
    worn through and through.
    I will change your life, it says,
    to which I say please.

    The Fire

    When a human is asked about a particular fire,
    she comes close:
    then it is too hot,
    so she turns her face—

    and that's when the forest of her bearable life appears,
    always on the other side of the fire. The fire
    she's been asked to tell the story of,
    she has to turn from it, so the story you hear
    is that of pines and twitching leaves
    and how her body is like neither—

    all the while there is a fire
    at her back
    which she feels in fine detail,
    as if the flame were a dremel
    and her back its etching glass.

    You will not know all about the fire
    simply because you asked.
    When she speaks of the forest
    this is what she is teaching you,

    you who thought you were her master.

    [Tell me it's April,
    tell me you live into a little girl,
    when I tip you back to lay you down
    your breath remains and keeps remaining,
    tell me the morning trucks delivered bread
    to the market while we were sleeping,
    that the newspaper is flung against our door,
    tell me it woke us, it is Sunday, all we have to do is
    reach outside, in it comes! and open it—]

    That It Is Even Possible to Stay Alive

    The massive inner life of ice
    descends over the violet newborn
    of this city. The open-mouthed statues
    of the winter fountain, the tourist horses
    stomping their hollow bones,
    the apple-skins and feathers.
    O see it try to break our world.

    But if a hundred years ago influenza
    almost took this city,
    if tags were tied to toes when patients
    were carried into the wards—
    if they said but I'm still living
    as the horrified doctors covered themselves away—

    then, my love, we should wake
    to each other and ransack
    this flushed skin of everything
    but praise.


    In that tight-sheltered ghost
    of quiet I keep,
    I count her more dearly
    than any genesis night
    when the first dark fell
    and the father reckoned up
    the world. How I count
    is day in and out
    and without end.
    I need no sabbath
    from the count
    seated in my closed, open,
    half-shut eyes.
    Strange we must be
    to the maker who made us
    less weary in love than he.

    Song after Sadness

    Despair is still servant
    to the violet and wild ongoings
    of bone. You, remember, are
    that which must be made
    servant only to salt, only
    to the watery acre that is the body
    of the beloved, only to the child
    now leaning forward into
    the exhibit of birches
    the forest has made of bronze light
    and snow. Even as the day kneels
    forward, the oceans and strung garnets, too,
    kneel, they all kneel,
    the city, the goat, the lime tree
    and mother, the fearful doctor,
    kneel. Don't say it's the beautiful
    I praise. I praise the human,
    gutted and rising.

    Blood Lyric

    I come to you without wound
    and in the strength of my life.
    Heaven cannot touch me; neither can the earth.
    In this clear field, the stripped birch does not represent me,
    thus I give back the respect I once stole.
    I give back its own life trying to break through
    the low canopy draped like an abandoned wedding tent.

    I am without wound, but this is a small slat
    I speak through and briefly.
    By the end of these words, strength
    might be gone, new pain come, old pains returned
    as elderly selves grown quiet
    with the knowledge of what did
    and did not happen.

    Long live such confidence as I have these five minutes now.
    Long live the primate's human eyes inside of the cage.
    Long live the surgeon steady enough
    to examine the bloody heart beating in his hands
    before the minutes are up
    and it must be put back


Excerpted from Blood Lyrics by Katie Ford. Copyright © 2014 Katie Ford. Excerpted by permission of GRAYWOLF 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


I run to the gates ..., 3,
I. Bloodline,
A Spell, 7,
Of a Child Early Born, 8,
Trivial, 9,
Children's Hospital, 10,
[O where has our meadow gone?], 11,
Sleep and Her Ache, 12,
Condition, 13,
Little Torch, 14,
Song of the Thimble, 15,
Upon Waking, 16,
The Soul, 17,
Snow at Night, 18,
The Fire, 19,
[Tell me it's April], 20,
That It Is Even Possible to Stay Alive, 21,
Mathematician, 22,
Song after Sadness, 23,
Blood Lyric, 24,
II. Our Long War,
To Read of Slaughter, 27,
The Throats of Guantánamo, 28,
[We're here because we're here], 29,
Song of the Damned, 30,
Our Long War, 31,
Still Life, 33,
Immigrant Hospital, 34,
Makeshift Hospital, 35,
Theory of War, 36,
The Lord Is a Man of War, 37,
[Here is the board, here the water], 38,
Far Desert Region, 39,
Remedies for Sorrow, 40,
November Philosophers, 41,
[Does the war want], 43,
Beasts of the Field, 44,
[Savage, Sinner, Scapegoat, Peacekeeper], 45,
Pistol, 46,
Little Belief, 47,
Shooting Gallery, 48,
Sighting, 49,
Little Goat, 50,
The Day-Shift Sleeps,, 51,
Foreign Song, 52,
[Tuesday wind brings a letter], 53,
Choir, 54,
[How can God bear it], 55,
The Four Burns of the Soul, 56,
Choose an Instrument, 57,
From the Nursery, 61,

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