History of Hurricanes: Poems

History of Hurricanes: Poems

by Teresa Cader
History of Hurricanes: Poems

History of Hurricanes: Poems

by Teresa Cader


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In her third collection of poems, Teresa Cader spins a complete universe of lyrical, probing verse that reaches out to readers and invites them to come inside. These poems deal with love and loss in particularly striking ways, as Cader uses rigorously controlled verse to express chaotic emotion. Stylistically adventurous, her work moves gracefully from intricate, slant-rhymed couplets to elliptical, lanky free verse. Geographically, she takes readers on a ride with stops in Kraków’s rock clubs, colonial New England’s sites, and shrines of contemporary Japan. The shadow of death, especially the loss of Cader’s mother, falls across many of her poems, but her verse reacts viscerally to such events, her emotion resounding out from each line to move through pain or desire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780810125766
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
Publication date: 02/17/2009
Edition description: 1
Pages: 72
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Teresa Cader is on the faculty of the MFA program in creative writing at Lesley University and has taught at Emerson college and M.I.T. Her work has appeared in publications including The Atlantic, Harvard Review, Slate, and TriQuarterly. She is the author of two poetry collections: Guests, which was awarded the Norma Faber First Book Award by the Poetry Society of America, and The Paper Wasp, also published by Northwestern. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2009 Teresa Cader
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8101-2575-9

Chapter One

    History of Hurricanes

    Because we cannot know—
    we plant crops, make love in the light of our not-knowing

    A Minuteman prods cows from the Green with his musket,
    his waxed paper windows snapping in the wind,
    stiletto stalks in the herb garden upright—Now
    blown sideways—Now weighted down in genuflection,
    not toward,

    And a frail man holding an Imari teacup paces at daybreak
    in his courtyard in Kyoto

    a cherry tree petaling the stones pink and slippery
    in the weeks he lay feverish

    waiting for word from the doctor, checking for signs—Now
    in the season of earthenware sturdiness and dependency
    it must begin, the season of his recovery

    * * *

    No whirling dervish on the radar, no radar, no brackets
    no voices warning—no Voice—fugue of trees, lightning
    Because we cannot know, we imagine
    What will happen to me without you?

    * * *

    I know some things I remember—
    the Delaware River two stories high inside the brick houses
    cars floating past Trenton like a regiment on display
    brown water climbing our basement stairs two at a time

    * * *

    Like months of remission—
    the eye shifts
    the waxed paper windows
    burst behind the flapping shutters—
    and how could he save his child after that calm,
    a man who'd never seen a roof sheared off ?

    * * *

    Across town the ninth graders in their cutoffs:
    Science sucks, they grouse. Stupid history of hurricanes.
    No one can remember one;
    velocity, storm surge—
    the earth churns as Isabel rips through Buzzard's Bay
    A hurricane, as one meaning has it:
    a large crowded assembly of fashionable people at a private house

    The river cannot remember its flooding—
    I worry you will forget to check
    the watermarks in time
    An echo of feet on stone is all the neighbors
    knew of their neighbor,
    a lover of cherry trees
    and of his wife who prayed for him at the shrine,
    her hair swept up in his favorite onyx comb


    Not to need a horse, or have to wait for a carriage,
    To slip away, jut away, pedal off

    On a whim or in a fury, without permission or charge,
    With nothing but wind and pebbles,

    Cumulus dust or a heckle of driven rain,
    In knickers or barn bibs—and one day, bloomers—

    Out of the sweltering clan, fetid farmhouse,
    Loose on a lane of poplars upright as gendarmes,

    Churning rutted roads speckled with poppies,
    Grazed by pheasant or hare,

    Into night, if need be, or dawn's lavender light
    Before anyone checks the beds,

    Out of the argument, or the sermon,
    To the spokes and wheels, the steering bar and column,

    The wooden seat searing the tailbone,
    The spinal S a serpentine lash

    In a field of raspberries unglimpsed from trains,
    Something idiosyncratic, shaped by will

    And fueled by muscle, a boneshaker
    Taking its rider away—there!—or anywhere.


    "Whither goes the soul when the body dies?" the Scholar asks the Master,
    and my daughter wanted to know how to send the goldfish bowl to heaven

    with the three goldfish we buried under the rose of Sharon. The Scholar
    sits cross-legged on the floor, waits with humility for a sign.

    My daughter listened to her friend's mother conduct a funeral for a mouse:
    "She was a hundred and three by human standards. She lived a good life."

    "What's a good life?" my daughter wanted to know, as we stood in line
    at Burger King. The Master replies, "There is no necessity for it

    to go anywhere." The Scholar sips plum blossom tea alone in his room.
    "For this, I have wasted my youth, abandoned my family," he writes

    in his book of questions. "For this my eyes have been blinded."
    "When I die me," my daughter announced at bedtime, "I want Babar

    to come, too. Why did the mouse have to die alone?" The Scholar waits
    for the Master by the door of the temple, but it is cold and raining

    and the Master is at home, old and coughing in his bed.
    "Whither shall I go now to search?" the Scholar asks the wet leaves.

    "Anywhere" they answer in delicate tones. "But there is no necessity
    to go anywhere." "Could we say a prayer for the mouse?" my daughter

    asked when I turned out her light. "Of course," I said: A mouse
    is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels
into sleep.


    I go nowhere on purpose; I happen by.
    I do not search for you; I watch.
    Why have you forgotten me?
    Why do the stone walls shudder as I approach?

    I do not search for you, I watch,
    Knowing I cannot will you to come.
    Why do the stone walls shudder? As I approach,
    Crocuses bluster into clumps of sod.

    Knowing I cannot will you to come,
    I observe ruts where I snowshoed in March.
    Crocuses bluster into clumps of sod:
    I don't reproach the spring for starting up again.

    The ruts where I snowshoed in March
    Remind me the sun will not wait.
    I don't reproach the spring for starting up again;
    I want to be done with winter.

    Remind me the sun won't wait—
    In the phlox and lichen in the stone walls.
    I want to be done with winter.
    The sealed spaces must be forced apart.

    In the phlox and lichen in the stone walls,
    Show me a rift, a place for summer blossoms.
    The sealed spaces must be forced apart
    So the wall can be repaired, rebalanced.

    Show me a rift, a place for summer blossoms
    After months of dead vines, crusted mud.
    The wall could be repaired, rebalanced
    In time to pick clean what has silenced me.

    After months of dead vines, crusted mud,
    You might find me interesting, might show yourself
    In time to pick clean what has silenced me.
    I watch a rotten leaf dried by the sun.

    You might find me interesting, might show yourself—
    I despise this waiting, this uncertainty.
    I watch a rotten leaf dried by the sun:
    I am this waiting and this watching.

    Why have you forgotten me?
    I go nowhere on purpose; I happen by.


    I like weeding the garden. I like rooting out the spoilers. I must be old.
    The symmetry of Asiatic lilies pleases me. Elephant Ears look sloppy.

    I like figuring out which friends are loyal and counting them on lists.
    I eat less for dinner. The beach holds fewer charms. I am afraid of sun.

    My children are young. Already I can't tolerate their music. They talk back
    in ways unheard of in my time. Will I sleep better in an empty nest

    and therefore be more civil? A double feature is impossible, a double bed
    too small. A double life seems less immoral than exhausting.

    I want intimacy and order and beauty. I require passion. Of course I am
    difficult to live with. Best to leave me alone and don't overwater.

    Maybe I am old but not wise. I am too attached to outcome.
    I planted the garden and the children, yes. I tend them like they're mine.

    Burying Ground

    An arrow marks the path past cars and barns
    on Massachusetts Avenue, a craggy cairn

    forgotten in the April din of Battle Green
    enactments, fife and drums of Revolution.

    Six years ago my daughter's third grade class
    sketched the trees, unearthed the stilted verse

    Abel Webster chiseled into slate, stone
    so old the lines are scored with lichen.

    The teacher organized a hunt: find a full
    moon near memento mori; a grinning skull;

    colonial tombs of Hancock, Parker, Bowman,
    and Clarke, Hastings, Diamond, Harrington,

    who gave our streets and schools their names;
    the grassy spot where eight Minutemen

    were buried April 19 (reburied in a mound
    on the Green, the first monument founded

    to common soldiers). Find the elegant tomb
    of Ebenezer Fisk, his prophecy of doom:

    Time was I stood as thou dost now
    And viewed ye dead as thou dost me
    Ere long you lie as low as I
    And others stand & gaze at thee.

    His portrait, carved precisely, shows a mass
    of squiggled curls, six buttons, and a haughty gaze.

    And Bithian Fisk, his plainly dressed dour wife
    (she's got no buttons), resigned to death:

    No house of pleasure here above ground
    Do I expect to have;
    My bed of rest for sleeping found,
    I've made the silent grave.

    Locate abstracted faces, almond lids
    like Picasso's, with rectangular lips,

    and angels with swooping arched wings,
    eyes closed or open—one cross-eyed—who ring

    the tombs of Cutler, Locke, Munroe, and Prentice,
    the cherubim of death, sweet and ghoulish.

    My daughter found the Childs monument,
    not discussed, not on the field trip hunt:

    Erected to the memory of 6 children
    of Mr. Abijah Childs & Mrs. Sarah his wife

    She copied the list of ages, not alphabetical,
    the dates, all in '78, not chronological:

    Sarah, August 28, Aged 8 months, 11 days
    Eunice, August 23, Aged 12 years, 3 months, 8 days
    Abijah, September 6, Aged 11 years, 37 days
    Abigail, August 29, Aged 7 years, 7 months, 11 days
    Benj~n, August 21, Aged 4 years, 9 months, 8 days
    Moses, August 19, Aged 3 years wanting 8 days

    She asked, "What does 'wanting 8 days mean'?"
    Eyes wide: "What happened to them?"

    War in Lexington. Fear. Near starvation.
    In eighteen days the deaths of six children.

    Disease. Epidemics. "Could be smallpox," I said.
    "Don't worry. It's been eradicated."

    She wasn't worried. Summer's rebound
    beckoned for another bike ride into town.

    But I went back to read the stones more closely.
    Thomas Locke, who died Suddenly:

    Watch ye therefore, for ye know not
    When ye master of ye houre cometh,

    of even, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing
    or in the morning.

    And noticed "Dead of the Pox" on tombs plain,
    or pessimistic, unlike faithful Mary Buckman's:

    Dear Friends for me pray do not weep
    I am not dead but here do sleep

    I skirted a windfall of downed trees—limbs,
    the only wood that didn't belong to the King,

    communal fuel for a fire at the Buckman Tavern
    between Sunday services, where people "put on

    the dog" in turns, hoisting the tavern mutt
    onto half-frozen foot and sodden boot

    to thaw them for the deep freeze afternoon
    in the unheated Congregational church on the Green,

    listening to Jonas Clarke foment revolution,
    equating common good and common men,

    while parents like the Childs shushed their brood
    in pews where dust motes clung to the wood.

    Summer without Summering

    Peculiar birdcall. Gray-haired man stops
    Daily to scan the sycamore. To listen.
    Some sort of fungus on the leaves.
    Huge squirrel nest in the crook.
    Let someone else name the call, the infestation.
    In the garden at the verdigris table,
    We eat grilled shrimp, swat late afternoon bees.
    An inlet of peace as twilight narrows its gaze.
    Faces soften in amber shadow.
    What I've wanted might be this.

    Damp mists blow inland, the evergreens
    In the yard still drip last night's rain. Thunder
    Lurks over the neighbor's roof. Wicker chair,
    Tea, a book. Upstairs, my child belts "Country
    Roads," her first mezzo solo. I listen
    On the porch, imagining a stage. There is hope
    In the world of ordinary change, the song
    Opening her throat like a hollow reed.

    On Long Beach Island mosquito sirens spiraled
    Around our ears in firelight, squads of June bugs
    Zapped our faces when the wind shifts broke
    Across the dunes. Blues ran in silver streaks.
    My father dug his heels into the shore, surf-fished
    Between riptide channels. Night swallowed
    Sight, moonless, cold. I sit in the hot tub tonight
    Watching stars cascade like fizzled fireworks.
    They were God to me on that deserted shore,
    A faint display of indifferent light.

    We had no pool to swim in, no cabin to rent, no walks
    In the forest of Cologne. Mushrooms were our habitat
    In Polish Pittsfield, fried straight from the woods, mixed
    With seasoned eggs. This summer I'm cooking soups,
    Fish in sauce. We grilled scrod on Martha's Vineyard
    The summer before my friend killed herself. It fell apart
    On the grate, a white hash. I love the riffs of oak leaves
    Tonight, wafting in and out of windows. I love the reprieve.

    Blue Table with Pomegranates

    In Siena in October, the terrace russet with sunset—
    I know how the cobalt blue deepens,
    The acrid skins
    Crater shadow and soft pulp;
    Flourishes yellow as squash burnishing the underbellies—

    You core the pomegranates with a paring knife.
    By a day, they yield oiled seeds and a scent
    Of lemon—

    I know how your hands smooth skin, stroke hair.
    That much I allow myself to imagine of your body
    Taken from me someday,
    And the table—

    Already spoken for by a young couple at the iron gate—
    Perfect except for some knife marks and stains.


    I, singularly moved
    To love the lovely that are not beloved,
    Of all the seasons, most
    Love Winter
    Coventry Patmore (1823–1895)

    The wind as source. Steroid shot in the cuff that won't
    rotate. Flip the turn signal? Lift the heavy green-

    rimmed plates from the second shelf? Rusty-hinged
    bone spur like a jagged root, the untrimmed sycamore

    limb that scrapes my window. The accident. Now, wind
    eighty miles an hour: the kitchen door's convulsing rip.

    Needle threading bone, subclavicle. So the arm can move
    upright. Knock on wood meant oak: hit most by lightning,

    oak harbored Zeus. In ancient Egypt sycamore trumped oak.
    Mine is shedding bark like a machine shredding fact.

    I salute them all: those who knock, shred,
    thread the needles, force that gusts through our homes,

    uproots our daily. The wind in which a scent of linden
    calls a reindeer herd across the tundra, thirty below,

    the human herd in tents, inventing the wind god. Let
    my house survive, my arm wave in the air like a wind sock.


    Ten Shopping Days Till ... Days devoted
    to Saturn
—"Were you here, I would confer with you,"

    Seneca the Younger wrote to his friend, "whether to eve
    in our usual way, or, to avoid singularity,

    both take a better supper and throw off the toga."
    Worshippers of the god of seed time had opted for skin.

    A festival of disorder: children headed the home, masters
    became slaves, and masquerades kept the darkest nights

    lit till dawn. The Lord of Misrule was crowned in my kitchen
    last year, enthroned on a stool beside the roast duck. Boar-

    bellied, red as a poinsettia, he ranted like an also-ran in a stump
    speech, finger waving like a teacher's blackboard pointer.

    Some year, I'll go to the woods, to a hut near a brook:
    moonlight on ice, storm clouds brokering calm absences.

    This year suddenly old, you lay your head on the table
    like a toddler past nap time. I was tired of shouting into

    your deaf ears. Around us, the fruit-stuffed Cornish hens,
    salmon mousse, chocolates. On your place card I saw: Dying.


Excerpted from HISTORY OF HURRICANES by TERESA CADER Copyright © 2009 by Teresa Cader. Excerpted by permission of NORTHWESTERN 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


History of Hurricanes
Burying Ground
Summer without Summering
Blue Table with Pomegranites


Petrified Light
The Raymond-Harrington House, 1872
Spoon, Fork, Plate
Kraków Blues
September 11
Slave Huts, Bonaire
Pure Music

First Laws
The New Creation
When Invisible Is an Invitation
Somewhere, a Nest
"Dwell Nowhere and Bring Forth the Mind"
A Bristle of Wings in the Ivy


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