Some Poems

Some Poems

By Nancy Dunlop

                  Brutal Things Must Be Said  –James Baldwin


Some poems reside
in oven mitts, opening
the stove and reaching
for the pan with the leavened
bread flowing over its edges,
the mitts pull it out, piping
hot. A safe and soothing thing.
We are okay.

Some poems are like an arrow
in a bow, pulled taut, held
with great control, and then
released, the point
searing the air, straight
to the bull’s eye. Such poems
can be hard to watch without
flinching. You
avert your gaze before
the moment of puncture.

But what is the Poem to do? Not
hit its mark? Not speak?

Some poems wait
to be written on
the Reporter’s notepad, upon
arrival at the scene of
an accident. Yes,
it can be that acute
and chaotic and hard
to get the words to dribble
down the page, what with the
flashing lights, the mix
of bloodied coats, limbs
akimbo, sharp spikes of metal
and glinting glass. Just
getting through the barrier
of Yellow Tape surrounding
this type of poem can be

But some poems
demand that much of you.

Some poems are loaded
guns, standing
in the corner of a Lady’s
bedroom. You will look
away from these poems,
unless they are tucked
in an anthology, padded by other,
softer Literature. The Professor
turns to this Emily
of a poem, asks
the class, What
does the gun represent? The students
come up with flailing
answers, or they don’t. Every
semester is different. The bell
rings, and it’s on to Psych 101.

Some poems contain
a knife blade, a bottle, a needle, a taser.
some poems rush their sick children
to the ER. Again. Some poems
are raped and constantly
interrupted. With flashback. Flashback. Flashback.

Such poems make it minute
to minute, if
they are lucky. They do not
have the luxury
to protest a Pipeline a trillion
miles away. Or, for others,
a Pipeline is the only thing they have
in front of them, getting
closer, bulldozers trenching
through their land. Tell me,
what is coming through
your front door?

Poems are like people. Each one
has a story, a dark thing they

You’ll see these poems lying in Hospice beds
when the Chemo stops working.
They use walkers, because their limbs
are dying. They are propped up in institutions,
alone and waiting for some nurse,
to bring a meal, so they can say hello
to someone today. Some poems
have distended bellies and parasites
crawling on them. Some crouch
on sidewalks, covered in cardboard.
Some poems are soldiers
home from combat, never finding
their words, never trusting anything, anybody
ever again. Some poems have survived
concentration camps and are branded
into the skin.

Some poems are typed
on Brown paper, Black paper,
fearing for their safety. Some
poems love other poems,
but are told they shouldn’t.

Such poems expect silence when they appear. Or
brutality. Never sure
of which. They have always
known that they will be
pushed to the margins,
until they fall off the edge
of the page on which they cling.

Some poems are called Nigger,
Cunt, Pocahantas, Fag, Irrelevant,
Wrong, No room
at the Inn.

But some poems can be found
in oven mitts, reaching
into a stove, pulling out
the finished loaf. Your family’s
favorite. You sit around the table,
and break bread, newly
nourished. You bless the world
inside and out your kitchen window,
a hum and patter of words draped
on the counter behind you,
in the oven mitts still warm, still
holding the memory of the shiver
and pop of the yeast, the stretch and
rip of the leavening
that makes way for the release,
the Rising. The final fruition.


Nancy Dunlop is a poet and essayist who resides in Upstate New York, where she has taught at the University at Albany. A finalist in the AWP Intro Journal Awards, she has been published in print journals including The Little Magazine, Writing on the Edge, 13th Moon: A Feminist Literary Magazine, Works and Days and Nadir, as well as in online publications such as Swank Writing, RI\FT, alterra, Miss Stein’s Drawing Room and Truck. She has forthcoming work in Free State Review and the anthology, Emergence, published by Kind of a Hurricane Press. Her work has also been heard on NPR.

Photo credit: Guru Sno Studios via a Creative Commons license.

By | 2017-05-10T15:52:21+00:00 May 11th, 2017|Categories: Issue 24: 11 May 2017|Tags: , |Comments Off on Some Poems