Odes of Opposition
I. Ode of Opposition to Sylvia Plath’s Poem: “You’re”
I’m (Lisa Opposes Sylvia)
Anti-mime, grouchiest off my feet,
Hands away from planets, but sun-skinned,
Beaked as the birds. The fool-hardy
Flick-off toward a cuckoo’s break.
Unwound around myself as the thread,
Avoiding my light, like rodents avoid.
Chatty like a jack-o-lantern up til Christ-
Mas since All Saint’s Day,
Ah wide-spreader, your bloated dough.
Specific like hail but hidden from as secrets.
Closer than the Outback Steakhouse.
Smooth-stomached Eve, her homebodied worm.
Sprawled like the blossom but not far
As the bear outside the jelly belly.
The cuff for pufferfish, no slack.
Squat like Arborio rice.
Wrong, as the poorly-begun difference.
The scratched vinyl, without our mask off.
He’s (Nancy Opposes Sylvia)
Sticklike, speediest on his feet,
Hands on the ball, and sun-beaned,
Filled with a wish. His magic-touch
Palm raised in a beggar’s bowl.
Unspun round himself like a top,
Following his light as fireflies will.
Chattery as a magpie on the court
From dawn to every wisdom’s night.
O low-faller, her reedy lope.
Precise as a scar yet overlooked like rain.
Closer still than the heartbeat’s pulse.
Straight-front Adonis, her homeboy spawn.
Restless as a wasp and far-off, at sea
Like a gull on a brining tug.
A water jar of lotus, no waveforms.
Focused as a Buddhist monk.
Left, like a less-charged pole.
One smudged note and his ghost-trace, gone.
II. Ode of Opposition to William Carlos Williams’s Poem:
“The Widow’s Lament in Springtime”
Mount St. Helens, May 18, 1980 (Nancy Opposes William)
Happiness was your rented field
when the old earth
ashed as it hadn’t ashed
a few times after and also
without the hot airs
that opened inside you that day.
You died by your wife.
The tree plum was black yesterday
with scatterings of buds.
Scatterings of buds
fell down the plum trunk
and erased every sapling
red but no yellow
and the joy of your soul
was weaker than each
as if each wasn’t your sorrow
lately, yesterday you ignored one
so headed toward remembering.
Tomorrow your daughter will write you
how beyond the forests,
by the center of the thinning hedge
close to home, she smelled
marshes of black sludge.
You didn’t think you’d ever hate
to leave here
or rise above these dregs
or lift above the scorch, far-flung all.
A Bride’s Hymn After Autumn (Lisa Opposes William)
Joy was our shared home.
How the old woods
have rained though they rain
little since and still
without a hot shower.
What opened inside us that day?
One part of a day
you separated from your wife.
The brambles will be black tomorrow
without a single fruit.
A single fruit
bears a pear stem
but dulls no tree
to brown, none to green
and comfort from your hands
isn’t weaker than it
except that it is our grief
hence, tomorrow we will ignore it
yet stand close remembering.
Tomorrow our daughter will ask us
about a forest
surrounded by a thin meadow
nearby where she hears
birds with black feathers.
You think of yourself, would hate
to come here
or lift up this fruit
or rise up from a plowed field far away.
Nancy Flynn hails from the coal country of northeastern Pennsylvania and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Her writing has received the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and an Oregon Literary Fellowship; her second poetry chapbook, Eternity a Coal’s Throw, will be published in 2012. More about her writing and publications is at her website.
Lisa McCool-Grime loves Sappho, wallflower women, and collaborations. Her wallflower women are or soon will be in DIAGRAM, Splinter Generation, Verse Wisconsin and elsewhere. Her collaborations can be found at elimae, PANK, and Poemeleon. Tupelo Press awarded one of her poems first place in their “Fragments of Sappho” contest.
About their on-going “Odes of Opposition” series, Nancy and Lisa write: “We wanted to copy the hand of the masters, those poetic stars fixed into the contemporary discourse. We wanted to thumb our noses at them, oppose them word-for-word charting our own course. We wanted to read critically. And write creatively. All at once. Again, then again.
“Our oppositions to Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were published in the collaborative issue of Poemeleon, Winter/Spring 2010. Our oppositions to Langston Hughes and Gertrude Stein appeared in PANK’s Queer Two issue, November 2011.”