Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poetry by Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly, an OA contributor, reads at The Oxford American magazine's 10th anniversary Southern Music Issue release party at Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Miss.

In my opinion, Beth Ann Fennelly who teaches at Ole Miss — along with her husband, novelist, short story writer, Tom Franklin — is the best US poet of this decade. Her poem, The Kudzu Chronicles, is the best contemporary Southern poem (and I have read a lot of them) out there.

First Warm Day in a College Town

Today is the day the first bare-chested
runners appear, coursing down College Hill
as I drive to campus to teach, hard

not to stare because it’s only February 15,
and though I now live in the South,
I spent my girlhood in frigid Illinois

hunting Easter eggs in snow,
or trick-or-treating in the snow,
an umbrella protecting my cardboard wings,

so now it’s hard not to see these taut colts
as my reward, these yearlings testing the pasture,
hard as they come toward my Nissan

not to turn my head as they pound past,
hard not to angle the mirror
to watch them cruise down my shoulder,

too hard, really, when I await them like crocuses,
search for their shadows
as others do the grounghog’s, and suddenly

here they are, the boys without shirts,
how fleet of foot, how cute their buns, I have made it
again, it is spring.

Hard to recall just now
that these are the torsos of my students,
or my past or future students, who every year

grow one year younger, get one year fewer
of my funny jokes and hip references
to Fletch and Nirvana, which means

some year if they catch me admiring
the hair downing their chests, centering
between their goalposts of hipbones,

then going undercover beneath their shorts,
the thin red or blue nylon shorts, the fabric
of flapping American flags or the rigid sails of boats —

some year, if they catch me admiring, they won’t
grin grins that make me, busted,
grin back — hard to know a spring will come

when I’ll have to train my eyes
on the dash, the fuel gauge nearing empty,
hard to think of that spring, that

distant spring, that very very very
(please God) distant

This poem opens her 2008 book of poems:


No comments: