POETRY MONDAY: April 6, 2013


Lisken Van Pelt Dus

Our poet this month is both multi-talented and rich in background and experience. A teacher and martial artist (yes, that’s right; she teaches classical Okinawan karate and kobudo (weapons) at a martial arts studio of which she and her husband Bob are co-owners). Her more conventional job is as a teacher of writing and languages at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. I seem to recall that she is also a fine musician.

Raised internationally, in England, the U.S. and Mexico, she arrived in the Berkshires from London to attend Williams College, where she earned a B.A. in religion. Subsequently, she completed a Master’s in Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Her poetry can be found in journals such as Conduit, South Carolina Review  quartsiluni and upstreet and has earned awards and honors from The Comstock  Review, The Atlanta Review, and Cider Press Review. In 2009 Pudding House Press published her chapbook, Everywhere at Once. 

Here, then, on what we hope will be another glorious spring morning in our embattled Northeast, are three poems by Lisken Van Pelt Dus.


There is much to do.  But first, this.

Slip a wedge into time, any wall
in the hallways you shuffle through.
Smash hard with a mallet, drive
the wedge into whatever fine-veined
crack you can find, watch for the first
crystals to explode.  Splay time open
until it slows, like a river reaching
an oxbow, widening as far as you allow.

Now, stay there.  Do nothing.

In Afghanistan, it is dusk.  In Australia,
it is night.  Right now, insects
are scavenging.  Right now, blood
is pumping in and out of my heart,
and yours.  Right now, my beloved
is writing something that needs to be
written, while yellow leaves fall past
the window.  Your beloved calls to you.

Now this, even harder.

Walk back out, bringing the ease
with you.  Bells will blare, phones
ring, alarms alert – bring silence
with you.  Begin to do what you have
to do.  Answer your beloved.
Meet your deadlines.  Ride time
like the deck of a rolling ship,
like a leaf meandering down.



The next day, her fur coat would be back
on its hanger in the deeps of her closet

and it would smell of smoke, repellent
and alluring, like the fur itself I buried my nose in

and rubbed my cheek against, right way
soft and just the wrong way, sharp.

There’s no smoke when I go to parties now
and who would have thought that this

is what grown-up parties are really like –
talk around dollars or children’s triumphs,

and sore feet, wine cups that empty faster
than you intended, so much other than intended.

My mother organized our days, our dinner,
supervised the laying out of silver, a balanced

entrée always followed by dessert, the smells
of peaches, chocolate, almonds and perfume.

I’d fetch her slippers for her, later,
from her closet.  Her fur coat hung heavy,

holding its shape, a cipher.



Jellyfish, the slap of their spectral tentacles,
their circle closing.

And my sister no longer there to save me.

Heights, sometimes, a fear that developed later.
Paralysis.  Blindness.

Fire.  The loss of my possessions,
which I care about too much.

I fear how my heart
counts on being aflame.

I am younger than everyone –

when you die, oh my loves, any one of you,
I am afraid I will not be able to stop crying,
as sometimes happens in dreams.

What will I do when there is no waking?

I fear the loss of touch.  I’ll clutch
at the wheel, turn too hard.


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