POETRY MONDAY: January 2, 2017


Zara Raab

Happy New Year, everyone!  Well, it seems as if we’ve survived 2016  — and what a year it was.

Now, back to poetry, which is one of the things that helps us stay alive and human.

You must think so, too, or you wouldn’t be reading this page. Our poet today is someone whose sophisticated and mature work I had the pleasure of discovering only recently.  Zara Raab grew up in northern California, where her
grandparents’ grandparents settled in the 19th century.  Settled now in western Massachusetts, she works on-line in media communications and is putting together two new books, leading workshops in formal aspects of poetry and helping out at MassPoetry.

The author of two full-length collections, Swimming the Eel and Fracas and Asylum  (David Robert Books, 2011 and 2013), as well as two chapbooks, The Book of Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin or What’s in a Name?, a finalist for the Dana Award, Zara Raab has also published poems and book reviews in literary magazines such as West Branch, Crab Orchard Review and Arts and Letters. Here, for your introduction to the fine work of Zara Raab, are three poems from her latest book, Fracas and Asylum.

                                                  Irene Willis
                                                  Poetry Editor



They’re gods in heaven, our parents,
answering our homely whys,
shouldering a daily vigilance
on our behalf, making our very lives
a solid fact, binding the ties.
Even grown, some of us go “home”
in times of illness, impasse or crisis,
seeking asylum in the only town
where disaster when it visits
has a lighter air, raining down
on us as simple darkness, not sleet come
to ruin forever the grassy wickets.

We lend a hand or pull out a chair,
or simply don the crisp white linens
handed us, Debussy in the air,
the girls in moo-moo’s, the boys, brogans.
The streets run for miles in silky ribbons,
wine flavors even the gutters there.
No mayhem spins in curtained rooms
by the uncles’ spring tine harrows,
where mother’s asters bloom and bloom.
I’m on my way now to buy the banjo
sunning itself in the dime store window,
there where so little is ever wrong.

From Fracas & Asylum (David Robert Books, 2013)


Brown Bag

This morning I discover
forgotten in a corner––
the wad of stiff, brown paper
that once held the muffins.
Tiny poppy seeds spin
inside the scent of lemon.

I smooth it with my fingers,
rescore the fold marks with care,
and store it in the drawer
along with all the others,
a kind of nursing home for
birthday wrapping papers.

Folded and put away,
are dozens all the same
relieved of their emptiness.
In these iron-hearted times,
who won’t give them some new use
before the big, blue bin?

I’m all empathy now for
the worn and used, self-love
among my other groceries.
One paper bag, small, opaque.
I might not notice it
if I had no ache.

From Fracas & Asylum (David Robert Books, 2013)



Altostrati are turning to rain
where they meet the hills above Havey.
The sky chalks to milk against the green,
scrawling no lesson as drizzle begins.
May be there is no place for this verse
on my walk. May be the old forms choke
in the new, uncertain universe—
as God did under the microscope.
Yet meters make the leash that heels the thought,
the plump alibi or idea
that might otherwise go tottering off
as I aim skyward my umbrella.
How it shadows the other, this rhyme,
tagging along to the end of time.

From Fracas & Asylum (David Robert Books, 2013)



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