In honor of National Poetry Month, The Thread is celebrating Poetry Fridays. Each Friday in April, we will publish a selection of poetry from local independent publishing houses Graywolf Press, Milkweed Editions and Coffee House Press.
Today's selections come from Bao Phi, Susan Stewart and Kathy Fagan.
Not a SilverfishA large centipede was in my tub for days.
It looked like a prehistoric zipper made of needles.
A firecracker with too many fuses.
I skipped taking a shower for far too long—
an unspoken compromise—hoping
it would disappear on its own,
preferring to be dirty over drowning my fear.
Eventually I trapped it in a container,
took it outside while it scrambled
like an explosion of exclamation points
in the foggy plastic,
and let it go.
These centipedes are often mistaken for silverfish—
they actually make dinner of them
and other more damaging pests.
I know what it's like to be mistaken for something else,
to feel that the first reaction when a new set of eyes encounters your body
is to want to smash you.
To wonder what in history made a caterpillar a caterpillar,
a ladybug a ladybug.
To know what it's like to be invisible until revealed to be ugly,
alien thing, hairy wiggle
whose body tells the only story
anyone is willing to hear.
When it shook free of my trap,
its head made of stepladders,
its body a spasm of a hundred loose threads of fate,
it didn't make a sound but I swear
I could hear it scream that it wanted
to travel to prehistory
and rewrite the many veins of possibility
that would shape how it would be seen
so that the present could be a place
where it could be
understood for what
The KnotThe problem was how to begin with the end
and then it turned out there were two ends:
the end within the continuing
that, continuing, enveloped
the end. You passed yourself
coming and going, went through
one loop, then another,
what was behind drawn
through at a
before you, sprung.
Tangle like a bramble,
like a rose. Start,
start again against
could give up
on patience, but you
were born among
the dull and
kind, who wait
for Spring, and
PerpendicularIt would have been a fine path for a lizard to cross
but I saw none. Brambles and sweetbriar grew
on the town side, poppies and wild grasses on the river.
Too hot for birds, the ducks were out, in water and mud,
and frogs were out, by the hundreds it seemed, saying,
Way, Way, in their deepest voices. It was beautiful there
but I'd seen beauty and its opposite so often
that when warmth broke over my skin I remembered winter,
the way fresh grief undoes you the moment you're fully awake.
I asked my young friend, when she turned two,
what she would serve at her birthday party and she said,
Tofu and cupcakes. When she was three and I was very sad
she called and said, What are you doing? Picking flowers?
She talked in poems like she was dreaming all the time
or very old or Virginia Woolf. More often in the "first" world
one wakes from not to the nightmare. When I dreamed I lost
my love I willed myself awake because I would not
survive the pain again, even dreaming. Which is responsible
for that mercy, Doktor, the conscious or the un–? I want
the poppies picked and I want the poppies left where they grow.
Like looking through the window of a moving train
at someone walking up a road lined with poplars
and being someone walking up a road lined with poplars.
The train and the trees, a shower of petals and bees,
sun on the glass and the train perpendicular to the road.
Things entirely themselves arriving in the deep
double shadows of the grass and passersby.