Cathexis Northwest Press
Across the Room; a finite number; Love Poem
By: Terri Hanauer
Across the Room
Lost in the snowstorm
your shadow is translucent
and I can hardly tell
if I ever loved you back.
The burning wood
drenches me in flames
and I die a little more everyday.
Windowpane melts: I squander my breaths for your kind words
that rarely come: I have never stood before you
and let your hand dissolve
into my chest.
Dreaming then was like watching you cross the road
and get into your car. you left behind
all your suitcases, bound with frayed cord
that cut into my skin when I lifted them over my head.
If you cannot be kind, gentlemen, then at least
be a tree.
“Murderer!” I shout. The neighbors
drop their coffee and donuts. They don’t know
I’m looking in the mirror.
And so it goes…
Now that it’s over, I circle back
and see the first moment
across the room
the dancers in between
the shine in your eyes flaring into mine—
I arch my back and fly into the sky
surprised at how much I knew
and I did it anyway.
The next time we meet, let’s pretend
that we were friends once, long ago
because the night is too cold
[Anna Akmatova, Vladimir Myakowsky, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Marina Tsvetaeva]
a finite number
there are only
so many tears
you have to shed
a finite number
they get parceled out
in thousands or thousands of thousands
for your dreams your hopes
your husband your wife
your cat your lover your friend
i pull the skin off the tangerine
and it sprays me in the eyes
sweet and stinging
my teacher said if you can kill a fly you can kill a man
you soak me like the rain
and make me walk in-between the drops
if i could lose you i would
how many tears would i shed for that?
my tears could fill up the fissures
if I had enough leftover
i’ll step into the sea
drink up the salty water
and drown, to be born again
maybe next time
they’ll give me less
I thought I was going to write a love poem.
We were in Paris on Thursday
when you died.
We flew out and buried you
under the huge Toronto sky.
I still tell the story
about the Beatles tickets—
you defied Daddy and went down
to stand in line at Maple Leaf Gardens
at four in the morning.
I tell everyone how Bob McAdory
from CHUM-FM called you a “special fan”
and gave you a rose
and we heard you on the radio that morning
and we screamed.
The last time I saw you
was like the time before
and the time before.
You didn’t know me
and you certainly weren’t you
some half-alive carcass
hooked up to a machine.
If I could’ve killed
your misery then, I would’ve.
You’re still alive
somewhere in me.
You sewed me dresses
of ruffles and pearls
planted lilies of the valley
up the path to our house.
You were cooking, always cooking
chicken soup cholopsas goulash blinzes
a bisl mel — how much? — enough
a bisl tsuker — how much? — a little
a bisl milkh — how much? — so it’s wet
Your thick fingers
pull thread through a needle
sewing your heart into pieces.
We walked on your washed floor, no respect
for your hands and knees.
You wouldn’t let us
in the kitchen—it was your domain.
You boiled the beef and chicken
so I didn’t know there was a difference
until I was thirteen.
I couldn’t have done
all I’ve done
without your pure forever love
I was your girl same hair same eyes almost the same nose
yours was prettier
We used to laugh
at your crochet dolls—
and wouldn’t I give anything
to have one right now?
The days go so slowly today
and I don’t want to grow
as old as you, lying on the plastic
on the couch, the pillows you knit
under your stocking feet, drugstore glasses
falling off your nose.
Have you thrown off your ancient bones
to soar with God? To look down and tell stories
about your time on earth—
the husband you had
the children you had – the life you had?
Your blankets are folded
in the closet, your pictures
in the album
you in me.
I guess this is a love poem after all.
Here is Terri Hanauer in a cluster of nutshells:Woman, mother, writer, poet, actor, director, photographer, supporter of human rights, dreamer, explorer, jester, meditator, friend, activist, Canadian/American, traveler, sister and daughter.Terri's been cut in half as magician Doug Henning’s assistant, had her baby blessed by Stevie Wonder, and has been hugged by the hugging saint, Amma.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I've been writing poetry for about three years.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
Yes, it was Dorianne Laux's Ghosts. I couldn't believe how perfect the images were. I could feel the narrator's longing. And she's earthy and passionate. Her honesty surprised me. I loved it.
I've read it out loud hundreds of times these past three years. It moves me every time.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Dorianne Laux - Ghosts, Fast Gas, her poems about her mother
Mary Oliver - The Waterfall, The Summer Day
Charles Bukowski - for marilyn m, the singular self
Rachel Korn - On The Other Side Of The Poem, My Body
Peter Lefcourt - The Sadness Of Dentists
Anna Akhmatova - The Guest, Lot's Wife
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
Sometimes I like to get inspired by other poets so I'll read their work first.
I like to tell a story, and talk about people in my life who have touched me, so I think about them and come up with some images. Sometimes a photograph will help me get focused, or music.
My acting background helps me discover the underlying emotions and subtext of my work. So I try to be open to the words and ideas that seem to pop up out of nowhere. I'm learning to trust that my creative process is listening to those words and ideas.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
I try to open my mind to different forms, so I'll read Russian poets like Vladimir Mayakovsky and Marina Tsvetaeva and intentionally be influenced by how they design their words on the page. My poem, Across The Room, is an example of that.
e.e.cummings's visual sense influenced my poem, a finite number.
Poetry is also a visual medium for me. I like looking at the words on the page, their order, the line breaks, spacing, etc. The visual helps inform the emotional.
Once it's done, I'll play around with line breaks and stanzas. I find the poem itself will find its own design and form.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Ask yourself why you want to write a poem instead of prose. Why sing a song instead of speak the words? I think the answer is you sing because there's no other way to express those specific thoughts and feelings. It's the same with poetry.
Be fearless. Sing your truth and you'll find your voice.
Find a great teacher who encourages your voice. I've been studying prose and poetry with Jack Grapes. I've just finished my debut novel, The Lightness of Rain. One of the main characters, Alison, is a poet! She talks about poetry being the access into what she feels but doesn't know she feels, until she writes the poem. So in her case, the poem is her voice.
Keep on writing.
What is your editing process like?
I'll sit with the poem and read it over and over again, out loud. I listen for rhythms, feelings, and tone. I'll play with words and arrangements. When I think I'm done, I'll work with an editor, Joshua Grapes. He has a keen eye and helps me see the poem I want to write.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
I know a poem is finished when I don't think about it anymore.