Turning Point

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Site design: Skeleton

Sample Poems by Anne Harding Woodworth


Caught: Actaeon

I came to the iron fence, straight divide
between overgrown woods and the city sidewalk.
Rails, crowned with fleur de lis, apart
by seven fingers’ width.

The deer, dead. And on the city side
of the fence her head and neck curved
softly down from shoulders onto curled
front legs and hooves.

Her eyes, open to the hard and cold
concrete I stood on. On the woods side,
her hips, hind legs and tail, all stilled
within their frantic push.

I sensed an Artemis enraged inside
the woods and sending ghastly whooping dogs
to chase the deer to the unsafe side. And for
the briefest moment, I did not move—

as if caught myself between
iron slats, having writhed on both sides,
then starved, now dead in a place
too tight for any thrust.



Asunder

As I back the car into the clearing
beside the lake, I drive two deer apart,
an unexpected wedge

between them. Their fear
of the unnatural, the machine in the grass,
and their instinct for survival

force them to spread, two lives
in opposite directions,
into the just unleafed woods.

Each one stops in its color of tree bark
and watches as the black Lab jumps
out of the car, rushes to the lake and waits

for the first ball to be thrown.
But there is paralysis around us. The deer
are like fossils of something extinct

in panic. How will they retrieve each other?
Where is their twinship now,
their concourse, their ambling in step,

the parallel bend of their necks?
I feel them observe our quiet relay,
me, the ball, the dog, the water surface

that takes the shape of a sun-filled V
in the dog’s wake, as if she’s invented a flock
of geese, is leading it south toward winter.



Deer and Me

The car’s skid is beginning.
You and I are the only two left on earth
moving toward each other

on the night-time county road,
your hooves on packed snow,
my rubber treads on ice.

I see your brown fur, you see me.
We are staring frozen, locked eye to eye
and I’m going to hit you, you’re going to hit me--

I am the deer now, I am the hooves in the road.
You are the car, the tires, the flare of the lights.
I’m going to kill you, you’re going to kill me.

I’m killing and braking and sliding and skidding
inside this steamed-up glass and metal,
while Joe Cocker is singing

“You–are–so–beautiful to me.”


Mirror, 2:15 a.m.

“For I will not see myself as I am now
And I cannot see myself as once I was.”
from The Greek Anthology, transl. Dudley Fitts

The dog has barked her awake.
Something on the deck outside the window.

In the middle of the night
there is always the interior and the exterior.
Breath and wind, shadow and shadow.

She is a spectator of present and past:
she was a girl once with clear eyes under a moon,
now an old woman in a plaid robe

going into the kitchen for a pre-dawn cigarette
and a swallow of scotch,
which she’ll heat as if it were milk.

She doesn’t look as she walks past the mirror
in the hall, the slow dog behind her.

And when she tries to see beyond the kitchen window,
there is but reflection,
overlaying the sight of a young bear,

a lovely young bear, she imagines, that wants to get in,
feels forgotten and hungry.



Ruins, 1978

Safe in its isolation,
untouched by vandals or tourists,
forgotten by archaeologists,
Braurona overgrew,
kept its mysteries hidden
among vines and grasses,
wide green acanthus leaves,
a quiet place for my boys to play in
among the wall-less rooms
where orphans had once slept
on the nights before they danced
for Artemis the goddess,
who at will changed herself
into a bear, fierce protector.