TriQuarterly and the Poet Jana Harris
Yesterday, I actually left my house and went to the bookstore to try to buy a 2009 calendar (my choices, since most were gone, were between Harry Potter and one with a 3D skateboard on the cover). I also bought TriQuarterly, which I pick up from time to time, but not with any regularity, and NPlusOne, which I think I get a bit more regularly. Then I skimmed them both. Then I settled deeply into Jana Harris’s poems, (she teaches at University of Washington online), in TriQuarterly. They are gorgeous things. Here is the beginning of “Feeding My New Son With An Eyedropper, I Remember Coming to This Country with My Parents, One Trunk, and Seven Words of English”:
Until he moved, I knew nothing
about him and almost the next week
it seemed he wanted to be born.
Alone, too soon, what could I do
but wrap him in cotton batting–
even in America, one does not name
a child marked for death.
Bottle and nipple clumsy contraptions,
too big for his mouth, I had to draw back
his lip, spoon in
nature’s nourishment. His shoulders
non-existent, legs shriveled–how did I manage
to mark him so?
Still, all newborns bring
their own welcome–he looks
as alien as I did when first
I came to this country:
my funny name (Papa immediately
dropped its harsher vowels),
my funny dress, shoes
clumsy as cod boxes.
My hair braided wet, brushed
until it stood out like a broom.
She has two recent books of poems, Oh, How Can I Keep On Singing, Voices of Pioneer Women and We Never Speak of It, Idaho-Wyoming Poems, both published by Ontario Review Press. Here’s a bit from another one, “Brother Churchianity’s Garden”, that I found quite moving:
As he saddled up, my new guardian instructed:
cut a switch thick as my thumb.
I found a good one, for his horse, I thought,
poor beast. I’d need correction
while he was gone, he said, flogging
my backside, then promised to beat me again
when he got back. For years I wore
the violets and stems
of bruises and welts. Whipped so often
it grew on me like Oregon rain:
cold and inevitable, tp be borne without complaint.
My body a garden harrowed by coach whip,
quirt, belt, cane, bridle strap.
To this day, I cannot look upon
a deeply, red, red rose.