Poem of the Week, by Alan Gillis

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-11-08-39-amWhen I was eighteen I left the landscape of my childhood –the foothills of the southwestern Adirondacks, in far upstate New York– for college in Vermont, and in all the years since I have never spent more than a week at a time in my homeland, always to visit my parents. You would think I left that world behind, the day I got to college, and in a way that’s true. The horizons of my life blew wide open that day, and they have kept right on opening. But every adult novel I’ve ever written is set in that land, with its maples and oaks that turn to flame in the autumn, pine trees in winter that look black against deep snow that looks blue or white or pink, depending. The people in those novels aren’t real, I conjured them up out of my heart and my head, but I wish they had been around when I was a girl. Maybe I would’ve loved them, maybe they would’ve loved me. When Alan Gillis in this beautiful, dreamlike poem below talks about the girl who sheds the skin of her longing only to escape into more longing, I know in my bones what he means. I guess everyone does.

To Be Young and in Love in Middle Ireland
      – Alan Gillis

The girl from the satellite
town holds berries in the fast stream
supermarket queue.
She carries her longing like a stream of song,
her melody
a body over the boundary
of what is solid and what flows.

The guys in the depression-
hit town are tripping in the fruit
aisle. Falling for her
berry lightness they slip out
from their outlines. One guy says
she takes the form of a dream,
or the dream of a form.

On the page of the regional
night berries
pulse like the notes of a song
in the stream. The girl
who sheds the skin of her longing
escapes into more

In a dream on the margins
of town one of the guys
hears a girl sing, her voice
like strings,
a basket of ripe berries
floating into the night
on a stream.

The girl, the guy, in derelict
bedrooms hear lucent songs
streaming from their outlines
through the boundaries
of town wrapping around them
the scent of fresh berries.

And I was the guy and the girl
was within
the page of the town
ever, over, after, never, the song
long, long, long, long.
The stream is slipped as the ground
you stand on.

Build houses out of song.
The berries are undressing.
The stream is long, gone, long.
The girl dreams a form of dream,
or forms a dream of form:
the boundaries of song in the night
undressed as a stream in the morning.


For more information on Alan Gillis, please click here.

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