Summer 2020 Poetry Selections: Selected Poems by Elizabeth Jacobson

By Elizabeth Jacobson

Curator of Insects

I started asking questions about how human bodies held together.
Already I was a certain age, 

and not seeing any usual patterns.
My mind had become fuzzier,

mirroring the now fuzzier vision of my eyes.
I read about hymenoptera vision, 

how paper wasps and honeybees
can remember the characteristics of a human face.

And since a dragonfly had remembered me,
I knew that this is true for them as well.

Some insects live only a few hours 
or a few weeks, 

30 days for a fruit fly, 
2 months for a horse fly.

I saw the age of the body 
might never again match the stretch of its will, 

and like Keats, who remarked on the fading animation of his hand
at the end of his life,  

there grew a sadness for this former vivacity,
yet unlike Keats, I had joy in its release. 

Some of the things I do seem to move backwards.
Others feel as if they have a spherical momentum.

As I grow older, it all appears to taper, 
yet there is also a broadening, 

and although this is illogical, 
this is what happens to people.

The dropping away leaves space, 
which quickly floods with small things

like the blue-eyed dragonfly in flight, 
facing me in the early morning,

or saving an ant from drowning 
in a puddle of warm rainwater.

I cultivate flowers and trees for a small variety of bees, 
offer them aspen and willow for when they are ailing.  

They scrape the resin off the leaves 
and secure it to their back legs.  

A box elder bug has been resting on the base of the
   desk lamp for days, 
his tender black limbs secured around the cord.  

He is close to death, and waiting.  
All my life, I tell him, I have been told I should not
   see the things I see,  

the way I see them.  
It is too late for all that now. 

He turns his head and thorax toward my voice,
his opaque bead eyes red with inquiry.

Each Day Travelling

Hello Buson!

I found another dead snake on the road today 
and thought of you, the way you said Use the commonplace 

to escape the commonplace.  Your square face 
framed many canvases—  the ashen leaves of cold days, 

one purple thistle poking through.

You walked a long way 
with pebbles in your shoes, 

sat above a mountain pond considering your reflection
until nothing remained.

Here, the foothills are full of coyotes, 
and in my room I am surrounded 

with the yelps of their longing.
The senses flood; the sunken islands of brackish grass 

appear to float in the pond— 
                                                        the whole world is in me,  

an unrelenting grief that is each day travelling 
so quickly into the next.  How closely 

you looked at things: Struck by a raindrop, snail closes up.  
And then, dear Buson, and then?

You would have kissed me, I think, 
on all sides of my face.

Electrical Storm

When the lights went out 
So many things were happening

But all I wanted to do was write a poem 
About how good it felt 

To fill buckets with cold water 
From the gravity fed pump in the orchard

To walk across the tall summer grass
Feeling the hollow crush of deathlessness 

Cushion the soles of my feet
And store the buckets under the porch 

For drinking and safe keeping.  
When the lights went out 

The crickets strummed louder for mates
The stars shone brighter,

A voice called out of the blackness
That was exactly me

Life is just a thing that feels like something.

When the lights went out
The canyon wren offered a feather to the night

And the bear shat in peace 
Under the apple tree by the back door.

It felt so good to be in the dark 
With nothing turning on

And nothing turning off,
To hear a voice that was exactly mine

And everything else’s
At the same time

If you don’t do another thing, 
You’ve done enough.

Elizabeth Jacobson, poet laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the author, most recently, of Not into the Blossoms and Not into the Air (free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2019) which won the New Measure Poetry Prize selected by Marianne Boruch, and the 2019 New Mexico–Arizona Book Award for both New Mexico Poetry and Best New Mexico Book. She is the reviews editor for the online literary journal and teaches poetry workshops regularly in the Santa Fe community.