Wednesday, March 30, 2011



(Slapering Hol Press / The Hudson Valley Writers' Center, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., 2009)

Imagine yourself in the bustling of a city: each pedestrian shoulder-tight along the sidewalk, a man next to you hails a taxi with the cliched two-finger approach, men with buckets for drums play for spare change, and as you inhale the exhaust of a city bus passing-by--remind yourself, "This is not a Liz Ahl poem."

If she were the poet who penned the above images, she would have honed in on the pigeon bobbing its head and weaving through the legs of pedestrians. Many poets fail with the pastoral as they are unable to make the same connections Liz Ahl mastered for her chapbook, A THIRST THAT'S PARTLY MINE. Within each of its poems, there is the narrator and the thing. Imagine a squirrel clambering up your legs, a felled bird perched on your left shoulder, and a bear pawing its food in the distance. There!! Now, you're in a Ahl Poem. She can never escape the creature of her writing even as she dwells in her abode:
So far, the only succesful invaders
are the ants, who are also the most quiet,
yet make me the most nervous---

a billion hidden brethren

patiently tunneling their way
more deeply inside then I will ever go---

What draws her to these animals? Is it the easy personification? Or the parallels between herself and the squirrels she evicted:
You can't yet know what you'll know later,
and so try them all, feverish and single-minded,
bent on a simple mission.

Her simple writing flourishes with well-timed adjectives and each observation of the wild transcends the last. Read her poems until you, too, can say:
I'm the stupid human, the one aiming two barrels of binocular
from the window, framing a world with ideas about injustice,
wanting reasons, taming the wild by twisting its arm into story,
tightening the vise of narrative, birthing the big, sad boy,
muscle-bound in metaphor.


Jerry Brunoe was raised on the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. He left to attend Oregon State University and did, ever-so briefly yet sporadically. He hides his Native American accent wherever he goes. His poems have appeared in Contrary and To Topos: Poetry International.

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