SOMETHING ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT – Featured Poet, Lois Marie Harrod


Coleen Marks

Into darkness.  The way truth with its spotty light 
bounces off the river birch at the edge of the lot, 

river birch bifurcating, one truth becomes two, spur-like, two-leaved, the beginning of a book, 

such an easy lateral branching, and then pages 
and pages drift back and forth in the night air.  

I tell you my disappointments, those black lenticels begun long ago, things I tried to scratch out,

into another heart, into heartwood. How long it has been since we heard from the children, the boy, the girls, 

sitting perhaps somewhere like us talking their own scars 
into the dusk?  Into the gloom? 

Some say it is easier to speak 
when we cannot see the other’s mouth.

I say some nights I cannot stop speaking
volumes into the sunfall, the dark stars.


One-eyed, one-eared, and after that accident,
crooked-jawed, mangle-pawed, limping, 

George, bad cat, mad cat, dirty yellow tiger cat, 
ditch and alley, down-in-the-mouth, 

in-and-out cat, scrapper, rapper, smelling of fish, 
long-haired mat cat, the rad cat of cartoons, 

sneaking after those churchified mousies 
waving their sanctified hankies at the moon—

oh how my mother who barely tolerated kits
in or out her house, in or out the shed, loved him, 

all her tight-lipped anger made flesh, oh, how quick
she ran when my sister’s boyfriend Jerry showed up, 

saying he thought he saw George limping 
into the field, probably hit by a car, 

she knew, we all knew it was Jerry’s car,
but she did not accuse him, no—

she ran out that raw and rainy night
and found him, her cat, gurgling in the weeds, dying,

took him to the vet’s anyway and thereby saved
the seventh of his nine contentious lives.

Somehow the vet wired his jaw together and for two months 
my mother fed George milk with an eyedropper,  

and he recovered, how could he not?,
looking more rakish than ever.

I think of my mother sometimes, 
sitting silent and smiling as the preacher’s wife she was

and on her lap, old George, her one-eyed, one-eared darling,
snuffling and snarling.


Tonight I’m watching a video 
several of my high school freshmen 
posted on You-Tube. 

They are rollicking a rowboat 
on a shallow suburban lake.
And the boys—a flop-haired Ulysses

and his swabbies—are filming themselves 
with difficulty, their shirtless torsos 
and basketball shorts bobbing about 

their beer-brine sea.  They are filming,
their version of that sack of winds
the King of Breeze gave to our hero,

and in their version it looks like a plastic 
shopping sack from Target.
As soon as our teenage hero closes his eyes,

a smirking friend opens the wind bag
and the camera begins to bob
the way it might in a seasick horror film.

I know they are hoping for an A—
and they’re having such a good time
how can I refuse?—though it looks 

like their rowboat is about to capsize.
They have not asked how Aeolus
crammed those winds into a burlap purse

or whether they have any chance now
to return the bora, brickfielder and southerly buster
to their tote or stuff the sirocco, the shamoon,

the zonda back in their bottle,
or suck the typhoon and samoon
back to their lamp. And how can I condemn 

their shenandigans–when I know we all should have 
listened to Odysseus 50 years ago
when we had the chance

to herd the hurricanes back into the bag.


Night drove out from under
his soiled baseball cap

into the limestone west,
into the saffron and ochre sunstone

towards Black Rock, Arizona,
passing through the Pleasantvilles

one by one: New Jersey,
New York, Pennsylvania, 

Ohio, Indiana, Iowa,
Texas, Wisconsin. 

And I was sitting beside him 
him once again . . .

tossing my clothes
out the window.


I have an intuitive approach to painting,
she says as I view her abstract variations

and try to figure out just what she intuited
even though she thinks the predictive validity 

of my gut feelings is low and leads to misjudgment.
I can’t decide if I am seeing a marled photograph

of Lenin or a bother and child or . . . perhaps
a mask from New Guinea with every tooth

in transgendered father-of-pearl. No, I am
not trying to be dismissive, I don’t say my dog

could have done that, for I know
how easily a whetstone can become a wet stone,

a click, a clink, and I am somehow imprisoned in her prisms
and would like to erase a line or tow and fret myself out.

So I strum the linear lemons, touch the grizzly hums,
how the hairy the leg of a bee. Why shouldn’t painting

be as synesthetic as poetry?  Standing by my bed
in gold sandals,  Dawn that very moment

awakes me.  But wait—there’s the quite wine.
There’s the please and crackers.  She says this 

is her unique artistic exploration using oil stick
and steel scraper.  I say, just whittle the visceral

down to deck and float off to the olive sea.

Learn more about Lois Marie Harrod at her website

Lois Marie Harrod’s 17th collection Woman is forthcoming from Blue Lyra in February 2020. Her Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016; her chapbook And She Took the Heart appeared in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013.

About the contributor

Lois Marie Harrod’s 17th collection Woman is forthcoming from Blue Lyra in February 2020. Her Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016; her chapbook And She Took the Heart appeared in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. A Dodge poet, she is published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton and at The College of New Jersey.

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