Lynn Knight

Winner of the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award in 2006

Recovery

An arrow road, the rumble of a wide cart,
dust rising in ghosts around the horse, neighing,
faintly, under the weight of the household,
blankets and rugs, roped-together utensils.
The man, woman and child walk behind
toward green, toward water.
*
Hunger enters the body. It carves a deep cave
near the heart. When night comes,
it makes forays into the dreaming mind:
low-flying birds appear, even their wings
a succulence. Then day again. More carving.
It strikes against bone. The brain hears a distant ringing.
For answer, hunger carves deeper. The bones
seem a frenzy of sticks in the wind. Birds cry: no:
the body, mouth open, while nothing shoves
its way back and forth among the ribs.
*
The horse staggers, its bones a frenzy
in the wind. The child holds a stick
like a wand: makes night come with its cape
of glittering holes. Beside her in the cart
her mother and father make the shape of a horse,
of a cloud rearing into a horse, but their grunts
remind her of the pig at the trough,
pig they ate to the last bone,
her mother weeping silently.
*
They lose count of the days, dreaming toward water.
Then a boat. A long passage. Sickness, groaning,
and in the night the heavy splash of the dead
wrapped and tied and let slide into the waves.
The child holds her hand in the air like a stick,
like a wand: makes night tear apart into land.
Over and over she does this, and one day it works:
The green is almost blinding. Eliza, the man cries,
Eliza. The child makes the wand sprinkle life
on her mother's hand, her mother's foot.
Wind brings green from the trees to her lungs.
*
The child forgets almost everything about this.
She is told stories bearing her name, and she makes them
into a book, many books, whose pages turn
like waves into water. But whenever she finds a stick
that resembles a wand, she breaks it in two.
She runs through fields that never turn into dust.
*
One day someone bearing her hands and feet
decides to remember: hunger.

She lets it carve where it will. Empty fields
spread from rib to rib. Dust spills from the backs
of her eyes. There's no way to know dream from waking.

She feels small, light, she travels the surface
of the earth without displacing so much as a stone,
as the dead are said to travel the surface of water.

Her bones ring. She can barely hold one
hand in the other. Come, she tells herself.
She walks by fields that fill with green like water.
She walks into years, across earth
that changes even as the night sky
remains the same. She enters the room
where I sit waiting. Hunger so old it feels
ancestral. Eat, I tell her. Live.

 

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Grace Schulman on Lynn Knight

The author of "Recovery," a poet unknown to me at this writing, has taken on the difficult subject of a family forced to flee home, weak with hunger, possessions heaped on a horse cart. In the poet's hands, this displaced family becomes everybody's family, and the theme grows into exile from the beginning of time. What accomplishes the transformation are the musical lines, the masterful repetition of key phrases—and beyond that, a miracle. I read it and fall silent, amazed.

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