Sophie Cabot Black
Biography Poems & Ordering - Readings & Appearances - Reviews - New Work



When you have me as I'm standing
Against a wall, my sex becomes
Suddenly agnostic; strange new words
Slip out, your name mentioned twice.

This is not a careful time.
These bodies that have collected love,
That have closely followed the goals
Of line or curve, are becoming

Sentimental. We wander in and out
Of each other's mouths. I keep thinking
You're asking me something. Light
Pours in, hangs like a valuable stone above us.

I lose words remembering to speak.
You press into my skin for veins, finger
By finger, your eyes blank and glazed.
My eyes start to empty too, become

Exactly like yours, until all there is
Is a heart, each beat rendering the last silent.


Into your hands they hammered the idea
You would lose something if you turned back. No longer
Safe to want salvation, so close to dawn

And its impatience for everything
All of a sudden. It's not the loneliness
But the disappointed path back

Explaining. And if we ask too many questions
One of us will wander off, the careful language
Of hope, of revision, dissolving

Until it becomes the simple sound
Of feet moving over ground. I go over this part
Again. The place we learned

To slip in with the damp faith
Of bartenders, hoarding white lilies
And powders; the place my trembling mouth

Leaned into a mirror and prayed for fame;
The place where out of spent pastures comes
A muddy and expensive city: these places

Do not go away quietly or easily, perhaps
Will not even kill. How we come to hate
Our story and end up walking one

Behind the other, toward the hillside
And the ordinary eyes of horses where there are signs
They have been staring too long into the face

Of winter.

The Birthing (9th of December, 1620) (from THE ARGUMENTS)

A hard sorcery comes amidst the delicate traffic
Of faithful women. Anna has begun her child & I walk her through
Pain but in my roving head a serpentine snarl riddles & unriddles

Into thin air. It is woman by woman we arrive, inheritance
Of jawbone, raven hair or crooked toe, one resplendent zodiac
Of daughter, sister, mother strung through barren meadows of sky

As interpreters of birth, keepers of fruit which death had chance to enter
This house: as the Child grows within, so goes my Life. Infinite movements
Cross Eden's brow, fathoming Eve's premonition; each tear of blood

Hardens to steppingstone, faded cloth into a sail, bowl to boat, each cheek
Island of memory. We breed ourselves incarnate: the stem needing protection;
We taper leaning toward that tower, & for the tower's sake our gates

Of flesh & origin give way as the child is wrestled out. Bread on the tongue
As distraction. Press Deeper. Hold up to Light. Swollen Hill, now a tiny body
With the wound of a mouth, a hand stirring through its accident. Fortress

No more, headfirst you quarrel down, torn from all you have been quietly given,
Into air, into wasted healing Child, what hearing had you through those walls
By way of hull whalesong passes, but for each other they sing

& in your small eye a sheer carrying of freight not once asked for, of every
Trespass of your fathers, each fumble of your mothers: perhaps you knew
All before you left & now it is a matter of forgetting, knowledge

Cast out in the ransack of each passing day, your vital & dizzying
Journey unballasting while our old bones stretch into new commotions
Of root & dirt. According to your piercing migration I will not be caught

Holding some end. A pain is born of heartwork & I clamor to turn it
Toward wisdom. Bewildered missionary, you keep a stubborn direction
& are the weight of departure, & are the weight

Of landfall.

The Misunderstanding of Nature

Ordering Information

Order "The Misunderstanding of Nature" by Sophie Cabot Black

or: Spring Church Book Company

or: Graywolf Press
2402 University Ave., Suite 203
St. Paul, MN 55114


Sophie Cabot Black
Biography - Poems & Ordering
Readings & Appearances - Reviews - New Work

Diane Scanlon - Dwyer Hills Records and Productions - Dwyer Hills Music