Poetry by Christine E. Black
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
Taking Back God
I am taking back god
in all lower cases,
scattering it like seed in a field,
picking its berries of light
from the night sky,
hearing its heartbeat
in a dying bird and in the soft
walk of my lost dog.
Taking back life also,
perhaps leaving it with pro
that says yes, procreate, protean,
and promise, restoring it to the woman
who wants to finish college,
who studies physics, philosophy,
poetry and Renaissance art, whose body
is now making promises to itself only.
I am taking birth too from the newspaper
where it was trapped between partial
and abortion. I wrest it free and
offer the word, glistening, to the woman
in the center of the circle pushing the new
person out. I lay beside it gifts – ancient stone
carvings of vaginas, crownings; a cathedral
painting in which the belly of the earth slopes
to thighs opening; and stories of blood struggle
and triumph, dark sweats and new breath.
I’ll need friend back also for the one
whose father forced it beside girl and said to console her,
that he was not harming her mother with his affairs,
I only have one girlfriend, and that’s you, he said.
I will also retrieve, girl, return her strong
new curves, hand-on-a-hip sass, wise to a trick.
I’ll lift her from the sad bath where her father
told her to lie back at nine years old
and asked if it felt good.
I want good back also, close to god, gentle ferocity,
Wholesome, as in home and whole.
Poem to a Survivor
(for Paige, for Take Back the Night)
Even if you cannot imagine it now,
Please know that
Your scattered mind
Will quiet over time, will again offer you goodness and clarity;
Those bruises on your arms, thighs
Will fade into the clear air of your continuing;
Your short tight breath
Will lengthen, deepen, give hope for days ahead;
Sleep, eluding you now — your body knows it by heart.
It will return, an oasis of calm and rest.
Your wild attention, alert for the next danger,
Will settle again on the regular business of the day;
That arguing in your head — if only I had, maybe I could have,
How can this be?. . .will quiet as sense rebuilds itself slowly;
Those two rooms, live or die, fight or flee, are expanding
like a slow exhalation, more rooms opening — playful plans, ordinary objects.
Muscles locked in terror will ease,
As your body remembers how to soften with joy once more;
Broken into like a room, a house, a garden plundered,
You will see: we can repair the hinges, test the bolts, restore the needed gates;
All the ways you switched yourself off to endure
Will no longer be needed as you are awakening whole;
Words you struggle to find, to name what has happened to you,
Time’s faithful stream will call them forth;
And you will find courage to tell the story.
Faces you see will welcome it, while we wish you safe and free.
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,–
But you did write to me,
O World, every day.
I could not always
read the letters as they arrived,
but you have written faithfully,
with such abundance,
in my sweet son’s story
of a storm of butterflies,
on the hiking path, and even
when he told of the bright pain
of the hornets.
You write to me in the sunset,
silhouetting the pines,
in those tricklings of the stream,
I hear down the slope, in the flickerings
at the edge of sight,
the albino deer
in our woods at dusk.
You wrote to me
when my newborn baby
Found, held the edge of my shirt
as he fastened his eyes to mine,
and in my son’s playing
an Irish lament on his violin;
You write to me during this day,
at the edge of spring,
trees shocked, still bare,
air around them
with all this gray waiting.
And in those harrowing
of my past that, once survived,
only deepened this longing
for your every syllable and petal
and note, dear World.
You wrote to me with Bergamot candles
and cinnamon tea, purple nail polish,
and Susan’s artichoke soup.
I read your letters in the high ceilings
and ornate moldings
with decades of paint layers,
in the children’s section
of the downtown public library,
and all the bears, turtles, foxes
my sons and I pointed to, named,
made sounds for,
as they learned their own languages.
Mystic letters too, World,
from my friend, Mirela,
who loves barefoot hiking;
she buried tenderly the dead squirrel
on the forest path,
arranged stones for it,
and now still sees it
alive in her dreams.
O World, I praise and thank you
for all those letters that keep coming,
praise and thank you,
with this, one of my many
By Christine E. Black
Christine E. Black's work has been published in Aura Literary Arts Review, Antietam Review, 13th Moon, The American Journal of Poetry, New Millennium Writings, Nimrod International, Red Rock Review, The Virginia Journal of Education, Friends Journal, The Veteran, Sojourners Magazine, and other publications. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Pablo Neruda Prize. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her family.