Poems by Linda E. Chown

ten mile / credit: d.e.ten mile / credit: de


Don’t ask me to know your trees
or the green statues of famous men.
Don’t ask me to assume polite silence
before gray old churches or to join in your search
for the meaning of proud dolmenic ruins.
In me, you find a heretic from birth.
Born too soon, set aside in an incubator
to watch the nurses fidget and grin
through tight walls of glass.
I required special air from the start.
Not mine the orderly hive
of broad-mouthed babies in their beds,
the immediate succor
of a mother’s swollen breast.
I slid loyally into years of asthma
and staying at home,
Instead of school’s compulsions and games
I petted baby chickens to death
in an excess of love and counted
the squares on the ceiling over my bed.
I feasted on solitude all youth long,
Solitude and the uneven friendship
of rock and roll songs.
I’m a rough peasant. That’s right.
Bullshitting myself
Out of Business Relationships.

the breathing space of syntax

Nadine Gordimer,

Just Before the Story

to tell a new story
fresh fish feeding
in clear waters
as the Truckee River
used to shine
cold and pure: dazzling
to start from the beginning
in infinite space
where the stars shine
from that place inside out
before the beginning
flows thoroughly into time

such a clarity springing into once-ness
salmon spawning in the Snake River
sounds singing to sizzle out
spellbound in a legacy of starlit
openings–mute and holy there
in that place you can’t go to find
hovering about here
just before the story starts

How Where We Were Was

Love allows us to walk in the sweet music of our particular heart

Jack Gilbert

On the street where you lived
we bought a house without the roots
you hated those false forever knots
and wanted to keep us stars in the trees
on the street where we lived
you made mulch and turned honey golden

and I surrounded us with flowers
and dried the herbs and seasonings of our summers
where we were, there, complete, in a love beyond the saying
as a music of smoky sounds, tenor sax bleeding
the whole tones of us making a love beyond words
to say for what I loved about your face. Holiday birds we thrived
in a green room. Half-moons rising in our eyes
sudden like solid smoke. On that street where we lived
together like stars in the trees. Such a singing without song-sound.

Two refugees planting each other fresh in the air.
A hoe-line could have not sown them any surer.
Strange star roots in the open. Once you said we
knew paradise. Just like that. A paradise. Star roots we were
surely, free to spread about with the honey and all those roses.

Two Years in Europe Poem

I on the bed, shutters half-closed,
staring into the vacant holes
of an apartment half–done
the autumn sun casts a tinted yellow,
a mellow hue I look through
to the two years of living here
and all the many suns I drew,
of wind and rain and random thefts,
of gray hair coming and the griefs,
of full skies and autumn feasts;
no future it seems,
no surprises yet to come.

I lie ensconced in the heavy
cradle of the present.
These partial rhymes come like months
of light do, like I do,
passing through, passing through
the half-remembered glory
of wind-sounds and lip sounds
and the sun always off somewhere
writing her great orange story
in the lines of the sky
while I lie, trying to conjure something
solid out of my being
here so long.


About Linda E. Chown

Linda Chown is a poet and critic. Originally from Berkeley, she lived in the Bay Area until going to Spain and teaching there for some 15 years. Now living in Michigan, she is professor emerita at Grand Valley State University. She has published work in Signs, Numero Cinq, Foothill Quarterly, and many other journals. There is also a book comparing novelist Carmen Martín Gaite and Doris Lessing called Narrative Authority and Homeostasis in Selected Writings of Carmen Martín Gaite and Doris Lessing, as well as extensive writings on Lessing, Woolf, Martin Gaite, Willa Cather, and Coetzee. Recent reviews and poems, including “On The Other Side of Language, appear in Numero Cinq‘s archives.

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