FROM THE MOONS OF AUGUST
By Danusha Laméris
Did she know
there was more to life
than lions licking the furred
ears of lambs,
fruit trees dropping
their fat bounty,
the years droning on
Too much quiet
is never a good sign.
Isn’t there always
beneath the surface?
But what could she say?
The larder was full
and they were beautiful,
their bodies new
as the day they were made.
Each morning the same
flowers broke through
the rich soil, the birds sang,
again, in perfect pitch.
It was only at night
when they lay together in the dark
that it was almost palpable—
the vague sadness, unnamed.
—call it what you will. What a relief
to feel the weight
fall into her palm. And after,
not to pretend anymore
that the terrible calm
On December 8, 2011, the first wolf in nearly a hundred years was seen
crossing the border of the Sierra Nevada from Oregon to California.
A male, probably looking for a mate
in this high wilderness
along the cusp of Mount Shasta.
Already there are ranchers waiting, armed.
True, it’s only one wolf.
Except that a wolf is never just a wolf.
We say “wolf” but mean our own hunger,
walking around outside our bodies.
The thief desire is. the part of wanting
we want to forget but can’t. Not
with the wolf loose in the woods
carrying the thick fur
of our longing. Not with it taking
in its mouth the flocks we keep
penned behind barbed wire.
If only we didn’t have to hear it
out in the dark, howling.
She was at a friend’s apartment,
my mother, a third floor walk-up.
It was summer. Why she slipped
into the back room, she can’t recall.
Was there something she wanted
fro her purse…lipstick?
a phone number?
Fumbling through the pile
on the bed she looked up and saw—
was this possible?—outside,
on the thin concrete ledge
a child, a girl, no more than two or three.
She was crouched down
eyeing an object with great interest.
A pebble, or a bright coin.
What happened next
must have happened very slowly.
My mother, who was young then,
leaned out the window, smiled.
Would you like to see
what’s in my purse? she asked.
Below, traffic rushed
down the wide street, horns blaring.
Students ambled home
under the weight of their backpacks.
From the next room,
strains of laughter.
The child smiled back, toddled along
the ledge. What do we know
of fate or chance, the threads
that hold us in the balance?
My mother did not imagine
one day she would
lose her own son, helpless
to stop the bullet
he aimed at his heart.
She reached out to the girl,
grabbed her in both arms,
held her to her chest.
Today’s poems are from The Moons of August, published by Autumn House Press, copyright © 2014 by Danusha Laméris, and appear here today with permission from the poet.
The Moons of August: “Danusha Laméris writes with definitive, savoring power—in perfectly well-weighted lines and scenes. Her poems strike deeply, balancing profound loss and new finding, employing a clear eye, a way of being richly alive with appetite and gusto, and a gift of distilling experience to find its shining core. Don’t miss this stunning first book.” —Naomi Shihab Nye
“This book of motherhood, memory, and elegiac urgency crosses borders, cultures, and languages to bring us the good news of being alive. With language clear as water and rich as blood, The Moons of August offers a human communion we can all believe in. Reckoning with and grieving for the past as they claim the future, these poems are wise, direct, and fearless. “What’s gone / is not quite gone, but lingers,” Laméris reminds us. “Not the language, but the bones / of the language. Not the beloved, / but the dark bed the beloved makes / inside our bodies.” —Dorianne Laux
Danusha Laméris’s work has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, The Sun and Crab Orchard Review as well as in a variety of other journals. Her poems have also appeared in the anthologies In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare, A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, and Intimate Kisses. She was a finalist for the 2010 and 2012 New Letters Prize in poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poem, “Riding Bareback,” won the 2013 Morton Marcus Memorial prize in poetry, selected by Gary Young and her first book, The Moons of August, was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches an ongoing poetry workshop.
Editor’s Note: I first discovered Danusha Laméris when I featured her stunning poem “Arabic” in the fall of 2013. When I read that her first book was forthcoming this year—and chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest, no less—I begged the poet remember me when the book was released. When it arrived I read, devoured, re-read, explored, breathed, bled, and grew whole once more within the boundless confines of its pages.
Through Laméris’ words I was the first woman born; I knew the burden—and relief—of being Eve. I was as old as time and as all-encompassing as nature. I was as helpless and as grieved as a mother, and as powerful. The Moons of August is small and light and fits effortlessly in my hands. Yet it reaches far back to human origins and delves deep into the human experience and the complex soul of (wo)man. “With,” as Dorianne Laux so aptly states, “language clear as water and rich as blood,” this is a book to read when you want to feel alive, from the very atoms that comprise you to the farthest reaches of your white light.
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