Two poems from Miriam Flock’s Words for Love
followed by a note on the author
For the gods of home, the Romans had the name
Penates, swelling from the root word penus,
not the garden Priapus you’re picturing
with his improbable member, but where we enter—
storehouse, penetralia, the innermost parts.
Home is a woman’s body. My body,
mortised to join with yours, tongue and groove,
anoints me genius of the place; you priest.
Yes, I admit we’re corporate, heart and hearth
cemented through the body, however hard
we try to find, in art or even science,
a less homely truth. What if we’ve strayed
from the stolidity of our own door? It opens
to us still, and I want to be home.
The Story of Breathing
An advantage of being our age, you write,
is instantly recognizing our own subject
in the welter of the day’s gifts and slights,
the way a sailor’s wife knows a ship
as her husband’s when it’s only a point
on the horizon. So, the two men breathing
was something that came easily as breathing
to you, an image from the kind of poem you write
without the thunderous coming to a point
of my work. Why then, would I covet your subject?
I can’t imagine my lines, lithe as ships,
skittering over the unimaginably slight
narrative swell your image offers. (No slight
intended.) Yours is the story of breathing,
but it has a few essential props: a ship
and two men on the beach—you, the writer;
and your sleeping companion, the subject
of your desire. He is closer to the point
where sea and sky collide. From your point
of view, when his chest expands, the slight
shift obscures a sail that had been the subject
of your apostrophe. Thus the lover breathing
makes it impossible for you to write
what you had meant. Instead the ship
vanishing and reappearing—beloved; ship;
beloved; ship—becomes the very point,
becomes the poem you try to write,
and yet delivering, enjambed, this sleight
of body, the story of the breathing
man embroils you in logistics, a subject
that becomes an image for your subject—
out of reach, like the disappearing ship.
When I try my hand at it, my breathing
rushes to catch your image at the point
of vanishing. The exercise, however slight,
is inspiration of a kind. All right,
mine is the subject version, the only point—
to see things as you might: the ship, the slight
motion of breathing, the impetus to write.
Homebody first appeared in Southwest Review;
The Story of Breathing first appeared in Western Humanities Review.
Miriam Flock is a native of Ohio. She earned her BA from Brandeis University and her MFA from Stanford. She retired last year as the COO of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Chicago Review, Georgia Review, Salmagundi and other publications.