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Poem by Pamela Uschuk

Eyewear is very glad to feature the American poet Pamela Uschuk (pictured) this Friday. Uschuk is the author of four books of poems, the award-winning Finding Peaches in the Desert, One Legged Dancer, Scattered Risks (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) published by Wings Press and Without the Comfort of Stars: New and Selected Poems (2007, Sampark Press). Future publications include Crazy Love, a collection of poems from Wings Press.

Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies worldwide, including Future Cycle, Poetry, Parnassus Review, Agni Review, Calyx, Ploughshares, Pequod and O Taste and See. Uschuk’s literary prizes include the the Struga International Poetry Prize, and the Dorothy Daniels Writing Award from the National League of American PEN Women.

She has spent many years traveling to teach creative writing to Native American students on the Salish, Sioux, Assiniboine, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Tohono O’odham and Yaqui reservations in Montana and Arizona.

Uschuk has been the Director of the Center for Women Writers at Salem College, where she has also taught Creative Writing. Editor-In-Chief of the literary magazine, Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts, Uschuk is a professor of Creative Writing at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She makes her home outside of Bayfield, with the writer William Pitt Root.

The Horseman of the Crass and Vulernable Word
For J.H.

The hemlock loses the tanager,
a bright blood streak
in a whirling gauze of snow.
Where do we go?
You told me the eye was lost,
old lens in a dish of milk
going to blue-veined cheese,
a lens that sneezed
when you laughed the mockingbird’s laugh,
the horse’s white laugh,
saying your brother accidentally
shot it out as you crawled
under barb wire, hunting.

I was young and fell in love
with your wounds, your tongue,
half-song, half-glands,
strong as the Calvinist hands
that whacked and fed your swampy youth.
I was young and drank vermouth
while you fell to your knees
in the Ford’s back seat where you teased
until I laughed too much
when you begged please,
and your one-eyed touch
stared up at the night jar sky,
blinked at Orion, your
archer, saying good-bye.
I laughed but I feared your tongue,
your thighs. I was young.
I had heard.
Never love a poet at his word.

You were the man who could maim me
in those days when whiskey
clarified any dark thing.
Like Bobby and Annette we’d sing,
Baby, you’re my beach blanket;
I’m your Mickey Mouse coquette.

You knew my crippled heart, my blind side
but I’d ride ride
ride on that edge where the heart’s not given,
can’t be taken
or lost to an archer or poet with one eye.
Oh, the heart has a spongy hide
believing in love’s bromide.
Mine found its bed unmade, undone
when you left with your joking tongue.

But I tell you this now,
horseman of the crass and vulnerable word,
love is damp as a cloud-blown beach
and crawls in your bones
that never lose their ache.
When I dreamed your face- -
so blindly polite, just the glimpse
of a lens of a face, just before
the horse, the dark and slippery horse I rode
so far out to sea
that the shore was a crumb the gulls couldn’t eat- -
I went numb in my sleep.
Even numbness passes.
I am half-blind in this half-blind night
but I’ve learned to ferment
wine from ash.
And you, it's always late--
you've broken your horse,
now lie under it.

poem by Pamela Uschuk; reprinted with permission of the author. First published in Another Chicago Magazine.
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