Three Persons

By Fanny Howe b. 1940 Fanny Howe
The fields are infertile
as far as I can tell.
Their winter systems
sparkle like the diamonds
that pelt Neptune.

Limpid silvers
reflect in the dark
museums and theaters
back in town.

To them we run
to elevate our eyes
to a well-shaped ethics.
Colors are supplied
by our nervous minds.

Towards a just
and invisible image
behind each substance
and its place in a sentence
you must have been walking.

Well-defended, best
when lost from wanting.

Be like grass, she told me,
lie flat, spring up.

We drop the shadows where they are then
return to them
when the light has grown heavy.

You’ll take your time lugging the weight into our room.
Or stand over there in the shade.

We’ve never been too sure that we exist as the earth does.
We’re most at home in water
that soaks up the letters in our brains.

It could be we have been dry too long.

A spirit is a mess when excess spoils it.

I see them through the slats
and crack of the open window.
A cold rain. Leaves flipped
and palsied.

The river is brown near
the sand, loose banks and twigs
stick at the edge and a lilac’s
silhouette of a child I love.

How in the dark hole can I hide
if   I can’t get outside?

Then I won’t remember
what I did to deserve it.

That arch and bridge
will form a shape of repentance.

If  I’m hanging,
then judgment has been passed.

And I am hanging

upside down
head swinging towards the moon.

Years of  inversion.
A face in a mirror displaced
by its position outside silver.

And so?
Next will come muscle,
a little grief   but no shoulder.

You’re learning how to be a unit
with an infinite in its attic.

It’s not difficult.

Light is the last message.

White streaks like oil paint
are the first to appear along the wet railing.

Next similar colors
correspond by chance.

We would rather be (die) with total strangers than with partial ones
      we realized in the elevator going down.
It was the only time that day that we were as alone as we were awake.

Sensing a just
and impartial ghost
close to each living thing
I could see the genius

of  institutional religion.
Examine your conscience.
Confess in darkness
and take away a task.

Soon you’ll wash off flesh
scented by its parallel past.
What were your feet thinking in their hurry
to connect the parts?

Get the children to the other side!
What children? You were the one running.

There was never any other.

Source: Poetry (January 2013).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2013
 Fanny  Howe


Fanny Howe is the author of more than 20 books of poetry and prose. Howe grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and studied at Stanford University. “If someone is alone reading my poems, I hope it would be like reading someone’s notebook. A record. Of a place, beauty, difficulty. A familiar daily struggle,” Fanny Howe explained in a 2004 interview with the Kenyon Review. Indeed, more than a subject or theme, the process of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Mind, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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