Three Poems

Poetry / Elizabeth Arnold

:: Gone ::

          after Lorine Niedecker

Dig dig into black earth.

For the seed,
for stone. 


Alive, or only 

seeming to be living?

A greenish sprout maybe
looking weak,

the glow worm letting off its

thin green light,
or a stone light enters,

emerald or jade

—that’s thought to form 
only under a seabed needing 

pressure to emerge,

milky like the worm 
whose light comes 

from inside. 

                          My love was 

—deep as what he seemed to be at night?

Seemed lives long. 
Night traveling 

at the speed of light. A was 

he is now
on the

Passing Years River.

:: Hope ::                           

                            And a 

door slammed
then cracked open,

still moving 

a little bit toward me
—not to let the chaos in 

but the 

air going 
so slowly 

from the wild sudden world of you, 

or the you I thought was—
everything of what slowed down

seemed to want to 

                            Just as 

the valve repaired will

with its closing 
more completely at every beat

make the blood flow 

out of the frantic heart

and then 

a hand squeezed, not gripped,
so there’s a-

nother it seems

opening, the petals 
freed of the mechanical 

(though floating) 

of a time-lapsed camera’s works

—nothing forced, 

never a jerked 

dying on the stem.

:: Going ::

On the interstate north of Yulee  
late, the streetlights gone and my headlights reaching

only an inch or two at that point

before the flash of the warm-brown deer hides, 
a little group grazing 

so close to the highway’s edge 

my breath stopped, this breathing I do, 
where the road skirts Okefenokee swamp, the yards there 

of white sand kept raked to warn the rattlers off,

when out of nowhere came 
the blessèd tail-lights of a semi, the red dots growing 

as I close, don’t know 

I’m being ferried into the now now, going 
without fearing I can’t see. 


From the writer

:: Account ::

I saw the deer in “Going” many years ago while driving down I-95. I always celebrate when I’m past Savannah, because that means I have only two hours to go until home—Jacksonville, Florida, where I grew up. I’m tired by that time though, having driven nine hours or longer. It’s almost as if the highway carries me, puts me in a meditative trance-like state.

Sentences have a similar effect as the highway on the mind, especially long complex ones. “Going” is all one sentence. It flows along until the little shock at the sudden appearance of the deer grazing too close to the road, which causes me to become aware not only of my own breathing, but also of how odd it is that anyone breathes, which in turn leads to a fuller awareness of what it is to be in time, which is to not know anything really, or at least this is my feeling—i.e., the state of being “ferried into the now now,” the largest discovery of the poem. Existing right in the present moment is the closest we ever get to knowledge. My fear of hitting those deer, combined with the dilation of mind from being on the road, led to knowledge.

The second two poems, “Gone” and “Hope,” both about a mostly unlucky love affair, also ride a complicated syntax down the page. But in these poems the movement is a little bit jerky, with phrases divided by periods instead of commas, for example. This happens, I think, because the experience I try to depict in these poems is new, and less benign than in the driving poem, causing great uncertainty, distrust of self—I was regularly lied to. But deeply in love. It was like being blind, and the other one watching, taking advantage.

I first saw glow worms in Virginia. They’re like fireflies but the “blink” is slower. The worms were in mud, treasure hidden by the earth. 

Just as the human heart is, along with all our other organs, hidden from us. And what the heart stands for. In either case, even when it’s failing it’s a marvel.


Winner of an Amy Lowell travel grant, a Whiting award, and a Bunting fellowship, Elizabeth Arnold has published three books of poetry, The Reef (University of Chicago Press,1999), Civilization (Flood Editions, 2006), and Effacement (Flood Editions, 2010). Her fourth book, Life, is due to appear from Flood Editions in June, 2014. She is on the MFA faculty of University of Maryland and lives outside Washington, D.C.