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.