5We are pleased to welcome C. Prudence Arceneaux, who will be reading at our May 2 Library Reading Series event. She has agreed to share some of her work with us in advance of the event.


I have found that it never hurt to wander with
my hands gripped tightly at the base of my skull
explore the phrenology of the land under my toes
I began this practice to stop myself from
picking this scab you so artfully shaped
hiding it beneath my stiff shoulder blade

Filling the pages of my diary with the cubits
I use to measure time I notice my referents
were wrong and wonder if you know
when god claps his hands in your eras
it is the falling of trees in Brazil
but phone connections were lost
long before this was material

I begin to imagine the faces of your children
in that dark milk in the bottom of cocoa mugs
and realize that digging in the dirt of
garden variety couches for old pictures
and names is easier than answering the phone
on the fourth ring instead of the third

Patiently I eat from tin foil forks
and listen to my fillings tell me
that ultimately it is simpler to gnaw
on those forks than chew out the words
necessary to find someone with
the slim fingers of your left hand
the dull cleverness of your teeth
and still this common phaneromania
keeps me looking
because my imperfect angle allows
a multitude of possibilities for stained shirts
but no chance of healing


I am not a gardener, grubber of plants,
shifter of soil. My nails clean,
I stopped kneeling years before I reached
this age. If you ask, I can tell a food seed
from a pretty one. Clarify that TOMATO is fruit.
Tell you: when the red hibiscus sits crushed in your hand,
it smells of blood. The hammerhead worm
tosses its head wetly when cut with a spade. A crooked
row means death for someone. Shit produces the best foundation.
A tree can live around the rot at its base, but dies
in the beauty of mistletoe. Poisoned grass returns as weeds,
mutates to flowers. Blue morning glories will cover your garden.
Beautiful, but chokes your roses.

All this I learned on my knees, from my father,
my teacher, beer in one hand, the other browner in dirt:

That the dog will follow and proof your work. That, here,
the frost will comeback and kill your grapes,
no matter what. That squirrels stockpile,
even when there is no need.