Selected published poems by Heather H. Thomas
The shooting range marked Danger, No Trespassing,
has a target made of old plates.
Shots disturb the birds, ricochet off the ridge,
separating the air I run through.
In Sarajevo, she timed her run across the bridge
—fifteen seconds between shots—
the leaves tender on trees not yet burned for fuel.
Snipers ringing the hills eyed her, eyed
anyone walking home from work or buying bread.
She counted the seconds on her watch before
running through slit silence, plate of the sun the only
unbroken thing until she reached the other side.
Rita Dove Poetry Prize, International Literary Awards, Honorable Mention
Tanta International Festival of Poetry Anthology, Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Arabic translation by Fatima Tahir.
Wallace Stevens House, 323 N. Fifth St., Reading
Her legs were shorter then. It’s a quick
climb now to the second-floor apartment.
Opening the door, she falls
into the Wedgewood jar of the living room,
a blue world whose patterned white figures
freeze in their dance. Two steps up—
her parents’ bedroom—their turbulence
knocks the wind out of her.
I turn and walk as if leaving a stage
Wallace Stevens descended in purple air
more truly and strange, the walls
sliced open by words, so she covers her ears.
The air roars as a plane takes off,
rifling books on the shelves, tearing up paper lives,
rewriting history as snow blowing in
the same bare place between mind and sky,
between sound and night.
This is why the poet is in the sun,
pointing her finger at the moon,
meeting her shadow in a book.
I’m walking room to room with echo
clamor in summer heat.
A line of fire around drawn shades, smell
of burning metal, an overlooked pot,
but no one has cooked in this kitchen for years.
She crosses the floor stenciled with sun.
I sit on a folding chair and feel the unraveling
in my veins. It’s always like this,
the child not knowing what to do,
how to live. Light over Sixth Street rooftops
leads her down the fire escape to the sandbox
between brick walls until the radio draws her
back up the iron stairway to the paints,
brush, paper Mother gave her, the glass of water,
the Chordettes singing. She paints a big blue sun,
small ruby bird. Under the covers her page
glows with ghost letters. She holds
the brush, covers my hand, writing
wayward names that won’t go away. Her hand
keeps moving far back all those rooms
I came through. She writes this.
The Wallace Stevens Journal
I was inside your hand,
then you let go.
Back to the mines
for evidence of damage.
I kept reaching around
for signs, directions
into an undamaged
relationship with sky.
(Where were our bodies?
Inside parenthetical ribs,
leaning toward what we loved
that was moving away.)
You were inside my hand,
and reaching to draw
your name across
a different sky.
Then I let go, entering
what the ribcage holds.
Minerva Online. Italian translation by Zingonia Zingone.
Hesham Alsabahi’s Poetry Book Blog. Arabic translation by Fatima Tahir.
In the room of not-knowing,
you are texting, thumbs fluttering
in your lap like butterflies
until I mark you absent
because there are no butterflies here.
Text is now a verb like like.
Kitchen pots used for bombs!
Crystal exclaims from the corner,
scanning her iPad amid
“A Ritual to Read to Each Other.”
The world’s a broken bell jar.
A rabbit will be king of the ghosts.
Three days’ fever washed out of my hair,
I’m about to reveal the difference
between lightning and a lightning bug,
between logical and ethical appeals.
Despite the bombing in Boston,
this is not quaint. This is not
an academic exercise. This is King
writing his Letter from Birmingham Jail
and my lesson against forgetting.
Each day it breaks through
the cocoons before me as you
who are writing down your lives
on the bomb of an alien god.
To climb out of the craters
and the hate they contain
with the same hands that move
a pen. In your taps on the screen
I hear the rush of wings opening.
As if heart and lungs flatten back to ribs
a clearing inside the body. As if there is
no use in a center, you can live
hollowed out, away from one taking the place
of a mountain, you whose bluff body
has the power to part water,
to spin parallel wakes, to stand in the way
of wind’s blunt edge, diagonal to the flow.
As if standing at the crossroad
buttoning your coat, wind-whipped,
the coat scissoring into tatters and you
spiraling into cloudscript,
a double helix across the sky, the future plunging
to the past, where friction and pressure
shed a signature
here, now, on the body vibrating.
Postcard from Vortex Street
We dared to scrawl our names in chalk.
The beams still bear the marks
across a current of walkways,
map of sticks and apps we made
waiting for ourselves to show up.
Children gathering our bones asked,
Were they dancing bones or sad?
The world never was in place.
How do you want this day to live?
My friend saved a packet of seeds.
The moon illumines a bowl of oranges,
a burrowing owl in desert aquifer,
salutation to rotating oceans.
We were waving not drowning
in the heart’s magnetic field.
Imagination is a force: occupy.
Liberty’s Vigil: The Occupy Anthology, FootHills Publishing
Let’s draw the place where you live.
Let’s draw the one at home waiting for you,
the food you will eat. Under your desk,
under the wooden library table,
inside the instrument closet,
take this piece of paper, this crayon.
Nurturing healing love, Jesse has written
on the board. Promise me.
Now run outside and keep your eyes shut.
From here on nothing will be like:
I was just thinking, they were just singing,
leaning on each other.
In the time it takes to breathe ten breaths,
to what extent do we actually see or hear?
What is the escape plan for children
between the ages of reason and magic?
Keep looking at me. Because life is a vapor
and days are alphabets. Because the truth
one is not permitted to say.
Omit me, go back in.
Fold your hands on the table.
Let’s make maracas from bottles,
tissue, and gourds. Now run outside
and keep your eyes shut. The motion of hope
is not circling alone on a field, gasping for air.
Keep looking at me. Let’s try harp of gold.
Here is a shoebox. What else do we need?
Where the tide carves a ledge, wave-thrust dissolves it,
erasing homes already abandoned.
Sea’s steel horizon holds as sand pitches and reels.
Sunset is a broken conch.
Feet slope and shift into remnants of faults and ages,
seismic upshots dotted with blue umbrellas.
My arch’s channeled whelk around quartz and limestone
embeds with history forgotten.
Shell-houses brittle and beautiful go home with me,
as if I could make myself small enough
to live in them. They will pile up in my face-jar transparent
with cold salt.
The smallest wave inside a person can light or extinguish
an ember. Nothing but that.