Terry Blackhawk's latest book of poetry

The much-lauded Detroit poet imagines Billy Collins, Medea and Lots’ wife.

Mar 21, 2012 at 12:00 am

The founding director of the acclaimed InsideOut Literary Arts Project, which puts professional writers in school classrooms, Terry Blackhawk has received numerous awards for her poetry, including John Ciardi and Pablo Neruda prizes. The Light Between, her sixth collection of poetry, wends from Belle Isle to a gingko stand in Hiroshima, imagines figures from Medea to Billy Collins.

Lot's Wife 

—after the sculpture of Kiki Smith 

Then salt erupted

through me, bursting like seedpods,

a hissing vapor.

Now I say my gaze

will be last to go. It is 

the lifetime that's passed

I struggle to see,

not this road pocked with thermal

brine, an angel's hand

forcing me forward.

I strain to hear our vanished

fountain's music fall,

but I've no magic

to turn mirage into marriage

again. Here I stand

an eroded wife,

utterly lacking in grace.

Drop by drop, grain by

relentless grain, salt 

trickles down my corroded 

breasts and thighs. The wind's 

leathery lips skim

my skin. I have no names now —

sister, mother, friend

all sucked into this

high hot air. I've heard of tribes

to the south who lave

and bathe, oil and wrap

their beloveds' bones before

re-interring them

in the earth. Each year,

they enact this sweet respect.

Yet, dare I call it

sweet? My bones crumble

and fade. Once I believed in

the sweetness of salt.

Now all I know is its burn,

its millions of tiny flames. 

—Terry Blackhawk, 

from The Light Between 

(Wayne State University Press)