Marsha de la O







Against the Death of Language


Resist it, you wordfreaks

                    you blue-streaks

you jokers, canters, midnight ranters

                    you rhymers,  swervers

                                        fruity and nutty, happy-go-slutty—

resist—you mute ones, creators, nest-shapers

          you carvers and bakers

                    hemp and banana-leaf paper-makers

let us inscribe

                    words as porous and riddled as sleep


Oh text, remember us,

                    oh myriad forms

          scrolls and tomes

          shouts and moans

black as handfuls of earth

          body of matter stripped of all prologue

                    body of work, body of thought

                              bristle of tracks carved on a tablet

                                        words freaked in a font, gothic and bleak,

letters in choirs pressed close together,

                                                  filaments shining,


                                                                      conjugation of song


Go on and say it!

          Sing us a ditty.  Carve baby a rune in the S of a heron,

                    chew up the vellum, illuminate the margin, drill down to the mirror

                              inside the volume

                                                  Lexicon and leaflet and manual anon!

Oh, for a fat compendium,

                                        for a thirteen part omnibus,

                    every glyph, every word Jack,

                              a highwayman mustered for a stick-up

                                        a loose woman looping her arms round your neck!




Another Dream of Death


as simple as two ring-necked doves

in a winter-bare tree, so close they’re clearly a pair

one flaps away, the other shivers

her feathers and hunkers down on the branch—

after a time she goes too.  Or maybe it’s a wound

to my skull, not a bullet, but a shaft struck

down into greasy wet darkness where women

surround me, the King’s women I call them,

who urge without words towards something

final and visceral, what—I don’t know.  And once

a blonde crawled toward me under a table

and ravished me with her lip-stick red mouth

but still every morning I refuse,

and walk away into daylight.




I Have Not Said If I Believe


She sprang out of the pine plank table

at Nana’s house, a witch with a rope

around her neck and all the havoc spilling

out encoded in our DNA.  I studied

a dipping barometer and felt dirty beneath

my clothes, a bone fingered and sucked.

Mother favored gray for me, not that

it mattered a flip.  Elder brother carried

our witch sewn in a vein in his thigh.

I did not think she hammered there.

They set a match to sixteen candles

She was hung not burnt, he announced,

pressure falling, needle notching

toward dimensions where a witch

is hanging still, her ankles stretched

longer than human, she had six

children, her name was Lydia.  He started

the song for ha-ha.  Never been kissed,

crooned first brother, lost count, cracked

the other, sally, sally, I muttered while

mother’s mouth goes darker and

tighter.  Hurry up and blow.  Everyone

laughed when the flames died out.











Black Hope, by Marsha de la O, won the New Issues Poetry Prize from the University of Western Michigan and an Editor’s Choice Award.  Her work has been anthologized in Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals (Ballantine), Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (Greenhouse Review Press), and the poetry workshop handbook One for the Money: The Sentence as Poetic Form (Lynx House Press).  A multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, she has published in journals such as Barrow Street, Passages North, Solo, and Third Coast.  She and her husband, poet Phil Taggart, publish the poetry journal Askew.  They are currently working on a documentary on poet/publisher Glenna Luschei, founder of Solo Press.

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