Three Poems by Lisa Norris

Three Poems by Lisa Norris

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The Gap

I can’t name it—
            dark absence       shadow—whatever,

a sound between your mother’s heartbeat—
            that motor of love carrying what moves you toward
                        the day she’ll be gone, her smell of musk
                                  and basil become yearning—

and silence like that between one lover and the next
            when you wake at night to feel what isn’t
                       under the sheets with you—and sometimes
                                  what isn’t takes your touch

between one leg and the other, back to a place
            you can slide your fingers into—
                       that cavity like the space
                                  from which you came: you know
                                             the explanation, but it makes no sense,

journey of egg to sperm to produce a you
            who sprouts like a grape on that umbilical vine
                       till the day of harvest when that ripe infant falls into
                                  what isn’t there 

between what you don’t remember and being
            you who grew as fruit from your mother’s parts
                       and emerged as that membranous someone,
                                  between the absence of her and you:

you squalled at the suddenness
            of separation, and you will squall again, tears ferocious
                       as waters in the swirl of that hurricane
                                  taking her, not you, into the gap

you long to fill with light and love
            in its purest form you have known only
                       from the one who goes ahead into what
                                   you cannot know until you enter it.



Big-Beaked White Birds

My clever dentist has me looking out the window
to see swallows or geese, osprey—or
wild pelicans, even—on the pond
before he leans me back,
hot neck wrap, light chatter
with the girl who congratulates me
on my selection from her menu:
bluegrass at 7 am to keep us all

                        “Those pelicans
don’t come too often,” he says,
and she, “Aren’t they the ones with big beaks?”
He nods, propping my jaw open
and passing little tools,
stuffing and unstuffing my lips with cotton.
“Those pelicans are all over Moses Lake.”

I think of the Biblical baby in the bulrushes,
little dark Egyptian surrounded
by big-beaked white birds
looking down on him, wondering
if he’s edible, before Miriam swoops down
for the rescue: in my mouth, they’re closing in

as the ceremony progresses,
and something dark flies over the pond
beyond the flat TV where a pretty blonde
details disaster (cop shoots
black man again), and I close my eyes behind the glasses
that shield me, thinking
pelican pelican pelican as the dentist wiggles
my cheek and moves the needle
so I don’t even see the point of it.



Dear God

Art Thou present even as
our intestinal walls contract—
living within the bloated belly,
the rashy skin, the pigeon toes?

We look for Thee in the sublime,
but what if Thy beauty is inside
the transubstantiation—rotting
vegetation, steaming excrement piled
by the roadside, bloody exit
of liquid life to feed the big cat
tearing at the flesh of lesser things?

Art Thou in the movement
of water splitting the rock
obliterating hillsides, houses,
the little girl who, breathing mud,
then becomes the muddy thing?

Dost Thou flare in the gaseous neon
on that sign over the strip of spilled trash and those
hungry for needles—taking up residence
in putrid feet, stew of maggots
in diabetic flesh, whatever

takes us down until the skull is
picked clean, bellies of vultures
filled with what was, whilst the winged
Thou flyeth forth to take up
the next transitioning thing?




Lisa NorrisLisa Norris’s book Women Who Sleep With Animals won the 2010 Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) Fiction Prize and was published by SFASU Press. Toy Guns: Stories won the 1999 Willa Cather Fiction Prize and was published by Helicon Nine Press. Poems, stories, and essays have appeared in literary magazines including Smartish Pace, Shenandoah, Fourth Genre,, Ascent, and others. She taught at Virginia Tech for 15 years and now is a professor of English at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington.

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Header photo by Picography, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Lisa Norris by Pat Stotler. is the first online literary journal of place, publishing award-winning literature, art, editorials, and community case studies since 1998.