Spider web with dew in morning light

Two Poems by Jennifer K. Sweeney

Terrain.org 12th Annual Contest in Poetry Winner

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Orb Weaver

I’m particular as an eye,
unwritten as a lament,
teeth in my net,
I sing in circles a rare
translucence.
Labyrinth, sheath,
water laces me
into being.
I am the cold
morning light halved
like relief.
Sculpture and silence.
Isinglass, air—
all matter
comes from me, the wind
unspools milk
from the pods,
it strips the palms bare,
but cage, cage,
I hold a little
pocket of gravity, I hold
rainbow-quick, the rope
and swallow.

 

 

Perseid

Boat of night, I ease
into your black waters.
No turn of circles in the oarlocks—
tonight
I’ll follow.
The oracle never looks
like an oracle,
it’s the cockleshell
that comes after
the tide.
How many times have I
looked up at a sky
like this—
all chipped teacup
and veil and felt
the losses as nearly
manageable, pebbles
I could arrange
to balance
a curved spine.
Rocking I enter.
Rocking I leave.

 

 

Judge Ellen Bass says...
These poems drew me in immediately with their rich images and music. As I read and reread them, I was moved by how much genuine feeling the poet was able to pressurize into these short lyrics. In “Orb Weaver” they begin I’m particular as an eye, / unwritten as a lament and the description goes on from there through the lovely water laces me/ into being which took me back a few months ago to a spider web in my own backyard that was invisible until the morning dew created an elaborate, almost unbelievable necklace. These poems combine lush language with simplicity, even humility. Near the end, these lines: I hold a little / pocket of gravity. In “Perseid” the same skillful hand is at work and I’m going to take the liberty of quoting this longer, moving passage from the end: How many times have I / looked up at a sky / like this—all chipped teacup/ and veil and felt / the losses as nearly / manageable pebbles / I could arrange / to balance / a curved spine. Rocking I enter. Rocking I leave.” These are truly beautiful lyrics. I feel enriched reading them.

 

Jennifer K. SweeneyJennifer K. Sweeney is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Foxlogic, Fireweedwinner of the Backwaters Prize from Backwaters Press/University of Nebraska. Her other collections are Little SpellsHow to Live on Bread and Music, and Salt MemoryShe is the recipient of many awards, including the James Laughlin Award and a Pushcart Prize. She teaches poetry workshops privately and at the University of Redlands in California.

Read more by Jennifer K. Sweeney originally appearing in Terrain.org: two poems and four poems as well an essay, “White Noise.”

Header photo by Svetlana Orusova, courtesy Shutterstock.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.