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Hen Days.

"The sun needs the moon, like the cock the hen."

--M. Maier, Atlanta fugiens Oppenhiem, 1618

I am at the sink again,
dawn and dusk, my hands sunk
in soapy water. I cannot bear to look
down at the dish I wash. The sheets
are in the laundry endlessly not because
we've dirtied them, but because the kids
have pinworms. What is an infestation,
the woodruff newly springeth,
the fowles singeth and perhaps my body too.
Its slippery. This day spent like all others
but for your tongue. Bring me a thousand kisses,
then a hundred, then a thousand more,
a second hundred. Bring me,
before they return, to the dirty ground.
The filth surround. I don't want anything
to ever be clean again, especially me.
Bring the threstelcock scoldeth oo
and bring me to the woods ringing.
Why must we wait until they look no more
out the doors at us. Now is their winter
woe gone, bring them away but quickly bring
the cock off flocking his hens
home while the water drains
and bring my shaking hands still
to the button of your pants.

All spring
we watch the magpies build their nest.
We watch the male try to impress his mate
by hefting large twigs above his head, then,
to the ground again, with care, repeatedly
for some unnumbered centuries. You
don't have to impress me. Just teach them
to say please. Please me. The rose rayleth her rode,
the leaves on the lythe wode. These birds
seem made of day and night equally, but without
a grey feather in between, without dusk or dawn.

The sky is heavy. It holds a place out to me.
The nest, like the toddler's palm
upturned, outstretched, is a hollowed curiosity full
of hungry mouths. Wormes woweth undercloud.
You: she and he both, cock and hen,
don't go, and if you do, come again speedily.

Bees in wood,
in time, in solving terms, in trees deeper
into the pines shaken the spring storm taken
in one's hand, the leaves on the trembling trees,
penis, horny growth sheathed keep not thy silence,
god or dog or whatever it is that gets me off. Behave!
Leave my constant quarrelling with myself in bed.
I'm not one to be like trees shaken in the spring storm
with limbs fallen or taken in one's hand. Let nothing stand
still. Everything is flit. The daylily is lovely to see,
though her time is not mine.
The fenyl and the fille. The honeysuckle.
The clit daylit if we push the rotting hay away
and lie down on the wet ground, the new shoots
light green white coming up out to surround,
a littoral young and soft. Clitoral. The tongue sees
what would otherwise only be
felt. Eggs laid in the field, buried under
or burrowed over or borrowed without knowing
that all this bliss bryngeth dayes eyes in this dales, delight.

Some higher hive
calls me. Some ritual excessiveness in which your body
is not enough and too much all at once. Imagine a circle,
its goodness not from beginning nor end. Describe (don't explain)
to the child: Joy in the middle of rejoice.
The plant, from fruit, derives its worth. The death, its life,
the word, its flesh. The jewel, its joy. Step
in: extend finger, wrist, ear, neck. The mone
mandeth hire lyht, So doth the semly sonne bryht.
The world so white with dew it looks like snow though
I'm warmed by it, adorned by it. The rabbit and I
are central to the garden. The rhubarb high
around his ear and my hip bones equally. He has more right
than me to be here, so he, still, watches us
as if not moving might be the protection
we all need. We spent yesterday in preparation.

raked and mowed the leaves. We spread them evenly
over the garden. A great wind came and blew
them all away. Everything that grows or grazes knows
what territory truly means. My land, your body.
Egg, Pullet, Hen. Daylily, moon on the eaves.
Your eyes, like eggs, held up to the light:
A yolk in each eye! Let open
your body to me. Yoke, the day and the night both.

(1) The poems take their inspiration from Catullus's Hendecasyllabic poems. Catullus's form really can't be translated into English because his meter depends on a series of long, short, and variable syllables, though we tend to think of his Hendecasyllabics as poems with eleven syllables per line. I was drawn to the number eleven. It seemed just barely excessive, but also short and uneven... Just as Catullus's Hendecasyllabic poems start with a "sparrow, my girl's pleasure," my series begin with birds (chickens) and girls (my daughters) and pleasures (sex and food and affection). There are other contextual connections throughout, but my poems tend to meander toward and away from Catullus again and again as the series proceeds. I have also found that my rendering of Catullus's form lends itself to a consideration of dwelling--not just in a house, or in a community--but within the day itself. I hope that my Hendes are able to give themselves over to the quotidian in a way that honors and expands the connection between our most intimate relationships and our more public interactions.
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Author:Steensen, Sasha
Article Type:Poem
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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