Two Poems by Rita Quillen

Why I Write

I cannot draw, but write riddles here in this earth bowl we stew in.  Saints and ancients
at safe distance, the canvas empty of all messiness. The ribbon of trees,
Clinch Mountain’s curves, become symbol and portent. Flesh belongs
on turkey in the oven, not this hot-sauced page. The white nothing
of the blank notebook—that’s for philosophy, Horatio, things dreamt,
imagined in pure form, clean and neat, not concrete, nothing 
smart except the art of leaving everything out and lost.
How can we appreciate what we never seek?

A poem is a flute, not a shotgun. Let us play it, the song a riddle in tones.  So what
if I’ve seen shooting stars, eclipses, ball lightning, dying foals, epic storms,
given all of them to the shotgun page, the colorless void, home
of the unborn? Let me write things without words—breathing, 
blood moving through blue veins, the dumbstruck silence
of déjà vu, our first look at our mother’s face, heartbreak
that leaves us dizzy, the long silence when we realize
here we’re so completely and always

Why I Dance

It’s the lifting, defying the heron’s physiology
The whoosh of the heft of all that weight
Leaving gravity behind on the creek’s glass face
That I feel, lifted by the fiddler’s hand,
Weightless for that split second
When both left and right foot are off the floor.
I lift my arms out like the climbing hawk
Soaring over the still world beneath
Moving through pockets of hot and cool air
Floating like a note on the evening’s breath.
My hard heel beats like the woodpecker’s beak
On the old tree bones beneath me
Drumming out the tune’s heartbeat
In a smiling choir of souls in motion.
The fiddler and I lock eyes and smile
Wordless, weightless all at once
Joyfully alive in buoyant youth
My feet and his hands together
Warbler and chickadee rising to the dusk
Until the song ends
only the nightingale’s song ringing long and strong.

Rita Quillen’s new full-length poetry collection, The Mad Farmer’s Wife, was published in 2016 by Texas Review Press, and was a finalist for the prestigious Weatherford Award in Appalachian Literature. Her novel Hiding Ezra, released by Little Creek Books, was a finalist for the 2005 DANA Awards, and a chapter of the novel is included in Talking Appalachian , a scholarly study of Appalachian dialect published by the University of Kentucky Press in 2014. She also published a new poetry chapbook from Finishing Line Press in 2014 titled Something Solid to Anchor To. 

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