Today in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Lisa Ciccarello.
One Way of Doing Battle
When I touched my wrist to my chest
it was shorthand for love.
When I returned & the house was empty
I carried his body with me.
I burnt the ship to make the sword. I burnt
the sail to send the dead.
That was one way of doing battle.
Do you think I spent all this time with the hammer
just to drink at the well?
I want to hold the neck of this flower until its
animal comes out.
There is nothing left of my home
so I carry my home with me
until I get another son.
A boy who sheared his hair
& stood before me.
Do you think I spent all this time with the blood in the barn
& the meat on the spit
with the horses’ thunder-black eyes
& foaming mouths
to get behind you? No.
One way of doing battle is to do nothing at all.
I lit the beacon
though I never planned to return.
This is the home I know now, the broad blade
the hewn post, barriers in place of a plain.
The axe in the dirt. The bone beneath.
Do you think I spent all this time in the bear-dark forest
in the wing-maze in the trap-howl
in the blade-hunt with the animals stringing up their dead
just to name the moon in the name
of my father?
I want to make this my home. I want
to burn this place & own the ashes of it.
I gave him the knife
& he belonged to me.
Do you think I spent all this time with the bone-stilled body
in the stone bed
growing the great rope of my hair
moving from shield to shield
just to take your hand in marriage?
To have the chain
but not the charm?
I want to shut your mouth
with my fingers
& your eyes with my hammer.
You touch the metal blade to your metal sleeve,
but your neck is a village without a gate.
Do you think I spent all this time with the sword
just to be a simple daughter?
Beneath my bed I dig a trench.
I want to burn my enemy with the oil & torch
but when he fails to die in the fire
he comes back up burning.
This is no way to raise a child.
Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they're published (no spam, no news, just poems).