Black Lawrence Press
April 15, 2014

National Poetry Month: Elizabeth Cantwell

Here at Black Lawrence Press we are celebrating National Poetry Month with a poem a day, featuring a total of 30 authors from our list. Today’s featured poet is Elizabeth Cantwell, author of Nights I Let the Tiger Get You, which will be published next month.

 

MY MEMORIES OF YOU ARE SILENT

In that country there is a train
that stops when it gets tired    It doesn’t bother
to read the signs    There is a man in my car
who claims to be French
but does not understand me
when I ask quelle heure
est-il    He shows me a picture of a man
and points to himself    And the man
in the picture has a different
face    For weeks I have been woken up
by dreams in which I open my mouth
to speak    and only then discover
I am underwater    In the backseat of
a cab I go through all the Arabic phrases
I know in my head    how much
is the bread   and    the son
is in the garden with the cow    and    I love,
I am a woman    In the front seat
it sounds like the cab driver is yelling
at the man next to him    I think
they are discussing the best streets
to take    Meanwhile under another country’s
ocean certain navy officers produce
horrible noises to scare away
the whales    The navy needs this portion
of the ocean to be devoid of whales
so they can perform
exercises     No one in the navy
bothers to learn the language
of the whales    They think that if their noises
are loud enough
the whales will get the gist    In the city
I meet another American woman    She says
she is having a party in her apartment
When I get there everyone is speaking
English    We sit on a rug in the middle
of the floor and she serves us
Hamburger Helper    Everyone is talking
very loudly and I do not have anything to say
to any of them    In the middle of a bite
of artificially colored pasta
I look up and see you looking
at me    You glance at your plate
and then back up at me and
you roll your eyes    We do not speak
a word out loud    I swim up through
the surface of the water
and take a deep breath    I hope the whales
are still living in that ocean    saying
to each other    what was all
that noise about

 

Cantwell_AntiPhoto Elizabeth Cantwell is graduating from the University of Southern California with a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing this May. Her work has recently appeared in such journals as PANK, The Los Angeles Review, Anti-, and The Literary Review. Her first book of poetry, Nights I Let The Tiger Get You, was a finalist for the 2012 Hudson Prize and is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press; her chapbook, Premonitions, is forthcoming from Grey Book Press. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and small dog.