Four poems by Amanda Auchter

Amanda Auchter

Amanda Auchter is the founding editor of Pebble Lake Review and the author of The Glass Crib, winner of the 2010 Zone 3 Press First Book Award judged by Rigoberto Gonzlez and of the chapbook, Light Under Skin (Finishing Line Press, 2006). A former Theodore Morrison Poetry Scholar for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, she has received awards and honors from Bellevue Literary Review, BOMB Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, and others. Her writing appears in American Poetry Review, Court Green, Indiana Review, The Iowa Review, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and teaches creative writing at Lone Star College-CyFair.

 Down in the 9 

 
In the shadow of his house, Fats Domino
climbs from broken shards

of an attic window. His body is flashbulb-

stunned, humid. The floorboards
give and splinter behind him, open

to water. Wild-

hair, sweat. For days, the city is song-
sodden, newspaper-inked. For days,

he watches the dark

flood rise from porch to windows to gutters,
does not know that all over the country

houses burn with the blue-

flicker of television, the missing
poster of his face, or how in Ohio,

a radio croons Ain't That a Shame.

Up and down the block, his hears
whistles through fingers, then a boat

under the eaves. Tonight, he breathes

in the stink of himself, this world
of sewage and snakes, the sea-

sick waves, a hand

under the pit of his arm. Tonight,
he steps out into the flashlit dark,

returns himself to the small explosions

of light.

 

Introduction to New Orleans

after De Rmonville's letter to Comte de Pontchartrain, 1697


The question is water, how to shadow

this slow tongue that collects

in hill and dale, wild cattle. A city
made of birds, cotton, rain-

lit houses. How to harvest


and fell

white mulberry, copper, the buffalo
air. Imagine a country risen

from ship-timber, Indian corn. The windows

and their hemp sashes. Here,

it is easy remain still and sweat
at midnight, your body a seething

sea. Everywhere


it is dark: a woman,

loose leaves, forest. The water
arrives exhausted, climbs

the lowlands and marshweed. We will want

to close its wide mouth, bring boats

stacked with cables, ropes,

masts. If we could conjure

a city from fruit blossom, magnolia,
thunderheads. Women and silk

worms, peltry. This world is in me:

let us build ourselves again

from silt, salt. Let the water

rise and wash

the streets. Let the wind
fill each breath, each dry throat.

 

Strange Funeral

On September 8, 1900 a category 4 hurricane hit Galveston, TX. Included among the estimated 6,000 dead were 90 children and 10 nuns from St. Mary's Orphanage.


Who first saw them found the shredded rope,

the stacked cordwood of bodies. The women


knitted to crumpled piers, fishing nets, children

suspended in sand.



Who remained walked the debris

field, cut clothesline from children

 

tied at the waist to nuns, their kelp-

 

filled mouths. The city iridescent



with roof tiles, oil-slicked sand. Each child

knotted against black wind, a stone

 

sinking the next.



Those who shoveled

stopped, drowned

 

out the smell with cigars, watched

 

the strange funeralthe pyre,



a beach of rope-

burned mouths, fish rot, fire


igniting a young girl's pale hair,

her shoes


embedded into broken boards like buckshot.

 

Jazz Funeral

New Orleans, 2006


On the street,
once in January

you were

 

carried, your body.


In front of shotgun houses, the bayou.

In front of storm shutters, magnolia, oleander


leaves, a trumpet's brassed mourn
weaved through umbrellas, parked cars, handkerchiefs.

The yards still spoke of water.

The box, the horse, the carriage,
everything was speaking of water,

then, abandoned windows,
shoes without feet, even

you. Months before,



I filled entire city blocks. Beds,
the music of thunder. Once
in the after

noon, your face was mine.

 

The day

you stood in the attic

you, follicle and fingernail,
even the trumpet
in your hand. All this

and now. The music


ran you back to the ground.
On the way out, the light-

hearted, the sound of street-


cars, beads, backtrack. You
should have seen this. Heard

them cut your body
loose. Their knees, feet,

tapped you away. The children


ran behind. A little boy and his
horn. The drum. The twirl. The debris.