Three Poems by Gail Entrekin
Edie has pain in her back, too many plasma cells
inside her spine, crowding out the other white blood cells,
the red, the platelets. This is the day they pass photon ions
through her brittle spine as she lies very still in a white room,
a large black X drawn on the curve of her waist.
Soon they will cut into her skin and bone, take a sample
from her marrow to check for mitigation. Edie
who helped me pitch a tent in Iowa, sheltered beside me
in the driving rain all night, where we laughed and slept
and woke up to cows and sunshine. Edie
who walked among the Utah horses hanging their heads
over their pasture rail to graze our hands. Whose camera
saw them as dark hills with manes, a silver print still hanging
in her living room beside the Victorian doilies and daguerreotypes,
the baskets and books she makes, the orange poppies waving
at the window among the bird houses and curly sculpture
we chose at the garden show. Edie
whose anger has always been her go-to response
when things fall apart; this time cheerful, optimistic. Finally,
the biggest bad thing staring her down, she finds a new strategy:
Our faces ride before us
lit for everyone to see
our darkest hearts, our little boats --
everyone knows but we
who are holding on, riding the chop,
we, who can’t keep private
our secret cargos, our hottest flush.
Floating and bouncing
our delicate features ride
the turning tide, filling and emptying
for anyone to judge.
Even mirrored in the water below,
leaning out, we see the artful construct
the wish, the perfect little skiff
we’ve been sanding and painting for years.
It might as well be our soul
for all the power we have
to hide it, to ever know.
Before he can understand, there is a song
she whispers, something like the sea,
an echo of something from before --
before he arrived and was awash in newness.
She sings and hums her song, her smell,
and then he begins to notice the light,
the other smells: coffee, lipstick,
the other languages, and he learns each
thing by heart. She begins to speak to him
in the new way, one round word at a time
released between her lips and tongue, and
he begins to make her sounds, the sounds
of the sea they are swimming in, and now
there is nothing secret between them;
this is everyone’s language, the language
of the world; he wears his new shoes
and likes them; he goes away and she
cannot follow, and when he returns he tells
her in the language of the world what happened
there. He listens to music she has never heard,
eats food she has never cooked. Finally he buys a suit
and a ticket to Bogota, sends her a post card
from another world.
Gail Entrekin is Poetry Editor of Hip Pocket Press and Editor of the online environmental literary magazine, Canary (www.canarylitmag.org). She is Editor of the poetry anthology Yuba Flows (2007) and the poetry & short fiction anthology Sierra Songs & Descants: Poetry & Prose of the Sierra (2002).
Her poems have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, including Cimarron Review, Nimrod, New Ohio Review, and Southern Poetry Review, were finalists for the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry from Nimrod International Journal in 2011, and won the Women’s National Book Association Award in 2016.
Entrekin taught poetry and English literature at California colleges for 25 years. Her books of poetry include The Art of Healing (with Charles Entrekin) (Poetic Matrix Press 2016); Rearrangement of the Invisible, (Poetic Matrix Press, 2012); Change (Will Do You Good) (Poetic Matrix Press, 2005), which was nominated for a Northern California Book Award; You Notice the Body (Hip Pocket Press, 1998); and John Danced (Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press, 1983). She and her husband, poet and novelist Charles Entrekin, live in the hills of San Francisco’s East Bay.