I wrote the 1989 poems as part of graduate class on teaching composition, and I wrote the 1990 poems in a graduate poetry writing workshop with Greg Orr — both years at the University of Virginia.
copyright © 1989, 1998. All rights reserved.
Amy T. Goodloe
do not reproduce without permission
The Statistics Have Names
Keyonna, surely your name means rebellion;
tough like leather, black like anger,
sharper than your years should show.
Keyonna, a frozen jaw and ice-pick eyes,
miniature muscles drawn tight in defense.
Yet you beg me to carry you through camp,
“tote me” you demand.
What will you do when I have to let go?
Unshuntra, a grunting, thudding name,
so wrong for the tiny black beauty you are,
and you know it, too.
Sneaking behind bleachers with boys won’t get you
out of the projects, Unshuntra.
Your name could mean “wise as an eagle,”
so spread the wings of your mind
and fly away from this filth.
What is it that keeps you here?
Sherita, the quiet, favored one,
your name means beloved, and you are.
Forever eager to help, nearer to me than my shadow,
and as silent. What could you be thinking
when we tell you your Father in Heaven loves you?
Can you show me what scene plays behind those young eyes?
Sherita, hush now … no, don’t.
Let the tears fall free as rain
and wash the scene away.
What will you do when I have to leave you?
Keyonna, Unshuntra, Sherita:
your names echo the freedom and pride your ancestors once knew
peacock colors, drum-beats, and rainy seasons.
Say your name, and remember who you are,
even when you have long forgotten me.
— April 1990
Decomposition of Emotion
The straining whisper of tormented angels,
Soul-kneading, eye-squeezing (such tiny drops),
A brief breath of air, caught midway.
Of the inner being”
Rubbing across hidden chords,
Flowing through narrow metal chambers.
Tapping nails of memory
Into a bruised conscience.
The whole bleeds on those
Who specialize in dissection.
A Baroque suite, or a Romantic symphony
Becomes a mere necessary evolution,
A clever scientific succession,
An ancestry of ball and chain.
Forgotten are the descants
of free will and divine spirit.
Sounds of dull clucking clogging such human ears.
— September 1989
The Blank Page
Because it was blank
it begged inscription
so you pressed pen upon me
covering the page with your ink
pleased with the movement of your pen
you pushed on
until the self-portrait was complete.
You clicked on the cap
of your ball-pointed pen
still wet with black blood
and walked away, whistling.
— October 1989
She never meant to be the quiet type;
wisdom is easily silenced
by chattered opinions, believed
to be novelties of divine insight.
Pride forms a quick moat; storm windows
reveal a world chasing the firmness
of wind, moving to the rhythm of measured mayhem
(the perfection of machinery).
She seeks salvation in synthetic art,
creator and ruler of private new worlds.
The language of self, supreme in her fresh
kingdom, fortified against angelic invasion,
guarded from the human heart that bled
and broke almighty silence.
Deep within, Sophia will not listen
to the compelling harmony of soul-talk,
love’s sacred murmur, like the distant
promise of a mountain stream.
Her iron throne is dry, untouched by
the rush of holy water,
cleansing the stain of bitter tears.
copyright © 1990, 1998. All rights reserved.
Amy T. Goodloe
do not reproduce without permission
A Passion For Nature
The green crowned king of the forest breeze
sways no more in heaven’s sky —
death by compression has produced the page,
a perfectly pure white unlined stage,
on which the poet stands to cry
an elegy, to the beauty of trees.
Don’t Say Hello
We pass each other along the walkway;
you chart the course of fire-ants, as I
count wings across the sky.
I see you pushing through the express lane,
armed with milk, raisin bran, and a magazine,
against the inevitable grey-haired shopper,
given to conversing with strangers.
At intermission, you linger by rest rooms,
waiting for no one to rejoin you. (Your single
symphony season-ticket seat is two rows down from mine).
In the library we share opposite ends
of a maze of private space — you study
how the earth is made, and I wonder why.
I know you, as you know the silence
that keeps us company.
Could you tell me if you feel it,
the vacant ache, where God plucked
the bone from your side as you slept,
to complete the creation?
Restless in its new flesh,
this bone begs to return
to its source.
Yet we pass without speaking,
needing to believe in the completeness
of the individual, always wary
of an awkward moment.
I have never been good
at pursuing the trivial,
don’t even say hello.
One brick pile of dust and broken dishes
until the valley is littered
with what the government
calls housing. A home
to mothers employed making future
tax burdens in exchange for
food stamps. The meaning of life is
behind door number four, or
you could buy a vowel
as the world turns on the restless young.
Stale sticky children
fresh out of school for summer
swap charity’s toys for tokes
on lipstick stained butts,
inventing wars to claim Junk-yard King,
listening for the rind-ding-ding
of the ice-cream man.
Professionally prepared posters appear in June
announcing the first annual Summer Bible Camp,
free you from the bondage of poverty
by introducing you to the healing and liberating power
of the redemptive blood of Our Savior,
which will ready your soul
for the good life of the hereafter.
Free lunch draws in all ages
to hear of the Promise of eternal happiness.
But Lamar, current reigning King of the Heap,
wants to know:
Do they have fudge pop-sicles in Heaven?
Or do God favor
I close my eyes as you re-tell the dream:
“Early morning rays through mauve-curtained glass
scatter across a crumpled floral comforter,
dance on streaks of human gold,
and warm your dreaming face.
My heavy fingers trace shapeless patterns
down an ivory neck, across pearl shoulders,
and linger in your shallow curves.”
I remain unpersuaded.
You worship this vapor of a never-coming future,
whirling in a figure-eight of feeling. Vagrant
vision, groping through interior corridors,
convinced of self-sufficiency. Wipe the mud
from your eyes. You prize the sacred cup
because of its gold, and admire cathedrals
for their structure.
Go, and chase the swirling captured moment,
chips of light spinning from the crystal Valentine.
And when, weary, you kneel in the glow
of a translucent cross, return,
to show me how it burns.
To Those Who Have Ears
Out of a cardboard fortress
constructed against the left wing of St. Luke’s
rose, to catch the wind and anyone passing by,
these words: I am hungry.
From the sidewalk towards the words
I stepped, and tossed the yellow paper
bag from Sam’s Deli
into the opening marked “this end up.”
Out crawled a tall, bent man
with grass-stained cheeks.
He said: Pardon, Miss, but
it isn’t food I’m needing,
and he gave me back my lunch.