2020 Open Call , Poems - Paula Bonnell



By Paula Bonnell


You are wrong to call my feat perverse. It seems so to you, no doubt,
but listen to what I’ve learned (and this is just a sample): Faith and doubt are names for the same thing,
white names for the weather that blows green and dark, halves of one another, you-and-I opposites –
like mirrored ringing, reflected echoing, reader and writer, understanding, knowing
(arrival through) each other.
I have gone far from where I began (emerging, becoming, moving) to know what came before (meeting, blind, possible)
(the pair and the child with the same origin) to come to this place which is none
this opposition of sames, conjunction of opposites, this jangle of now where the future
used to be, the past not to be.
Well may you ask of what use
is the strength I’ve acquired: power to withstand pain seeming only to invite more,
way of wanting what’s lost. Listen!
I can almost let you in on the secret
here in the gasp before death: I live, I breathe.



The land is flat
and the path goes beside the water, bending with it, passing in front
of the house and the mill. Reflections of the house and mill hang down in the water,
below the path.

The reflections reach toward the small sedge patch
that weights the lower margin, blackbrown against the cream expanse of uninked paper that is the water.

Arms of the peaked roof of the house reach out and down to the corners of the shed butting up against the waterside wall of the house.
Behind the house is a protective tree, stretching not quite as high into the still air
as the mill which stands beside it.

Only these few dark shapes enter
the faintly-clouded space given to the morning or evening sky above the almost-level horizon.

Bypassing the shed, does the path
then turn behind the house and travel beyond the homestead?

The water shines quietly as its clear course opens toward
the margin and the viewer. It has come from beyond the pictured scene, from
the lowlands beneath the pale greybrown sky with its wraiths
of clouds.

The bird which flies low –
nearly touching the water
where the bottom of the house image hangs – has followed
the water from there.



Paula Bonnell’s poems are published nationally and internationally in print and online journals and anthologies, and collected in Airs & Voices, selected by Mark Jarman for a Ciardi Prize; Message, her debut; and two chapbooks: Before the Alphabet and tales retold. Awards include a 2020 Pushcart nomination by ActiveMuse – for “The Sculptor Returns from India and Begins to Paint” – and a Poet Lore narrative-poetry prize.


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