Book cover: 'Elements' by Deborah Poe


A selection from Elements

Radium (Ra), or Two Reactions


jolie might not be one of your color colony dates
but I know just what you, calm to coordination, might say.

these luminous treasures before me might not be at brink
of what’s poisonous  but   pollen down the river like women we lost
passes  like a morning cooking    a  mother long-lived and radiant
where brown-eyed susans lie everywhere, satisfied, by marking granite.

in fact old poisonous unintelligibles die hard, sunrise-wise,
imagining luminous treasures we share, golden, kill.

i’m interested in lab tables, but damn i burn. haven’t we done all we could do?

did i tell you heart and mind possess the same character in Chinese?
whether oatmeal or spectral-lined griddle cake, we have something here.

at her house they aren’t dates, they’re photographs.

deadly reflections of trunks and foliage agree they hurt.
like blood on the page from the tiny spider reaction
the sound of gunshots, extraterrestrial, take breath.

4 empty green chairs by the ungoing hair fire heave,
wear her fire fire burning bright   the half poison night.

when we dead awaken yellow bird cries like tin
outcrop kitchen memory irradiates becoming swerves.

how far would she really be? i mean coming from spontaneous fire.

this is perhaps what we all want: the dove cooing new metal delight
or discovery something frightening is not simply coloration.

our product is acknowledgement of deadly potential.

talk to the scientist, the artist of hope in view
reluctant, the light gives understandable pride.

so, vista burden minute etching throat thicket—
so now will you.

Reader impressions

Deborah Poe’s brilliant poems, grounded in 39 of our elements, catch us off balance in ways that create new balance. Her voices are humorous, prophetic, weird, and familiar: “4 empty green chairs by the ungoing hair fire heave, / wear her fire fire burning bright the half poison night.” Elements is a huge, strange, necessary book that takes us sometimes where we would not go. I think she’s a terrific poet. 

— Jean Valentine