Debra Allbery


1. In which the Opies’ Lore and Language of Schoolchildren provides context

What travels with us still, what knows no borders.
These schoolyard charms and chants, our voices falling
into born and borrowed patterns, tracing their lines.

On my son’s nightstand: a plaster cast of a wolf print,
abacus of stones and feathers circling his lamp,
ballast and flight, counting his lost addresses.

What fills what is missing.  Bloodstone chip in a box,
flaked mirrors of mica mailed to his distant father,
glittered envelope of dust at the other end.  Not enough,

say the Opies, to merely find a lucky object. One must
go through certain prescribed motions, such as: step on it,
threaten it, spit on it, implore of it. Very often, give it away. 

2. In which E. M. Forster acts as a hinge

Few things have been more beautiful than my notebook as it fell
downward through the waters of the Mediterranean.

Paper wings, the ink’s release into the sea’s green light

3. In which the Golden Encyclopedia supplies an illustration

My fifth summer, our neighbor was startled by a flower,
a volunteer, she said, growing like a fable in her side-garden,

a kind of columbine with purple spurs and pistils, and when
she called me over to show me, I told her I had seen it

in my encyclopedia. Fetched the book from home, opened it
to its simple sketch meant for a child—Very like, she said,

very like,
propping the page beside the glorious bloom.
Grown thing and made thing, held, beheld together.


The Weather of Four Mornings

 for James Longenbach

Fine-grained dawn still stamped with the last dream’s runes,
bird-tracks scuttled, dashed in startled flight.

Vacant room, the square press of it
just left of the heart.

In 1915 Kafka dreamed an ancient sword
inserted so precisely into his back at the base
of his neck, there was no blood or wound.

His friends stood on chairs to withdraw it.
His two-handed heft.  It was a splendid weapon,
he wrote.  Crusaders might have used it.  

When I open my mouth, I open
my eyes. Parted curtains, the street
a blank scroll. What do I call it,
this aperture which will not close.

Debra Allbery                            

Debra Allbery is the author, most recently, of Fimbul-Winter (Four Way, 2011), which won the National Book Prize in Poetry from Grub Street.  Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Yale Review, Kenyon Review, The Nation, and elsewhere. The recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Starrett Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, a Hawhthornden fellowship, and other awards, she directs the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, NC.