by Peggy Penn
Foreword by Molly Peacock
- The Foreword Book of the Year Finalist 2001
On the editorial equivalent of sleepless nights, I find solace in remembering I was the first to publish Ms. Penn—her vital, enriching poems, ever since that initial ursine visitation in The Paris Review, persuaded me that the music of So Close can be the sweetest as well as the swiftest medicine to the soul. —Richard Howard
Calling a book of poems So Close insists on intimacy in our age of irony. In Peggy Penn’s work, people, ideas, and metaphors all come so close to one another that gaps are closed, cool distances become warm, and the world achieves an easeful rapport. In Penn’s realms, earthiness combines with delicacy, intellectual and social ideas unite with physical and sexual play, health enters the castle of sickness, age roams childhood, and the purity of childhood passions infuses all adult experiences. For this poet a tête-à-tête between two beings—even between two states of being—becomes an ars poetica . . . Penn lures all emotions to her poems, to thrive in the presence of syllabic magic and frank human utterance. —Molly Peacock
Peggy Penn’s poems tap into the language of the heart with lyric insistence. Elegant and gutsy, these poems combine formal invention with high-spirited speech. So Close grapples with the daily muck and marvel of life—death and birth, abstinence and passion, sickness and regeneration. A much-anticipated volume of poems! —Elise Paschen
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PEGGY PENN’s poetry has appeared in several publications including O Magazine, The Paris Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Western Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review and Margie Review. She won the poem for the first poem published in the journal Kimera, and the first Emily Dickinson Award for innovative poetry. Penn’s first poetry collection, So Close, was published by CavanKerry Press in 2001.
Dancing in the Dark
for Nancy Goldberger
Tin cans rolling across the patio
wake me. Creeping downstairs I make a plan –
fling open the door to scare the raccoons
when a piece of the darkness separates
itself into a blurry massive shape:
on my lawn there is a bear! a bear!
Saliva all over the patio
where he’s drooled and strewn four days of garbage.
Striped by moonlight, I watch his snout thrust deep
inside half-grapefruit rinds. He sneezes,
crams his dripping tongue inside a herring jar,
lumbers toward the compost heap and tossing
the matchstick fence over his shoulder
sits on top of the heap: bear so hungry…
moonlight caught on crystal tips of fur.
I reach for the phone, they will shoot him…
Rearing, he stands upright, swaggers
to the ash tree, beefy haunches plie
up and down, loosening his back in a long rub.
Once his ass is scratched, his penis drops
inches till he pisses, glaring – its lasts
minutes. I abandon the phone and my hand
floats spellbound like an oar on the air.
Between the pointed teeth in wet black gums
saliva rolls down his chest, and I feel
beads of my own sweat moving uncertainly,
finally looping under my right breast.
Reeling back to the patio he begins
a dance among the cans, a clattering,
paddling, sashay step! He turns, head up,
and through a confetti of moonlight I hear,
Dancing in the Dark. Beneath a mirrored ball
I dance back, swaying to his brush-step swing,
following his feet, just two on a floe,
a hoodlum freedom in my head, rocking
and stomping, bear on the patio, me
in the kitchen, his secret partner, turning
when he turns, lifting my bosom to him…
kicking my silent cans. But suddenly
he stops, drops down, lurches near my window
as though looking for something lost: a glove,
a dance card? Instead he finds the right spot
and shits enough to fill a hubcap, scuffs
to the edge of the dark and disappears.
Outside now, I stand in the smell, the lure
of rotten cantaloupe and mango skins
mixed with his steamy sulfurous sweat.
Forbidden Fruit hangs in the air; love
must be somewhere. I go back up the stairs
and put a blue hibiscus in my hair.