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Sample Poems by Betty Lies

For the Dark

Lately I’ve thought it would be good
to cut a coat of darkness, out of whole cloth
of shadow, proof even against the flood
of moon pouring its white stone path.

If my hand could cover the sky
I’d cancel glitter from the world:
no stars, no rockets, grinning liars,
charmers, sparks that spit and turn

against the fire where they rise.
I’ve been years on the road to calm,
have gone through Hopewell, Hazard, Paradise,
somehow evaded the lanes of flame—

(in the town they call New Hope
stones run like honey in the sun, rivers glow
blue glass, and daytime creatures flap,
pinned by their own long shadow).

Last night I dreamed ten shady roads
but found myself once more
under the sun’s thumb, that hot goad
herding me back into the glare.

It Doesn’t Sleep

It calls itself man-spearer,
tiger-snarer, crowned-with-fire

thorn-eared sound-catcher.
Ah, you know it

from each empty waking,
know that soft pad-pad

and if a purr
breaks sudden in your ear

jump, for god’s sake

or breathe a prayer.

Cento of Longing

Listen: I dreamed
how it would happen—
at the edge of the light
watching stars pass
across astonishments of sky.

It’s difficult to say
precisely where what had begun
to feel like reverence
becomes a sort of mournful
cosmic last resort:

in the white grass
the smooth ripple
of the wind’s last name
is blood, the violet light
on a blade, a meteor.

Nothing seems different,
salt still spills upon my grave.
I glide into my cave of phantoms
all skin and bone, all woman,
unripe and raw. Tonight,

longing takes the trees.
What remains to be done?
Beyond desire there is only
more desire. Climbing the dark
I hear you coming.

Field and Sky

The time I dreamed
we weren’t really married
everything seemed so easy.
It was that kind of summer day
when every leaf’s a little kite
against a swoop of blue.
Our arms made fields
in which the other grew,
an always waxing moon.

Ever since that dream
I’ve lived whole days
thinking it’s true, that
no one ever muttered words
to make us man and wife, days
when it seems we’re only playing
wifman, manwo, woband
for the fun of it, no legal papers
dully signed and witnessed.

If we weren’t married
and you came to my door
I’d gather you like grain,
I’d take you in so deep
that witnesses would say
how odd, at first
I thought I saw two people!
No eclipse: we’d grow together,
merge, without the trace
of a penumbra.