THAT MY BODY WAS A TREE
after Rosario Castellanos
That my blood was a rage of starlings.
That clouds clung to my cheeks.
That I did not sleep.
That my thoughts were snow on wings.
That silence twisted
roots and tore dark
seeds from my fists.
That a moon tide razed the shore.
That I learned to stand in one place.
That my songs were leaves, then rain on leaves.
That the wind composed me.
The author of Bird of a Thousand Eyes does not tease or play games with the poetic toolbox. She is creatively honest, lyric and imagistic, and always gathering ideas and redefining the corners of perception. Readers comfortable with the narrow limitations of linear approaches to “Subject” will have to open and read with all of their senses. This poet mixes Schools. There are many styles and poetic containers here, all governed by the integrity of various ways of breathing––these lines, nearly, pluck themselves. It’s hard to poetically combine wisdom and experience without sounding like the know-it-all master of simile and metaphor, but Aalfs does so in stanzas that stay open long after they break or close. Enjoy the flight above voice and promise to, simply, the Art Spirit.
- Thomas Sayers Ellis
Janet E. Aalfs, former poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts (2003-2005), weaves poetry and martial arts dance in performing, teaching, and social justice activism locally, nationally and internationally.
Collections of her poems are Reach (Perugia Press, 1999); Full Open (Orogeny Press, 1996); Of Angels and Survivors (Two Herons Press, 1992); Lubec Tides, which was a finalist in the 2007 Bright Hill Literary Center Chapbook Contest; Red (2001) and several self-published chapbooks.
Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Comstock Review; Monthly Review; The Mindfulness Bell; Onion River Review; Passager; Sinister Wisdom; Common Lives/ Lesbian Lives; A Fierce Brightness: 25 Years of Women’s Poetry (Calyx Books); Crossing Paths (Mad River Press); Martial Arts Teachers on Teaching (North Atlantic Books). She won first prize in poetry contests of the Boston Herald and Peregrine Journal, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.