Listen to Alison Powell read her poem “The Fields” from her new collection, “On the Desire to Levitate.”
A boy is raised up in the fields.
He knows his hard feet in the husks.
He knows his mother, her bottles and naps.
Knows his brother’s war dreams, is afraid
to sleep next to him. His father has a way
with the jitterbug and a whipping switch.
There are kindnesses: the giblet-
thick dressing of his grandmother,
the pictures of Venice in his schoolbook—
the gilded water. How the fathers
look in their Sunday best and the prayers,
like milk, around him.
One spring day the great god of his dreams
descends and, exploding, fills
the new tar streets with rainwater.
He inches out from under the table
where he has been reading for weeks;
he pushes out into the storm.
All around him are the old lives of leaves.
Oak tree sticks make lean-tos
without being asked, school is nowhere in sight.
Though there’s water-weight to his knees,
he pokes one toe into the gutter. Here
he knows there is desperation, devotion, hard
loss. He opens his arms to the yelping sky
and cries back Oh! Great harbor, I am
your tin ship! before his mother, weak
in her yellow slip, yanks him inside.
“On the Desire to Levitate,” published in March 2014, is Alison Powell‘s debut collection of poetry. Powell’s poetry has also appeared in Boston Review, Guernica, AGNI and Crazyhorse and in Best New Poets 2006 and The Hecht Prize Anthology, 2005-2009. Powell completed her doctorate in English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2014 and received her MFA in Poetry from Indiana University in 2005. She is an assistant professor of poetry at Oakland University in Michigan.
“The Fields” was excerpted from the book “On the Desire to Levitate” by Alison Powell. Copyright © 2014 by Alison Powell. Reprinted courtesy Ohio University Press.