Terry Blackhawk is a lyric poet which makes her timely poems of ecology and social justice all the more memorable. She turns a phrase as if it’s liquid gold; and she can talk about human trafficking, water pollution as well as the many species of birds. This is because she’s an important member of a tribe of poets holding the conscience of the world in their hands; and when throughts are said clearly and beautifully, they makes a difference on earth. -Grace Cavalieri
Terry Blackhawk, www.terrymblackhawk.com founded Detroit’s InsideOut Literary Arts Project (www.insideoutdetroit.org) in 1995 and retired in 2015. She is the author of Escape Artist, winner of the 2002 John Ciardi Prize from BkMk Press, The Light Between (Wayne State University Press, 2012) and five other books of poetry. In 2015, with Peter Markus, she co-edited To Light a Fire: Twenty Years with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project, a collection of essays by the program’s poets-in-residence. She was twice named Michigan Creative Writing Teacher of the Year and received the Michigan Governors’ Award for Arts Education as well as grants from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment from the Humanities.
Blackhawk received the 2010 Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize from Nimrod International and is a 2013 Kresge Arts in Detroit Literary Fellow. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and on line at Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Solstice, ONE and she has essays in An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia, anthologies from Teachers & Writers Collaborative, and on line at the Collagist.
Her most recent book is The Whisk & Whir of Wings, a chapbook of collected poems about birds. She is a past board member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and blogs for the Detroit Huffington Post.
—after Rene Magritte’s “The Therapeutist”
Maybe he lost his body
and they healed him
with a cage.
Maybe his questions dissolved
Why is he called a survivor?
There is a brass drape
over the headless shoulder
and a bird who considers
entering its cage.
How peacefully the air
must flow through him.
He has opened the cage
and that fuzzy bird, his heart,
sits on the ledge looking in.
The head has sunk below
his shoulders, while on the far wall
a weapon oozes blood.
He has left a space
for the answers to our questions.
He has left a space
for the whispers of children,
for belief in humanity,
for our chance to take a stand.
The hand rests calmly
on its walking stick.
The children still have questions.
Where do their gazes go?
Why doesn’t he have a body?
How can he smell the air?
-The Dropped Hand, Marick Press, 2007
Today, in my sweeping, my Swiffer pulled out,
From behind the kitchen cabinet, a desiccated
Eggplant, shrunken and flattened down.
With the sunken stem curled in its center,
It suggested a plum on a Japanese scroll,
But I knew it was an eggplant
And I gave praise to the eggplant for keeping
Its form, even as it shriveled to this light
Porous thing—a dried vegetal discus
That I could flick across the floor.
Obeying laws of collapse there in the dark,
It had released no swarm of fruit flies,
No scent of rot or mold, into my unwitting air.
Secret nightshade, sucking in its cheeks,
Drawing the luscious skin down, emptying
Cells in slow abandon—it had kept itself
For me to discover, to pick up and test
The exquisite husk. It had transformed
Silently, and without obvious flourish,
Until I poked around and found the beauty of it.
-The Light Between, Wayne State University Press, 2012
ice melt ice lace ice
breaking up upstream
coming down from up
north in variegated
quilts of floes
no instant’s act this
crumbling an entire
season sends broken
continents our way
once-miles-wide chunks break
and bob or push up
against the shore
in spun sugar turrets
they rise fall glistening
dissolving ice lace
ice music I seem
to hear a tremolo
in the trees
but it’s March no leaves
no breeze just the score
for the scene
before me silvery
from a streaming swarm
by the current
in a living touching
clinking singing surge
- Michigan Quarterly Review, Summer, 2011
SHE AWAKENS IN A TOWN BY THE SEA
The street, milling all night. Old lace —
faces peeking out into drifts of blossoms,
drifts of bloom. Tell me about yourself, Sweetie.
Everything you say may be held against you.
Drifts of blossoms, studies of bloom.
Or boas. Boas and other entanglements.
The auditions go on regardless.
Mammatus, Mami Wata — clouds
begin to break. When she steps outside,
a soprano’s song saturates the air.
Shards of shells on the walk beneath her
feet. Gardens tuning up in a minor
key. Before their petals fall away, she will lift
a shattered glass.
A gull coasts over the jetty. Drifts
of blossoms, curtains of bloom.
- ONE Literary Journal, #12, May 2017
The dream tells me where I am:
nose close to a tulip tree
filled with lime green finches,
one that sports a spectacled mask
miming my every move. But here
all the palms look the same
and I am lost again in the parking lot
outside the hospital, searching
for my rental car, no stars,
no bearings, while across the planet
actual birds are falling from the sky.
At night I swim in the hotel pool
and look up past the trees. I have placed
the beach flotsam we gathered
next to the outdoor sink, said farewell
to sponge and seawrack,
and paid up the cottage and thrown away
the food we bought to move across town
into emergency housing. I have called
your children and sorted and shipped
your things and have ridden the elevator
up through the indoor atrium, past
the potted ficus trees and the pianist
playing holiday songs, and held firm
with the nurses and social workers
and moved your tray and adjusted the blinds,
the bed and the television and watched
the TV until it was time to go.
I rode in the ambulance and
crossed the bridge and trembled in
the waiting room and met the doctors.
While they operated I drove out to the shore.
I walked the beach and picked up a shell.
I practiced the slow steps I knew would come
later, after they opened your heart.
- First place, 2013 Springfed Arts Poetry Prize, Denise Duhamel, Judge
Photo by Desiree Cooper
Poetry © Terry Blackhawk, all rights reserved