Literature 10-27-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Terri Ford

"The Bold Soul as the Last Abecedarian" by Terri Ford was selected by poet Maria Damon. ALSO: What Light seeks original poems for a new round in the series (DEADLINE: October 31)


The Bold Soul as the Last Abecedarian

Alight in her mind, she was all that snazz.
Before she died, she watched Deadwood nightly.
(Cancer kept talking and then pulled its ax.)
Deadwood’s streets were dark with stray cows, an outlaw
edging nearer with his mouth full of pins and Khrushchev—
Farrower of hogs, harrowing, calling her Lulu,
Gauging his appetites, her strength: admit—
Hell-o!—hogtied, explicit, humped, bucked—he says,
“I am in trouble,” then kisses her ear.
Jackass. Bootsteps and out the door to Albuquerq,
Knowing—she knew—the glow and error of the lit stop
love wreaks each week on TV. And jello!
Must they always serve jello imprisoning some melon
nude and trembling? Some hospital stratagem
or dozing chef in his shower cap of clean. All
peaceful on the wing—gone the visitors who talk talk talk
questioning doctors, low-voiced, here in the Mahal Taj
riddled with germ and anti-germ. Dream of Fiji:

Sun through the last palms, shore and blue and Allah
taking out his boat (her boat?), rowing, lolling
under the darkening sky, singing then the words of
very early songs that she somehow knew—she
willed the night of the singing Allah to not end.
Xanadu—Xanax—jarring the dream’s fabric, or rubric.
Yet she sank again, quiet beneath the baobab
zagging its great tap roots underground. Shiny sea.


Miss Ford is lucky. She is made entirely of mangoes with a melting popsicle center. Her public regularly asks her the following questions: How do you spell that? What are you, 12? You wore that to work? What is your real hair color? Little-known facts: She once applied for a job at Slender World. She once made a friend laugh so hard that her tampon fell out. A former Poet Laureate once wrote a sentence in Miss Ford’s evaluation that began, “Now that Ford is no longer promiscuously exclamatory. . .” I currently have crushes on Yehuda Amichai, Stuart Dybek and Wendell Berry.


Miss Terri Ford attended the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College lo, back in the ’50s. Since then she’s received numerous grants and awards, including a Kentucky Arts Council fellowship and an Ohio Arts Council fellowship. She was the Ohio Arts Council writer in residence at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts during the summer of 2000. Her first book of poems, Why the Ships Are She, was published by Four Way Books in 2001 and she was a fellow at Bread Loaf that same year. Miss Ford’s second book, Hams Beneath the Firmament, came out in 2007, also from Four Way Books. Her poems always appear in Forklift, Ohio because Matt Hart filches them first. Her work has also appeared in Ploughshares, Agni, Conduit and numerous other publications, including the anthologies Poetry Daily: The Best from the World’s Most Popular Poetry Website (Sourcebooks, 2003), Four Way Reader #2 (Four Way, 2002) and The Beach Book (Sarabande Books, 1999). She was profiled in June of 2004 in the Minneapolis newspaper City Pages as one of five Minnesota poets who might be the state Poet Laureate if Minnesota had one. She currently lives in triumph in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she hopes to change at least the lipstick on the face of Minnesota poetry.