One Hundred Degrees of Plum

Two Poems for My Veins

Infusion

If I had to choose
between snakes’ fangs
and tigers’ claws
to name the needle
piercing my flesh
I select the cat
whose stripes burrow
all the way to skin
because this hunt—
dangerous as an open wound—
leads the seeker
to my blood
and the venom
is already present.

from Mouthbrooders, Homebound Publication, 2019

Generous Bruises

At the bank the teller catches me
counting on my fingers—the same feeling
I had chasing my sister’s bike down
the unpaved road. She would fall before
I could catch her. As the road curved
I was thinking how little I have
to rely on; I should run faster.


Caught in the act of failing, used up again
dwelling in those Hopper paintings
where nothing vacillates, nothing
is weak, and all the women wear black pumps.
Their isolation—so original, it makes them
efficient, but keeps them separate.


But consider this: a crystal’s structure
appears only when cracked. We experience
the same self when the I cracks
and our breath runs out. We earn
the favor of being by breaking
revealing a symmetry so generous it bleeds.
Watching a bruise heal from the inside out
it’s the color that matters:
never black nor blue, but shades of yellow
and one hundred degrees of plum.

from Four Blue Eggs, Homebound Publications, 2017

Hotel Window, 1955 by Edward Hopper, courtesy of http://www.EdwardHopper.net

“The way the body tethers us to the earth”

Mouthbrooders, by Amy Nawrocki, is a collection of contemplative poems, an exploration of the relationship between the creature self and the life of the mind.”

Read the entire review at Necromancy Never Pays, Jeanne Griggs’s blog about all things literary. I’m grateful to her for her review.

Like the speaker looking for her reading glasses in “Hourglasses,” readers of Nawrocki’s volume are glad for the reassurance that “there is no failure/in blinking yourself into clarity.”

Jeanne Griggs
https://homeboundpublications.com/mouthbrooders/

Jeanne Griggs is a reader, writer, traveler, and ailurophile. She directs the writing center at Kenyon College and plays violin in the Knox County Symphony. Check out her new collection Postcard Poems, available from Broadstone Books.

In Postcard Poems, Jeanne Griggs presents a family travel album. These vacation notes take us to iconic destinations, out-of-the-way downtowns, beach rentals, bookstores, art museums, and two-star motels. We hear the voice of a speaker longing to taste stale Cheerios and sip hot tea, watch the children wade in the surf, and make the distances between long ago and yesterday a little more tolerable. Griggs crafts a quiet cadence of absence to say: “Here I am now, missing you.” In the end, this collection helps the traveler in all of us realize that we are never “just visiting.” We piece together the narrative of our life’s travels one postcard at a time.

—Amy Nawrocki, author of Mouthbrooders & The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory

Mouthbrooders

During six months of vocal cord paralysis, author and professor Amy Nawrocki turned to the written word and fell in love with language again. The result of this exploration is her stunning collection Mouthbrooders, full of sounds and their echoes—ravens screeching, eggs cracking, and acorns falling. As Nawrocki struggles to find her own voice again, she midwives the voices of catastrophe, of memory, and of the small miracles of everyday life.

“Amy Nawrocki’s new collection Mouthbrooders is precise and carefully contained. Each poem is a vessel crafted to express one perfect thing: how saliva works on a burn; the tender terror of bringing a word or a child into life; the pleasure of “rigatoni…heavy/ with artichokes, cream sauce,/peppercorns slowly braised/and crushed under a fork”; the desire to “sample” one’s own flesh; a conversation with a peregrine in which the persona asks, “Tell me about the wind, the kind/that quiets fear and lengthens your cries/ into inaudible whispers.” Mouthbrooders is a collection to savor.”

Laurel S. Peterson, Norwalk Community College, Poet Laureate, Norwalk, CT 2016 – 2019

finding my inner earthworm

My explorations of voice and point of view have led me to the creation and publication of Mouthbrooders which is now available through Homebound Publications and where ever books are sold.

During six months of vocal cord paralysis, author and professor Amy Nawrocki turned to the written word and fell in love with language again. The result of this exploration is her stunning collection Mouthbrooders, full of the sounds and their echoes—ravens screeching, eggs cracking, and acorns falling. Faucets drip, pens brood, souvenirs slip through fingers. As Nawrocki struggles to find her own voice again, she midwives the voices of catastrophe, of memory, and of the small miracles of everyday life.

back-cover copy

A few years back, I ran a workshop at the Miller Memorial Library in Hamden, CT, where we discussed our connections (personal and literary) to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Carroll’s book never really grabbed me as a young reader, and after reflecting as an adult, my associations were more negative than positive. This isn’t really surprising, since at their roots, the imagery and adventures in the children’s tale are scary and uncomfortable.

On the other hand, rereading the text, I began to notice the language and the way that Alice (and Carroll) described the processes of transformation. In particular, at the bottom of the rabbit hole, she encounters the “small passage” and “[longs] to get out of that dark hall and wander those beds of bright flowers.” As she laments, she wishes that she could “shut up like a telescope.” The phrase struck me as peculiar, both visual and metaphorical. I couldn’t get the phrase out of my head, and so eventually wrote “Shutting Up Like a Telescope” to probe my own ideas about fitting into spaces.

Shutting Up Like a Telescope–“an earthworm’s titanic nucleotide”

Here is a different exploration of my reflections on Alice and her adventures. I wrote this exploratory memoir following the workshop:

Finding My Inner Alice

I come to Alice from a tree branch, from a separate limb. Maybe I’m the Cheshire Cat, watching myself watch her. I have no immediately accessible memory of time or place. No matter. I see from my pocket watch that I’ve arrived too late. She’s already gone down, and only by looking back—or looking through—or catching my reflection in my own looking glass—does she manifest. 

My mother read to us often, and I recall, impressionistically, other books: their muted green covers, gold edged pages and pen-and-ink drawings. This is how I can render Toad and Rat and Badger in my mind from Wind in the Willows. I can still touch those pages.

Though I can’t pinpoint how I came to know her, it’s not hard to picture Alice, her blue dress and white pinafore painted like so many others in the Technicolor of Disney. But whether her image is a piece from a specific moment or a combination of moments, I don’t know for sure.

But it seems that my memory of Alice begins on page 8. I imagine that I’ve seen this drawing before, and that the first time I saw it I felt something. The image of long-necked Alice, stretched like silly putty and uncomfortably large, frightens me even now. It conjures in my mind a sense memory, something tactile, as if I can feel the vertebrae in my own neck separate. But unlike the thrill of seeing each inch of your life penciled on a hallway wall as you grow and age, I see Alice’s elastic neck as strangulation, instead of release. The key I need is out of reach.

Instead of watching my feet disappear underneath me, I watch a body in torment, and just for good measure the Queen of Hearts has come along to say with all the echo of childhood discomfort: “Off with her head!” The rabbit hole is dark, and the looking glass reflects a fat little girl who can’t stand to be seen.

Alice’s neck is most vivid because it speaks to my nine-year-old self and the torture that my own body inflicted on me. Betrayed by the little cakes and drinks of “cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee and hot buttered toast;” betrayed by birthdays and elongating limbs, adolescence simply became “curiouser and curiouser,” and I became sadder and sadder. Even now, Alice’s long neck frightens me out of my skin.

Purchase your copy of Mouthbrooders and check me out on Soundcloud.