Lisa Russ Spaar


mortification (2)

Glazier season, thin ice,
lens annulling clavate buds,

rescinding crocus silks,
making me see time,

forcing me to listen
to what I would not hear:

his betrayals in a ticking claque 
of indifferent weeds.

So too my own body, 
ovarian branch in curfew of snow.

I might not have known myself,
arrested in the hard light

of such information,
but for my two hands,

templed in yours,  sorrow 
blooming there, slender at first,

but allowed, and opening 
to this reprisal:

the garden, yes, of course,
but also to grief, its velvet force

moving us through us,
fluent & beyond




mortification (3)

Always the scythe of hours,
    now, as everywhere,
even in loral light of late winter

lengthening in hair-splits
    on snow sash, 
cloven pelage of bramble,                      

starlings in unruly ghetto
    at the yard’s edge.
And the shadows accusatory,

narrowing like eye wounds,
    his what are you thinking?
Still, I hold, and consider the soul:

never to see it in this life.
    Yet in silk fissure 
of time with you,

making of privacy 
    one totem, one branch:  
what is that poultice bloom

if not the soul falling toward us, 
    wet, gasping – 
or else our bodies rising?





Latitudinal, agonized, this wonder
of shadow on gravestones

plagiarizing willows, hemlock, 
tear-strung and haunted.  Lover,

winter could not be smaller
in this archive, lawn bee-hung

and alive with flight
lost to suck, to sweet –

to such towering atlases
of azalea and dogwood,

before which, your hand, there – 
& why ever leave, why hide,

& why not sing now, 
though for so long not,

or, like the wind, insist on a place 
for myself in this world?





Defiled stile of knuckled vertebrae
    lanced by stinging nettle,
oblivious lantana, exquisite cleft

of hooves still thatched 
    with matted, beetled tracts
that fall apart as I shovel

rain-vexed ruins to the garden’s edge:
    what panicked gauntlet
caught and felled you here?

What winter ravening?
    My throat is blue
with moving you.

Is suffering only brief as longing?
    In your crushed
and rotted wake,

I see the body’s inclination:
    feast, scatter, crawl away.
Beneath the shade,

I rest my heart, 
    spade that cannot state its secret,
only lift it –



Lisa Russ Spaar is the author of Blue Venus:  Poems (Persea Books, 2004) and Glass Town:  Poems (Red Hen Press, 1999), for which she received a Rona Jaffe Award for Emerging Women Writers in 2000.  Twelve of her new poems appear in Exquisite History: The Land of Wandering: Poems & Prints (The Printmakers Left, University of Virginia Press, 2005).  She is also the author of two chapbooks of poems, Blind Boy on Skates (Trilobite/University of North Texas Press, 1988) and Cellar (Alderman Press/University of Virginia, 1983), and is the editor of Acquainted With the Night:  Insomnia Poems (Columbia UP, 1999).  She is editing an anthology of London poems, forthcoming from the University of Virginia Press in 2007. Her work has appeared in many literary quarterlies and journals, including Poetry, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, Denver Quarterly, Image, Shenandoah, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.  The recipient of awards from the Academy of American Poets and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Spaar is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia, where she is an Associate Professor of English.