“Doris Lessing said I was a child of violence” and other poems by Linda Chown

Too many moons


for Jack Gilbert who went further

Too many moons in his poems, he said they said.
Too much sky. But what if he had lived on islands
under the sun with fishermen. What if he had heard
silence sounding in the water. What if there were no words.
What if to him a southern moon stared
At infinity in that night light
And held the chaos of lovers.

how to say what


Words are the clothes thoughts wear.
Samuel Beckett

To say nothing the same.
In the space. To repeat nothing, And everything.
Put it there over the moon with the heart outside.
When you. And it’s all read/red. Granny Smith is gone.
Took a kind of a powder. If I only were in a dark
of my own making. Making out fireflies touch things sticky.
Do tell how to say what: do Prague lights shine spatial
hollows in Slavic moonlight when nothing says
anything any more. More than more. Two is not one.again.
Grasshoppers have thin legs and I want to go home. For Christmas
in a dark of my own making without silent night. To say nothing
the same. When you. If I were only in a dark of my own. Making.


To Say Thinking

It was at first as though no one.
It was as though there was no hearing
at the table where no one listened.
It was as though her sound
was too quiet.
All her speaking tactile in that bed
shining like that white lamb on the wall.
All the talking behind the sky moments.
To have a say beyond the clutter of talk.
Far behind the anonymous stars in their spin she reached.
She had to learn all without teaching
something of her own,
a language to say it in. A wild mind
where everything mattered: stars and lambs and silhouettes.
She was by herself in that thin bed wheezing
and taking it all in.”Deep,” Wyman said you were.
Deep. Maybe one of those grown-in-the-wild miracles in a jungle
fluent in her own making.

Ever since Rinny found the words to speak public,
they rolled out of her faster than she could ever say them to know.
Her voice seemed to sound a ways,
low like crickets in a run of drifting.
Ever since, she forgot how to speak
word by word. Out-speech became an eruption, a geyser
to burst surfaces. Not to think to say,
But to say thinking. To light the lamb.
To shine herself. Out-speech was a close seam
Without basting. A fitting tight in a crystal fog

Writing in Place

It’s about weighing things,
It’s about equals,
like to like, peach to peach,
swimming out loud in the ocean
and floating even in the tides

It’s about writing in place
like fitting right into your skin,
heart speech in morning sleep,
writing word for word on the air.

It’s like exactly.
Blue cats in the clouds.
It’s like nothing extra
the orange white under the rind there,
that long-clean sweet and fresh,
or Samuel Beckett unwording
the world playing his flute magical.

It’s about holding some rhythm
in a groove, sharps folding into flat
at last Etta James and life is all in the song
like Leslie Howard dancing his elegant face
and Humphrey Bogart gliding through his silhouettes.

It’s about writing in place,
here where here is,
this balance, ripe sweet corn cobbing,
wild geese gandering
This sheer sun light
when somehow
you can be as never before
standing out still with yourself
writing in your place
beyond all the words and kissing the sky.

Shore-Lines in the Sand

Why would I want to write about flat fields
And bright color, to suggest limits and consequence
Why would I want to make pictures
As though I were an artist copying the wind
As though things could be anything
As though there could be shore lines in the sand

As though Camus could ever live without light
As though Cezanne would not paint his canvas thicker and thicker
As though birds lead photographable lives on their perches
Bobbing up on demand to entertain white-faced children
When, backstage, birds beak their worlds bloody
Batter and rush the air in hypnotic trance.

Life is no transparent stillness
with the hollow grace of imaginary holiday.
The forces of flat tussle with the agitations of circumstance.

I want my poems to touch that surge,
that place where blood first moves into sleep,
where heart spears memory as it gropes into time.
I want the crash of titans, life in the round,
to be in the brunt of it,
inside the thunder before the storms,
I want to sustain the bang in the beginning.
Hot headed and sure fired,
poems spin far from flat fields,
to hover inside time and knowing
with the blinding precision of dreams.

In Spain

in Spain, then, police crowd
us and we grow smaller as
night smoke packs us in pieces of old innocence-
an unfamiliar fear greases
our childhood with fascist sparks and guns,
power’s black hats that shine darkly.

Doris Lessing said I was a child of violence

Doris Lessing said I was a child
of violence but I wear peace under
my arms are gentle and Burl Ives is
singing foggy dew too. Does violence begin
when you hear of tied ropes & peeling skin
& do our blood cells clamber for violence
are they doomed for ever after?
somehow soft skin sings a melody with itself
and Hiroshima Dachau Dresden
Buchenwald Flossenberg Belzac
I play the marimba with sweet memories are made of this.

“my heart speaks before my words
stand out in the crowd
of windows and open mouths
my heart is my communist
my lone wolf my bride.”

Linda Chown, Ph.D The University of Washington, Comparative Literature. Dissertation based in part on interviews conducted with Spanish writer Carmen Martín Gaite, (“Narrative Authority and Homeostasis in the Fiction of Carmen Martín Gaite and Doris Lessing.”) MA/MFA  from San Francisco State University. Linda is a poet, professor, and critic. She lived for eighteen years in Andalucía. She has published three poetry collections, Buildings and Ways, All the Way Up the Sky, and Inside In. Poems in Foothill Quarterly, Quixote, Intro 3, Dark Horse, Magdalene Syndrome Gazette, Women Spirit, Grand Valley Review.

She worked five years with San Francisco Poetry Center, extensive workshopping and friendships with Stan Rice, Robert Creeley, Galway Kinnell, Mark Linenthal, Frances Jaffer, Kathleen Fraser, Shirley Kaufman, Francis Hosman, and others. Lunches with poets such as Allen Ginsburg, James Wright, Gary Snyder, Amiri Baraka, Robert Duncan, Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Mark Strand, Madeleine Gleason, Robert Bly, Diane Wakowski, Denise Levertov and Michael McClure.


Linda Chown at hardPressed Dual Poets


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