Jill Peláez Baumgaertner
- You leave your signature like the atom
- whose footprint is its only proof,
- the pencil’s sharp point indenting
- the paper next to my poems’
- lines. With what voice
- you have uncovered my concealed
- intentions, presented my images
- in bas-relief, and textures
- I could not see until your hand
- revealed the design — just as I mark
- the pages of your book of poems —
- a blade of grass, a faded ribbon,
- a pressed leaf, a leather strip.
- In the solitude of this house
- I read your words aloud printing the air
- with them. Like fragrance
- the atoms dance,
- disperse, escape,
- as light as flight.
- I roam through rooms of them.
Permanent Address: 1956
- The leaves slick with rain from the afternoon storm,
- the small, tough leaves mixed with grass clippings
- for my doll’s salad, her tea laid behind the side hedge.
- The tiny cherries ridged like pumpkins, sour,
- the pits almost as big as the fruit, the juice sticky
- on my hands, dripping down my wrists, the pits
- a small pile in the grass mixed with dirt and ants.
- Grandma’s anger flaring indoors, her apron thrown down.
- The continual drone of mosquitoes seeking flesh,
- and giant orange grasshoppers, poison-spitters, Grandpa says,
- as he bends over his sprouting pineapple growing at
- the back door, his coffee always warming on the stove,
- ready for his back porch newspaper and his cigar.
- His silence when Grandma slams the door.
- I fit myself into corners of the outdoors, I wedge
- into interstices, find freedom in small places,
- the games more challenging the smaller the playing field,
- the games unshackling blood bonds to anger foaming and burnt.
Jill Peláez Baumgaertner is professor of English and dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. She received a PhD from Emory University and has taught at Valparaiso University.
The author of five collections of poetry — including What Cannot Be Fixed, a textbook on poetry, a book on Flannery O’Connor, and the poetry anthology Imago Dei — she has also written lyrics for compositions by Richard Hillert, Carl Schalk, Michael Costello, and Daniel Kellogg. She received a Fulbright to Spain and has won many awards for her poetry. She serves as poetry editor of The Christian Century.