Poetry and Conversation: Elizabeth Spires and Joelle Biele

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By Shaileen B.

What better time to think about time, life's robber and renovator, than autumn? Elizabeth Spires and Joelle Biele, our guests for tonight's Poetry and Conversation event, often meditate on time in their work. So we weren't surprised to see that theme in what they sent us when we asked each of them to share a poem with our blog readers. "The First Day" and "Autumn" both consider time in deep ways.


The Wave Maker, by Elizabeth SpiresThe ward is quiet, the mothers delivered,
except in one a woman labors still and calls,
with a sharp cry, that she is dying.
She is not dying but cannot know it now.
Trapped in the birthstorm, I did not cry,
but saw my body as the enemy
I could not accommodate, could not deny.
Morning arrived, and my daughter.
That's how it is in this world, birth, death,
matter-of-fact, happening like that.
The room was warm. The room was full of flowers,
her face all petals and leaves, a flower
resembling such as I had never seen.
All day she slept beside me, eyes darting
beneath bruised blue eyelids, retracing the journey,
dreaming the birth dream over and over
until it held no fear for her.
I dared not wake her. The hours passed.
I rested as her soul poured in her body,
the way clear water, poured from a height,
takes the shape of a flaring vase or glass, or light
fills a room's corners on a brilliant winter morning.
Slowly, she opened her eyes, a second waking,
taking me by surprise, a bright being
peering out from behind dark eyes,
as if she already knew what sights would be seen,
what marvels lay ahead of her, weariness and woe,
the joists and beams, the underpinnings of the world
shifting a little to make room for her.
The first day was over forever. Tranced,
I picked up the pen, the paper, and wrote:
I have had a child. Now I must live with death.

-Elizabeth Spires


I think it was October, November,Poet Joelle Biele
morning, dark, along a bend in the Wolf
or Wisconsin Rivers, and I am seven

or eight, and we are sitting on the cold hood
of my father’s car, the first days
of the fall migration, and I am sure

it was the long-necked cranes, nothing like
the cranes I folded from paper
at school. I know the changed leaves muddy

the water, and the marsh grass, dry,
lost, takes on a kind of metal brilliance,
hard from the river, and the early sun.

I am tired and want to go back
in the car, the radio night, far from here,
and I am thinking of my mobile,

the birds I tied to a hanger,
triangle out of triangle, wing, neck, spine,
their bodies full of air. I don’t hear the wings,

I don’t hear the calls, only the rush
of cattails, mildew, ferns, and a sky
full of birds. It was like a giant string

pulled them up, could pull me up, into the air,
a wingspan bigger than my boy’s body,
into the pull of earth turning, the rhythm

of light, the pattern of stars, a map,
a grid, a night city or late orchard
I could hide in, apples filled with stars.

-Joelle Bielle

To enjoy more of Elizabeth Spires's and Joelle Biele's work, come to the Poe Room tonight! To learn about other poetry events at the Pratt Library, follow @librarypoems or email poetry@prattlibrary.org.

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