Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ann Fisher-Wirth reads her poem

In Oxford, Mississippi

Despite last week’s snow, the daffodils bloom
in the dead winter grass of gardens and curbsides
all over town; even two-days’ jackets of ice

couldn’t kill them. The Bradford pears and plum trees,
the quince like drops of blood on thorny branches—
I love them, I hang on to the thought of them

when I despair of humans, when one of my students,
for instance, says welfare is for crackheads, and another,
that the fix for capital punishment is public stonings and hangings—

Thou shalt not kill, a third replies, what do you answer to that?

I answer: the chainlink fence on that icy hill six years ago,
the guards that ringed the American embassy
when thousands marched in Stockholm, and I wanted to shout

to those uniformed boys, Put down your guns and join us.
My shame that year in Sweden at being American.
Watching Powell on TV, as he tried to make the UN believe

those little dark blips of trucks carried weapons
of mass destruction. That day in glistening springtime
when we learned the tanks had invaded Iraq.

Grief has been our mother. Exhaustion and lies, our daily bread.

Yet the daffodils, daffodils, reiterating sunlight.
When I woke at five this morning, the birds
and wind chimes were singing. The raccoon that lives

in our crawl space scuttered around on the porch,
thumping and shaking the cat food bowl. I dreamed
I’d forgotten to come back from Sweden, no longer knew

where home was, if I still had a job. But now I know
home is Mississippi—where William Caughy, age 75,
said Thank the Lord when I signed him up to vote

in the parking lot at Big Star last October.

And Thadeus Jefferson, age 82: Ain’t never voted.
Ain’t never registered neither. Can’t register,
ain’t permitted to. Long time gone did time for drug...

Then, when I read him the voter rules: What’s that
you say? Time for drug not on the list? That’s good,
but still can’t vote. Never did manage to learn how to read.

—What’s that you say? You asking if I recognize ‘OBAMA’?
Yes ma’am, I surely recognize ‘OBAMA’.
Let’s sign me up,
he chuckled, so I can vote Obama.

Ann Fisher-Wirth’s third book of poems, Carta Marina, has just been published by Wings Press. Her chapbook Slide Shows will appear from Finishing Line Press next winter. With Laura-Gray Street, she is coediting an international ecopoetry anthology, Earth’s Body, which will be published in 2011 by Trinity University Press. Ann teaches poetry and environmental studies at the University of Mississippi. She and her husband have five grown children.

Originally posted on February 8, 2009
Click here for the MP3 of this reading.


  1. i love all your posts, and i feel like i'm in my little poetic stage right now. i can't write anything else! your blog is inspiring, and i plan to check it routinely :]

  2. oh, ann! this poem undid me...

  3. Very moving, reminds me of my time spent in the south.

  4. The last part where the old man thought erroneously that he couldn't vote, made me want to cry. How many people have kept themselves because of their belief that they couldn't. Like an elephant who is kept on a string because it thinks it can't escape.

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