Writer-in-residence and professor of English at Catawba College, Janice Moore Fuller has published three poetry books — Archeology Is a Destructive Science (Scots Plaid Press, 1998), Sex Education (Iris Press, 2004) and Séance (Iris Press, 2007), winner of the Poetry Council of North Carolina’s Oscar Arnold Young Award. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Magma (London), New Welsh Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Kakalak, Poems & Plays, Cave Wall, Comstock Review, Fourth River, The Pedestal, Pembroke Magazine, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Main Street Rag and Nantahala. She has been writer-in-residence at Wales’s Tŷ Newydd Centre and a fellow at the Tyrone Guthrie Center, Fundación Valparaíso in Spain, Edinburgh’s Hawthornden International Centre, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and Portugal’s Foundation Obras Centre for Arts and Science. Her stage adaptation of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying will premiere at Catawba’s Hedrick Theatre Tuesday, Sept. 27, through Saturday, Oct. 1.
THIS WHISTLING IS FOR YOU THERE IN THE DARK
“And, we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”
–Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach”
“Owls hoot to mark their territory; whistling is a contact call.”
–Duncan Brown, Welsh naturalist
We gather near Afon Dwyfor at the moth trap
to see what the blue light has drawn from the dark.
What we call a moth, Duncan tells us,
is just one stage, the imago,
the final flowering of its univoltine life.
He scoops out each one, careful not to crimp a wing,
speaks its poet’s name before freeing it:
small phoenix, common marble carpet,
Svenson’s copper underwing, pink bardsallo.
The Latin names, he says, echo evolutionary orders,
categories constantly changing.
These days, nations seal their borders,
Israel, India, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan,
forgetting how taxonomies can blur.
When Tomahawk missiles gather, when six shooters
slip from their holsters, what hope
even for lovers, like you and me?
How can we hope to lay aside our weapons—
the gunmetal silence, the empty e-mail screen?
Peter Howson’s “The Morning After”
monoprint and oil on paper:
A female inert on the edge of a bed,
back turned like a shield.
Her mate, escaped from the other side,
clawing the air with a hand no longer his.
Hunched over, he regurgitates
a scream. Blood shadows him.
His or hers? Impossible to say.
His soft genitals surface in the Venice red.
Outside the window, a wide-bodied plane
hovers above a building only six stories high,
a patient lover stroking with its wing.
Duncan says most creatures mark their domains.
Owls hoot and swoop along the edge of night.
Even moths claim their spots of light.
Tonight when we flutter together in the dark,
no taxonomies, please. Call me Yellow Brimstone.
I’ll name you July Highflier.
Melyn y drain, esgynnwr Gorffenaf.
Then watch while I trace a circle
of candlelight on the bed,
and, for this one hour, claim it mine
I was commissioned to write this poem in Wales during my fall 2011 sabbatical from Catawba College. The occasion was a joint poetry reading with Welsh poet Menna Elfyn on October 4, 2011, National Poetry Day, at an art gallery (Oriel Mostyn) in Llandudno in conjunction with the opening of an international exhibit on intimacy.
This poem first appeared in Poets for Peace: A Collection (edited by Timothy Crowley, Chapel Hill Press, 2002) and was subsequently published in the collection Sex Education (Iris Press, 2004).