How could he have ever been satisfied—
the sharp steel pressed to the pink
skin of the pig's throat—one
and then the shrill squeals' screeching halt?
How strangely silent it must have sounded
before the last hot breath bubbling with blood
fell into the bucket below to be carried
off with the flesh-stripped bones
to the creek behind the house. Perhaps
pouring slowly, he found himself consoled
by how, before the color bled to a dull,
the blood looked like a hundred satin ribbons
floating downstream. And to see those bones
what a relief it must have been.
© 2013 Shannon
*This poem was originally published, in a
slightly different version, in the fall 2011 issue of Superstition
Shannon Camlin Ward received an MFA
in creative writing from North Carolina State University in
2009, and she now teaches composition at her undergraduate
alma mater, Methodist University, in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
She is the recipient of a 2013 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award,
and her work has received support from Yaddo, The Holly House,
and The Anderson Center. Her poems have appeared in Great
River Review, Superstition Review, Tar River
Poetry, and others. She was raised in a renovated slaughterhouse
on the outskirts of Wilmington, Ohio.
Blood Creek draws its voice and subjects from Ward's
own haunted origins as a woman and a daughter—adeptly
translating them into a series of images and stories we can
both witness and take part in as readers. The ghostly butcher
who appears througout these poems helps ground them in the
possible—the real—by anchoring us in an anti-Edenic
landscape in which a constant tension between fear and courage
makes joy possible. Like her outcast sister who longs to steal
her stepfather's truck, "rip the poems from his lips,
and drive south," Ward calls us to take part in the telling
of her own family's history from both its periphery and center,
reminding us all the while that dressing our own cuts—our
own wounds—is a risky but necessary business.
These poems move back and forth
between the sharp grit of the real world and the delicate
realm of memory, haunted by a history of animal slaughter
and blood and especially by ghosts of a lost childhood and
a dead sister, gone but not forgotten. Shannon Ward has the
poet's eye and an ear for the well-made line. Check her out.
Shannon Ward's new collection
demands our attention. Having grown up in a house previously
used as a butchery, she threads its history as a metaphor
through her poems, letting loose violence and beauty that
braid through this river. Both raw and refined, her voice
will last with images floating back as ghosts and flowers.
—Elizabeth W. Jackson