This breathtaking collection of poems by Deborah Digges, published posthumously, brings us rich stories of family life, nature’s bounty, love, and loss—the overflowing of a heart burdened by grief and moved by beauty.
When Deborah Digges died in the spring of 2009, at the age of fifty-nine, she left this gathering of poems that returns to and expands the creative terrain we recognize as hers. Here are poems that bring to life her rural Missouri childhood in a family with ten children (“Oh what a wedding train / of vagabonds we were who fell asleep just where we lay”); the love between men and women as well as the devastation of widowhood (“love’s house she goes dancing her grief-stricken dance / for his unpacked suitcases, . . . / . . . / his closets of clothes where I crouch like a thief”); and the moods of nature, which schooled her (“A tree will take you in, flush riot of needles light burst, the white pine / grown through sycamore”). Throughout, touching all subjects, either implicitly or explicitly, is the call to poetry itself.
The final work from one of our finest poets, The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart is a uniquely intimate collection, a sustaining pleasure that will stand to remind us of Digges’s gift in decades to come.
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Deborah Digges was born and raised in Missouri. She is the author of four previous collections of poetry and two memoirs. The recipient of grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, Digges lived in Massachusetts, where she was a professor of English at Tufts University until her death in 2009.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
the wind blows
through the doors of my heart
The wind blows
through the doors of my heart.
It scatters my sheet music
that climbs like waves from the piano, free of the keys.
Now the notes stripped, black butterflies,
flattened against the screens.
The wind through my heart
blows all my candles out.
In my heart and its rooms is dark and windy.
From the mantle smashes birds’ nests, teacups
full of stars as the wind winds round,
a mist of sorts that rises and bends and blows
or is blown through my rooms of my heart
that shatters the windows,
rakes the bedsheets as though someone
had just made love. And my dresses
they are lifted like brides come to rest
on the bedstead, crucifixes,
dresses tangled in trees in the rooms
of my heart. To save them
I’ve thrown flowers to fields,
so that someone would pick them up
and know where they came from.
Come the bees now clinging to flowered curtains.
Off with the clothesline pinning anything, my mother’s
It is not for me to say what is this wind
or how it came to blow through the rooms of my heart.
Wing after wing, through the rooms of the dead
the wind does not blow. Nor the basement, no wheezing,
no wind choking the cobwebs in our hair.
It is cool here, quiet, a quilt spread on soil.
But we will never lie down again.
Call out the names in the procession of the loved.
Call from the blood the ancestors here to bear witness
to the day he stopped the car,
we on our way to a great banquet in his honor.
In a field a cow groaned lowing, trying to give birth,
what he called front leg presentation,
the calf come out nose first, one front leg dangling from his
A fatal sign he said while rolling up the sleeves
of his dress shirt, and climbed the fence.
I watched him thrust his arms entire
into the yet-to-be, where I imagined holy sparrows scattering
in the hall of souls for his big mortal hands just to make way.
With his whole weight he pushed the calf back in the mother
and grasped the other leg tucked up like a closed wing
against the new one’s shoulder.
And found a way in the warm dark to bring both legs out
into the world together.
Then heaved and pulled, the cow arching her back.
Until a bull calf, in a whoosh of blood and water,
came falling whole and still onto the meadow.
We rubbed his blackness, bloodying our hands.
The mother licked her newborn, of us oblivious,
until it moved a little, struggled.
I ran to get our coats, mine a green velvet cloak,
and his tuxedo jacket, and worked to rub the new one dry
while he set out to find the farmer.
When it was over, the new calf suckling his mother,
the farmer soon to lead them to the barn,
leaving our coats just where they lay
we huddled in the car.
And then made love toward eternity,
without a word drove slowly home. And loved some more.
a man like this
That summer he and my brothers
unload rusty barrels on the hill above the lake,
the barrels to be filled with air from a compressor
mostly on the blink to buoy up the dock
that’s sagging, starboard, almost sunk.
It’s a long enterprise that will take days
of sinking barrels in the shallows,
rolled out half full of water, to the hull.
My brothers dive and struggle,
drumming their heads and elbows
where the jack cranks up the far left corner,
then treading water, shaking heads
and spouting as men do in grand productions
of hard work, their little sisters watching,
drown the barrel, hoist it up between the beams.
Now the compressor’s hose so many times wrapped
round with plumber’s tape,
stuck in the barrel, hisses out the muck,
the remnant water, oil and stink.
My brothers wear my father’s surgeon’s masks
as if that helps. And so it goes,
this or some other year, except today
high on the hill one barrel tilts, set down
sideways on its own lid, perhaps,
and pitches, beating down the hill toward children
in a playpen, children in the shallows playing, mother
What does my father do but leap over the hill
and fly a moment, airborne over gravel trying
to catch the barrel till he falls sliding, sprawled and raked
across the stones. The babies scream.
The barrel hits the water, bobs into the cove.
Still, for a moment he is flying out beyond heroics,
willed aloft a little once above the earth.
Better such flight than consequence.
I want a man like this
who, restless, bookish, given to sudden outbursts
or affection, takes running jumps,
it would seem, all his life, against reason,
a man who flies and falls, scraped head to toe,
whose daughters wash him in the lake
with Ivory soap,
dive down to pick the rock shards
from his legs, then dry him gently off
and lay him in the Ozarks sun on a half- sunken dock
and rub his ripped and bleeding skin with ointment.
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