The Workshop Said I Used the Word

“shadow” too much, I should not in fact
use it at all. So I deleted all
the shadows, used the “find and replace” function
to replace them with nothing. The poems had sharper
outlines then, were much more positive
and definite. Each image was itself, no
overlaps and if I said, “A rock fell,”
I saw it falling through an absolute
uncompromising sunlight. People in the poems
no longer used subordinate clauses, every
statement was simple, direct. Girls played jump-rope
in the street with no echo on the pavement
while I stood under a tree sweating,
taking notes. But late in the afternoon
it seemed the poems were too much alike,
so I tried to put the shadows back. I couldn’t
of course, you replace something with nothing,
it’s gone. So I peppered the poems
with small darknesses, inside, between lines,
you barely see them, but they are there,
taking back the light and dulling edges;
they will grow into a (say it!) shadow.

Journals publishing Janet McCann’s poems include Kansas Quarterly, Parnasses, Nimrod, Sou'Wester, New York Quarterly, Tendril, Poetry Australia, and McCall’s. She’s won three chapbook contests, sponsored by Pudding Publications, Chimera Connections, and Franciscan University Press. A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she has taught at Texas A & M University since 1969. She has co-edited two anthologies, ODD ANGLES OF HEAVEN (1994) and PLACE OF PASSAGE ( Story Line, 2000.) Most recent poetry book: EMILY’S DRESS (Pecan Grove Press, 2004).

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