Poet’s Sampler: b: william bearhart, introduced by Natalie Diaz
Jul 20, 2016
body where none existed
God drew two bodies as one
went crooked . . .
Poetry is a thing I cannot live well without—it is one of the ways we love ourselves best, as both readers and creators of it. I have come to count on poetry. The poetry of b: william bearhart teaches me something about my easy-to-hurt heart and this unreasonable world. When I read his poems, I feel: Yes, pain, and also love. The native body, like any brown body, deserves to be loved, is capable of loving, has in it the capacity for tenderness, desire, and pleasure in a way that literature has often denied it. In “I Cast It Away, My Body:” and the other poems in this sample of his work, bearhart leads readers to the war grounds many of us wander as we attempt to recognize our bodies and lives as beautiful, even joyful, though flawed and aching. His speaker’s tenderness—for a brother, for a father, for a people—moves into and beyond the prescribed native body until it is cast away. The people in his poems are freed into the new and ancient bodies of a dragon, the earth, a dandelion, a sunflower that is also a lion. True, bearhart’s images of darkness are as infinite as the night, as the universe even. True, also, that his images of light are equally immeasurable and unyielding, such as the net which almost hangs a psychiatric patient or the welding arc in an auto shop. Yes, darkness, bearhart’s poems say, but also and always light.
I Cast It Away, My Body:
after Georgia O’Keeffe’s First Drawing of Blue Lines, 1916
My brother, all copper feathers and dragon tail, chosen
*The title is taken from an Ojibwe war poem
after Dana Levin’s “Field”
inflorescence of a jaw, unhinged,
Psych Ward Visitation Hour
When the night unravels this night becomes
beneath your shadow
July 20, 2016