Ann Bookman


Hymn To Be Sung At Astronomical Twilight

Lichen, all that remains green, 
clings to the naked stump. One piece of bark lingers
in the dirt, survived the shredding,
only to be trapped
between decay and salvation. 

I heard it howl when they split the trunk into billets,
heard the crass conquering laughter
of the hatchet men when they first saw
the wet sapwood in the middle:
you’d think they’d discovered America. 

But you and I know
that tree had no more chance of living
among the rotting flesh
of humans and mammals –
or the underbellies of ancient sea creatures – 
than any of us.

If you think it’s hard
to make out shapes and sense
from decaying dirt, then wait
till your eyes are used to the dark:
you will see animal hearts and the skins of ghosts
you will see tender shoots and saplings,
a grove of saplings,
like far off stars
waiting to be born
waiting for the light.





Impenetrable Blue

I was trying to write about the unreasonableness of God,
Abraham and Isaac – you know, father and young son – 
how could He ask for that?
As a child I preferred National Geographic
to Bible stories: two priests, veiled by moonless night,
led three children up the rocky path of Yu-yai-ya-ko,
home of Incan mountain gods.

The eldest girl wore a white-feathered cap,
her brother carried a farm tool,  
his twin sister grasped a tiny doll in each hand,
miniature shawls, finely woven threads,
berry red and the impenetrable blue of midnight.

Long hours the priests labored, digging graves,
lining them with provisions, with stones.
When the pit was deep, they placed dirt stained hands
on small heads, shining black hair.
Pouring from a jug of chica beer, they pressed
the spout firmly to each set of lips.

Dreaming between worlds, they lowered the children
below ground, closed their eyelids for eternity.
Before departing, the priests tied strings
of pearly shells around each child’s neck:
gifts from the sea for thirsty deities
dwelling in dry Andean peaks.






Ann Bookman is a poet, anthropologist and social justice advocate.  She is currently a Senior Fellow at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global. Studies at UMass Boston.  She has been studying poetry for twenty years with Boston area poets and in residential workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA.   Her poems have been published in Chronogram, Larcom Review and Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, among others. In 2012 she published a chapbook, Point of Attachment, with Finishing Line Press. Her first full collection, Blood Lines, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books.