Poem-A-Day: Jane Creighton

I love featuring a poem by Jane Creighton here because she was one of my first poetry professors at the University of Houston, and she encouraged my work at a time when it really wasn’t good enough to merit her praise. But I’m glad she did, because eventually I became a poet, writing worthwhile things. She was just the teacher I needed at the time I landed in her classroom, and it makes me happy to run into her now and then, all these years later, and know that her tender care of her students meant something, that it paid off. That inspires me as a teacher, too.

We’ve both moved on to other schools now, but I see her sometimes at Mutabilis Press events, and I have to stop myself from telling her how much I appreciated the generously kind critique she gave me on a maudlin sonnet I wrote when I was twenty that was inspired by my boyfriend at the time, whom I didn’t realize yet was not good for me, and Sara Teasdale, whose poetry I loved in high school. Not only would it be weird for me to tell her this all these years later, but frankly, I’ve already done it, at a Houston Poetry Fest reading a long time ago.

 

Where There Is No Else
            (Panna Maria and Cestohowa)

Maybe 200 miles inland of hot road
spinning by, cotton fields, bony cattle,
barren land spitting up dust. Two immaculate
churches of Polish origin rise up out of the prairie
amid rumbling trucks hauling cotton bales,
amid turkey buzzards, shuttered houses
paling in the sun. You can’t say
you know what’s going on. You’re simply
taking an outing away from your month
at the coast. You wouldn’t say
you understand what it means
to build a church that echoes the triumphs
and travails of centuries of life
in southern Poland out here in the great
crisscross of southwest conquest and migration,
Texas. You wonder how these Poles managed
the difference between Russian onslaughts,
the promise of spring and mesquite, rattlesnakes,
precious little water. Where is home
when one needs it? Where is the whistle
in the distance calling you back? Pulling faith,
this is the great beyond, the pick-up-
your-bed-and-walk, the road
where, if you don’t survive,
someone else does.

***

Go to this month’s first Poem-A-Day to learn how to participate in a game as part of this year’s series. You can have just a little involvement or go all the way and write a cento. I hope you’ll join in!

***

Jane Creighton is a poet, writer, and Professor of English at the University of Houston—Downtown. Her work has been published in Ploughshares, The American Voice, Gulf Coast, The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century British and American War Literature, Encountering Disgrace, We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon, Still Seeking and Attitude: Critical Reflections on the Work of June Jordan, Unwinding the Vietnam War, and Close to the Bone: Memoirs of Hurt, Rage, and Desire. She has an early collection of poems, Ceres in an Open Field.

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