Recipient of the 2016 Settlement House American Poetry Prize
Catherine Jagoe is an award-winning poet, translator and writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Born in Britain, she lived in England, Nigeria and Spain beforemoving to the United States in 1988. She holds a doctorate in Spanish literature from Cambridge University, and is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Casting Off (Parallel Press) and News from the North (Finishing Line Press). Bloodroot, her first full-length collection of poetry, is the winner of the 2016 Settlement House American Poetry Prize.
The 4-ounce Arctic tern
mates for life,
flies for thirty years
from pole to pole
and back, breeding
in the Arctic summer,
then following the sun
south to Antarctica.
A lifetime of double summers,
drenched in daylight—
endlessly on the wing,
this wind-rider who lives
for journeying, who stops ashore
only to begin new life,
who’s most at home in transit,
flying the equivalent of
three round-trip voyages
to the moon
WHAT MEN WANT
Women, when they get together, grouse
about how baffling men are—
how they won’t talk, which sticks in the craw—
chewing and working the tough,
unpalatable skin of the world,
till it is supple enough
to be worn.
I think of my husband, mute
on the phone to me, out in the rain,
repainting his dying father’s name
on the sign so people could find
their way to his home.
I think of my father, besieged
by work, bending to caress
his roses, breathing in the scent
of blooms named after breeders’ wives:
deep crimson Ena Harkness,
pure white Madame Hardy.
His favorite, a pale yellow flushed
with pink, extremely fragrant,
was called Peace.
I will not forget the summer I forced myself
out onto the deck and slumped there in despair,
swollen-eyed, slatternly, my throat raw,
my head heavy with drugs that made me
endlessly sleep and eat but did not cure my pain,
how you suddenly appeared, suspended
in mid-air, a jeweled messenger
on wings of living, iridescent green.
The ruby at your throat glowed in the sun
as our eyes met. No one else saw you.
I knew your message was yourself: green
flame of concentrated life, scrap of pure,
unbounded energy. The next time I labored
under the same weight, you reappeared:
hovering between the lilacs and the bleeding heart.