The MFA in Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College

May 20th, 2016

2 poems

Reading Ravensbruck

These women suffered
Unimaginable brutality. Kicks,
Floggings, standing hours in icy rain, subsisting
On rutabaga soup and ersatz coffee.
Shot for amusement or for talking
To a friend or for praying. Gassed
In groups. The hellishness torments me
Like a bird of prey ripping
A rabbit into bits. A friend says at her age
She reads for enjoyment. But these things
Happen again and again. These women,
Many of them couldn’t believe they would be taken
Or that their destination was not another camp
But a grave. Some smiled and waved
From the truckbed. One Polish girl
Pointed skyward. She would have turned these pages
Of despair just as I do thinking knowledge
Could be a defense
Against the future. It is the future:
Boats full of refugees are sinking,
Families shot in their beds,
Girls abducted from school rooms,
Children taught to slaughter.
All these printed words can’t capture
One moment of happiness or surcease,
Yet some of the women marched singing
To the lethal showers, some of them
Holding hands.

No Trophies of the Sun
After Hart Crane

Splashes of light beneath the trees
Migrate like birds in a forecast
Of instinct and pressing time

Which repeats itself like words
Misunderstood in the common tongue
Of dailyness. What we expect

Is what we think we earn.
So no surprise that flowers overnight
Will take us in white arms

As if engaged with lilies.
The coffin-haunted blooms
Engulf the rooms of people

Who dust the shelves and pour
Coffee into morning mugs. Who wait
For each day to imitate the other.


Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including Selected Poems” from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and “Ribcage” from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. She has two books forthcoming in 2016 and 2017. One of her poems is among the winners of the 2016 Atlantic Review International Poetry Contest. Colby is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.

What motivates her to create?
I’ve been writing poetry and fiction all my life. Insofar as poetry is concerned, my chief motivation is that I hope the poem will reveal something to me that I didn’t previously know.

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