Kelly Moffett is an Assistant Professor of English at Northern
Kentucky University. Her work has appeared in journals such as The
Laurel Review, Colorado Review, Rattle, Cincinnati Review, and
Phoebe. Her first book, Waiting for a Warm Body to Fill It, was
released April 2008 from Cinnamon Press (UK) and her second book, When
the God of Water enters your Basement, Bow, will be out Spring 2013
through Salmon Poetry/Dufour Editions. She has spent the past fours
years studying silence in Trappist and Benedictine monasteries, and in
her free time, she walks the woods with her Irish Wolfhound, Finn, and
hangs out in the suburbs with her husband, poetry critic Joe Moffett,
and her son, Devon.
What artist inspires you?
What a beautiful question. I have spent the past three years studying silence and writing in Trappist and Benedictine monasteries in Indiana, Kentucky, and Colorado. I’ve been fascinated, always, with the white space of the page and how it seems already occupied for the poet as a canvas might for a painter. By spending my time in silence, I thought of it as spending time in that white space, that quiet page, in order to discover what may be there (could it be doubt? fear? holiness? love? etc.).
My new book uses this quote from Ann Hamilton as a sort of epigraph for the entire collection: “Who is speaking? What is being said? Who is listening?” I love her installation titled Ghost: A Border Act http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com/projects/ghostaborderact.html . On one side of the installation, a line is being written, and on the other side, the line is being unwritten. That seems so pertinent, somehow, for a “white space” experience—where there is much erasure and echo and attempts to fill the silence with words.
I am also a fan of how she disorients the human experience by switching a mouth for an eye in her face to face series, in which a small pinhole camera is placed in the mouth and the mouth “sees” http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com/prints/face_to_face.html . Again, this seems to be an exploration of what may be occupying formally perceived unoccupied spaces. In short, I am drawn to her lyric logic, her lyric sensibility, and her art gives me permission to embrace my mind, my way of seeing and thinking and listening (that is far from linear!). She is able to visualize what I sense as an intensely spiritual experience.
Releasing the Mother of Sorrows
I could see your bones nearby.
You took your stones in the fashion of St. Stephen.
When you said you would die, I thought you would die.
I believed sorrow could kill in that way.
I still do.
Your eyes dark as sin.
I could have polished you to a sheen.
When I search for traces of what you must have been
(even in pictures when you were with child, with me)
a small scream was in you.
Before more Rain
Chuang Tzu, as if beside me:
Quiet; hear this rush of tones. At the edge of the flooded field,
I watch the loss. Everything is at work tonight:
a frog leaps and the haze sets in. The sky flushes a hushed yellow.
The world dims. Three thrushes pass;
I have one hand on the heart,
I’ve got to start
of the birds. What?
I’ve got to
start taking pictures
of the birds.
What if I put
a feeder right there
and be careful
with the seeds?
Maybe. It seems
no matter what
you do it kills
the grass. What?
It seems no matter
what you do
it kills the grass.
It’s the first day
of spring. Does it
feel like it? Munch,
Aren’t you going
to answer? What?
Does it feel
like the first
day of spring?
I guess. Not a whole
lot I can say to that.
Portrait of a Man (Parmigianino)
We are in the business
of making bodies. By three
months, I could feel the fissure of cartilage into bone;
I dreamed of a small
mouth sucking a small
thumb. Deep in the layers of me,
something formed and your hand
sensed it. If I could,
I would have handed you the child,
fetched it from my womb.
Then, in that hour,
we may have been more honest.
But, really, we ask for little more
than paint and skin. The you staring at the me
we have created.
In the Land of the Mothers
On the postcard of the pond,
I wrote: where understanding will grow.
Four turtles sunned.
(Their shells read: mystery.)
One cow called to the other.
Deer left the shore.
In the water you appeared in the shimmer.
Above, the shake of a tree,
then years of you trickled down.
In the Land of Mothers, two
Here, even the trees are labeled.
My favorite: Horse Chestnut.
The pink clusters hang as manes.
A space, also, labeled: “To Peace”
(a trail cut between cedars).
Even my room has a name:
Guardian Angel Room.
Just now, I let the rain in.
I tell the angels not to stop me.
The priest tells us a sheep drowned
from soaking its wool in river-water.
Was the point that we all grow heavy with thirst?
A bell peals. (Compline calling.)
Above me, twelve disciples hold empty bowls,
the most important metaphor of their lives.
If I stay long enough, I will want to lick
the years of prayer from this stucco.
Outside a koi steeps, rain rushes
down hand-dug trenches,
I settle into the belly of the chapel.
In the Monastery Courtyard
Water spills from concrete lips,
angel hands, a woman’s throat.
(What does it mean to become empty?)
A squirrel eats my raisins.
My tongue tasted the same sweetness.
A monk talks of a cow’s labor. I feel I should know this.
While I slept, a life fell in.
See? He says, There is magic too.
Like the wind that moves forward, I move forward.
I chant, hold on.
I talk to a priest about everything but you.
The day fills with black-robed men
and rabbits in tufts of grass.
(I am on religious ground.)
I stay with the banging all day.
Could it be my heart?