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JoAnn Balingit

About the Poet
JoAnn Balingit is the author of Your Heart and How It Works (Spire Press, 2009).

She has published poems in a number of journals, and in anthologies such as DIAGRAM.2 (Del Sol Press, 2006) and Best New Poets 2007 (Meridian).

Balingit is the author of Your Heart and How It Works (Spire Press, 2009). Her work has recently appeared in Harpur Palate, Kweli Journal, Philadelphia Stories, The Pedestal Magazine, on Verse Daily and is forthcoming in Kweli Journal. Her poems have been anthologized in DIAGRAM.2 and Best New Poets 2007.

Appointed Delaware's poet laureate in 2008, JoAnn teaches in schools and community organizations throughout the state. She was awarded a 2009 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation creative fellowship for a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Creek Song

a little smoke and a little hair
a doll I will make a picture of

with a little smoke for the eyes
and a little moss for the hair

and a mouth made of mud
a doll I will make a picture of

with a little head for the hair
clay for the hollow hands

and a bucket full of song
a doll I will make a picture of

with a pebble on its tongue
where the creek begins to tumble

it rides down the water
it waves like a picture

then mud covers the eyes
and the hair floats like smoke

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Home Schooling

His science glossary does not have contrary so he fetches The Junior Book of Knowledge. He watches as I lower my Oxford to the table like a baby or a side of beef. A hunk of pages drapes my arm as if somebody fainted. "It's onion skin!" he crows, then asks, "Which would you want: A little dictionary with big words, or a big dictionary with little words?"

I pour our tea, absorbed, as he repeats his query. I fancy he and I are miners in a cave shoveling words into rail cars. "Oh the big words, I guess" I tell him, and frontal lobe relaxes, though it's a ruse: I do not love big words. I love mint, tea, cool, perhaps tongue. And pen, tap, sip, especially cup. I was never one to stock-pile big words for ammunition in resentment, love, for glory, to grovel or to find my way.

"Well," he says, "that means I get to take your big dictionary with all the little words, because I can use my magnifying glass to see them no matter how small they are."

"Oh, watch it," I warn, "You'll shake our tea" as he passes me The Junior Book of Knowledge.

To top


My Son Listens to his iPod as
I Drive Back Roads to the Bus Stop

Past a saga of fieldstone and horse
out to sultry pasture, past a cragged dogwood
with turban wound so wide
it breaks the sky's blue helmet. Did you
see that horse just genuflect - its fat hooves
press the moss? Did you see how
the unkempt Osage orange raises its arms
to the power lines?

If I take this curve slowly
we will hear the creek consulting on the fawn
that has shrunken to an acorn of thought
tossed in the roadside chicory.
-- Do you think we'll spot the black snake
I caught once by the mill race
as it issued from a stone,

a fissure in the air
a dream reeled in
as I reached for its neck . . .

Keep your eye on those boxes
nailed to split-rail all along Pleasant Hill.
You may see a bird streak over the field, shoot
through its hole like a blue gas flame.
What comfort, imagine, inside
those houses - bug smell, downy yellow heat.
Were I a bluebird I'd fight to nest
in a pinewood box

with an eyehole view
of leaf storm and cloudships scuttled on poplars
a house with a rocker rutting its porch
and a rustic mounted skull
say of that fawn. Under the arch
of its high-pitched roof, plenty of headroom
to perch inside. Under my fragile
cap of bone, I'd feed
I'd brood I'd sing.


~ JoAnn Balingit
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