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Catherine Bowman

Catherine Bowman was born in El Paso, Texas. She received an MFA from Columbia University in 1988.

Bowman is the author of several poetry collections, including Can I Finish, Please? (Four Way Books, 2016); The Plath Cabinet (Four Way Books, 2009); and 1-800-HOT-RIBS (Gibbs Smith, 1993), winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. 1-800-HOT-RIBS was reissued in 2000 by Carnegie Mellon University Press.

Of her work, Kevin Prufer writes, “These jangling, off-balance, often sneakily meditative poems are among the most interesting and formally inventive I’ve read by any living writer.”

Bowman is also the editor of Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPR’s All Things Considered (Vintage Books, 2003), an anthology of poems she presented while serving as the “poetry DJ” on All Things Considered.

Bowman has received fellowships from the Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. She currently teaches creative writing at Indiana University and lives in Bloomington, Indiana.


Bibliography

Can I Finish, Please? (Four Way Books, 2016)
The Plath Cabinet (Four Way Books, 2009)
Notarikon (Four Way Books, 2006)
1-800-HOT-RIBS (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000)
Rock Farm (Gibbs Smith, 1996)
1-800-HOT-RIBS (Gibbs Smith, 1993)

By This Poet

2

Provisional

When he procured her, she purveyed
him. When he rationed her out, 
she made him provisional. On being

provisional, he made her his trough.
On being a trough, she made him her silo. 
At once a silo, he made her his cut. On being a cut,

she made him her utensil. On being
a utensil, he turned her downhill. So being
downhill, she made him her skis. 

When she was his stethoscope,
he was her steady beat. From beat
she was dog, from dog he was fetch,
 
from fetch she was jab, from jab
he was fake. When he was her complex
equation, she was his simple math. 

So she turned him into strong evidence,
accessory after the fact. So he turned 
her eyes private, made her his man

on the lam. So he became her psalm, 
so she became his scrubby tract. When he
became an aesthete, she became his

claw-foot bath.  So she made him a rudimentary
fault line; so he made her a volcanic rim.
So she made him her unruly quorum;

so he made her his party whip.
That's when they both became
mirror, and then both became lips.

From lips she was trumpet, from trumpet
he was mute. Then he made her his margin
of error. Then she made him stet.

Heart

Old fang-in-the-boot trick. Five-chambered
asp. Pit organ and puff adder. Can live
in any medium save ice. Charmed by the flute
or the first thunderstorm in spring, drowsy
heart stirs from the cistern, the hibernaculum,
the wintering den of stars. Smells like the cucumber
served chilled on chipped Blue Willow. Her garden
of clings, sugars, snaps, and strings. Her creamy breasts
we called pillows and her bird legs and fat fingers
covered with diamonds from the mines in Africa.

The smell of cucumber.... Her mystery roses....

Heading out Bandera to picnic and pick corn,
the light so expert that for miles
you can tell a turkey vulture
from a hawk by the quiver in the wing.
Born on April Fools’, died on Ground Hog’s,
he pulls over not to piss but to blow away
any diamondback unlucky enough to be
on the road between San Antonio and Cotulla.

Squinting from the back of the pickup
into chrome and sun and shotgun confection,
my five boy cousins who love me more
than all of Texas and drink my spit
from a bottle of Big Red on a regular basis
know what the bejeweled and the gun-loading
have long since forgotten. And that is:
Snakes don’t die. They just play dead. The heart
exposed to so many scrapes, bruises, burns,
and bites sheds its skin, sprouts wings and fl ies,
becomes the two-for-one sparkler on
the Fourth of July, becomes what’s slung between
azure and cornfield: the horizon.

If you don't believe it
place your right hand on it
from the Pledge
like you've been taught.
 
Feel the hearing so deep. Limbless
and near limbless. Prefers the ambush 
to the hunt. Sets a trap, picks a spot,
begins the vigil. Resorts at times to bluff
and temper. Swallows victims whole.
Tastes like chicken. Tastes like
hope, memory, forgiveness.