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Elizabeth Jacobson

Elizabeth Jacobson received an MFA from Columbia University in creative writing and a BA from Rollins College. She is the author of Not into the Blossoms and Not into the Air (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2019) which won the New Measure Poetry Prize selected by Marianne Boruch, and the 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for both New Mexico Poetry and Best New Mexico Book. Jacobson is the founding director of the WingSpan Poetry Project, a not-for-profit which since 2013 has conducted weekly poetry classes in battered family and homeless shelters in Santa Fe, New Mexico. WingSpan has received four grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry and a Community Partners Award from the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families. She is the Reviews Editor for Terrain.org and poet laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Read about Elizabeth Jacobson’s 2020 Poets Laureate Fellowship project.

By This Poet

4

Quantum Foam

The air is close by the sea and the glow from the pink moon
drapes low over a tamarind tree.

We hold hands, walk across a road rushing with traffic 
to an abandoned building site on the bay, look out across the dark marina.

Sea cows sleep by the side of a splintered dock, a cluster of them 
under the shallow water,

their wide backs covered in algae like mounds of bleached coral.

Every few minutes one floats up for air, 
then drifts back down to the bottom, 

without fully waking.  
They will do this for hours, and for a while we try to match 

our breath to theirs, and with each other’s.

In the morning, sitting in the garden beneath thatch palms, 
we drink black coffee from white ceramic cups.

Lizards killed by feral cats are scattered on the footpath.
I sweep them into a pile with the ones from the night before.   

Waves of heat rise from the asphalt, 
and we sense a transparent gray fuzz lightly covering everything 

as if there were no such thing as empty space, 
that even a jar void of substance holds emptiness as if it were full.

The Cows

Now that I have read this story about the cows  
I think of them at night when I cannot sleep, 
how they are so still in their grassy field,  
seemingly suspended like animations of themselves. 
Even though there are only 3, I count them over and over,  
envision them as if I were floating above their pasture, 
observe the different stances they choose:   
the 3 of them standing bottom to bottom, or 
head to head, 
sometimes in a row, one behind the other 
sometimes side by side. 
They stand where they want and nurse their calves. 
They lie down in their field when they feel like it. 
If the farmer wants to kill one, and it won’t get in the truck 
he gives up and lets it live. 
If the farmer wants to sell one, and it won’t get in the truck 
he gives up and lets it stay. 
I am glad I read this story by Lydia Davis. 
I like to think of how she stood in her window and watched these cows. 
I imagine how she may have moved from inside her house to outside her house, 
depending on the weather, to stand and watch these cows, 
month after month,  
and although the details of their days are rather plain 
she wrote a very essential story. 
Right before I fall asleep I think about how there are no cows where I live 
but there are mountains,  
and I watch them move in this same way. 
They open and close, depending on the weather 
and like these 3 cows, these mountains are a few of the things left 
that get to live exactly as they must. 

“All the time I pray to Buddha I keep on killing mosquitoes."

—Issa

Issa, I killed 8 gophers this fall, held 
each cold body in my open palm,  

stroking the river colored fur between their silent black eyes 
before dropping them into a plastic bag. 

Their little hands were cupped  
as if in death they cradled one last thing 

because nothing does not continually hold 
all of what remains, or all of what  

has been carried somewhere else.  
The tunnels these creatures dug in my yard,  

destroying even the hardiest plants, 
will soon be used by voles and rats,  

and other gophers,  
from other yards, that will be trapped and killed, by me. 

I met a man who hunts elk.   
He shot a large buck, and when he was beginning to dress it,  

just as he made the first cut with his blade through the buck’s neck,  
this man opened his mouth to yawn.   

The neck of the elk exploded, and the cervical fluid  
burst from its spine,  

infecting the man  
with a parasite that nearly killed him.   

Issa, I cannot absolve myself, 
cannot clear impurities from my body. 

You said, A bath when you’re born,  
a bath when you die, 

how stupid
How extraordinary.