THE SHIP UNDER THE FOOT
OF THE ELEPHANT
This thick-skinned toe scraping.
This cool cool water splashing upside down.
Breath, once so unconsciously available,
hides now in the shadow of the foot.
This moment of slow sinking into the waves,
this steady forcing down into green:
some panic, some music from the band
and the long soft hand of the nurse
who adjusts the morphine drip, just enough,
just to ease the weight of the elephant
and expand the idea
of where the ship might go.
” ‘I understand storms, the way love moves / within them,’ writes Mary Jane Nealon in this book filled with dark agreements and luminous contradictions. She has learned in suffering what she teaches in song. Rogue Apostle is a rich book and–rarer these days–a wise one.” —J. D. McClatchy
” ‘Emancipated in the mess of it’ is an apt description of Mary Jane Nealon’s relation to the world she describes with such stringent accuracy, toughness, and compassion. I can imagine Chekhov reading these poems, especially the ones that recount her experience as a nurse, and nodding his head at the odd surreal rightness of the scenes in the ward, the operating room, the pathologist’s lab, and the morgue. Most poets write about the body at a literary remove, but Nealon knows its exact heft and weight, its resilience and ultimate frailty. When Nealon speaks of a leg’s ‘disarticulation’–the technical term for dismemberment–the project of these poems comes clear: to articulate, in her spare and eloquently plainspoken way, the traumatic marriage between healing and pain.” —Tom Sleigh