Angelo Mao’s “The Portuguese Man-of-War” and Frannie Lindsay’s “The Rabbits of Upland Road”

Portuguese Man-of-War

Angelo Mao

is not a real creature, being made
from a collusion of organisms
under one sail. Nevertheless,

its tentacles can reach
three times a grown man’s height,
dangling so far that one cannot see
their ends, because sea-
water, by that depth, becomes creamy
with disappearances,
a black scarf

wound around the visible. Tendrils
wait with matter-of-fact hunger,
ache to inject neurotoxin
and consume. Being kept captive
ruins it, because its high buoy sticks
to the aquarium tank,
captive, unable to live without
always imagining itself
beyond every window, in the deep blue
eye of water, limbs extending
nightly like the skyscrapers
I have seen outside the window
against a winter sky.
How beautifully they glitter,

those shy-blue ropes,

bearded glass, drifting mane.

* Writing prompt: Start by describing an animal, plant, or object. Don’t be afraid to be boring, slow, or “uncreative.” Then bring yourself in; let your imagination stretch with a gesture, an unusual comparison. The purpose is to feel how much louder and clearer you can be by using patience and quietness in writing.

The Rabbits of Upland Road

Frannie Lindsay

You are going to lose everything.
The funeral home will show up to gather
your father beneath a velvet shroud.
The red potatoes will sprout in their basket
inside the window. Someone will wash
and fold the bedding and give it away.
The neighbors’ visits will stop.
The art will assess at barely a fraction,
and then you will run out of
boxes. The plants will wither. No one
will want the rare books. In time,
your handwriting, too, will tie itself
into mad tangles. You will never
be granted the mercy you pled for.
Your hoarse voice will startle you.
But look: two brown rabbits
have popped naïvely out from behind
the lilacs. In their lovely identical eyes
rests the gem of everyday trust. It needs
no faceting. Then the evening blinks although
it is nowhere near dark, and leaves you
alone with just enough thanks
to tear off one more rag.

from The Snow’s Wife (Cavankerry, 2020)

* Writing Prompt: Start with the 1 or 2 lines about the insurmountable (war, poverty, mortality or something more personally immediate); then move beyond it over the course of the poem.

Angelo Mao is a research scientist and writer. He earned his Ph.D. in bioengineering from Harvard University, and his research publications have appeared in Science, Nature Biotechnology, and elsewhere. His first book of poetry, Abattoir (Burnside Review Press, 2021), won the Burnside Review Press Book Award. His poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, The Georgia Review, Lana Turner, and elsewhere. He has also written for Opera News and Boston Classical Review. He was born in California and lives in Massachusetts.

Frannie Lindsay‘s sixth volume of poems, The Snow’s Wife, was published in 2020 by Cavankerry. She is the previous winner of the May Swenson Award, the Washington Prize, the Perugia Award, the Benjamin Saltman Award, and the Missouri Review Prize. She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her work appears in Best American Poetry 2014, as well as numerous journals such as The Atlantic Monthly, The Yale Review, Plume, Field, Salamander, and many others. She teaches workshops on the poetry of grief and trauma. She is also a classical pianist.