The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Code by Charlotte Pence

Helen of Troy

The Trojans kept Helen for twelve
years, winning at least a little while.
So often we focus on the loss
rather than the years of attainment.
But any love that matters will one day
be taken for granted. Last night,
lying down to sleep next to you
on wrinkled sheets, warm where
the dog curled, cold by our feet,
I realized as your hand grazed my thigh
you hadn’t touched me all day.
Each morning when I wake, I understand
you’re an eagle scanning the next ridge.
The bed heaves as you rise first,
your steps hard, stiff, while the erupting
sky behind you eases from gravel gray
to blue. You don’t glance back
at the soft curve of my body,
not yet rigid with the day’s to-dos.
What you do is place cereal and fruit
in a bowl, then call my name.
The milk cold. The peach sliced.
Without motive or need,
we sleep, eat, read, breathe together,
you running a hand under my shirt
whenever you want. But I was talking
about Helen, about how she loved
as she wished at least once, willing
to witness the loss of a world for it.


This selection comes from the book, Code, available from Black Lawrence Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Danielle Hanson.

Charlotte Pence’s first book of poems, Many Small Fires (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), received an INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award from Foreword Reviews. The book explores her father’s chronic homelessness while simultaneously detailing the physiological changes that enabled humans to form cities, communities, and households. She is also the author of two award-winning poetry chapbooks and the editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have recently been published in Harvard Review, Sewanee Review, Southern Review, and Brevity. In July of 2020, her next poetry collection, Code, will be published by Black Lawrence Press. A graduate of Emerson College (MFA) and the University of Tennessee (PhD), she is now the director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing at University of South Alabama.

Danielle Hanson received her MFA from Arizona State University and her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  She is Poetry Editor for Doubleback Books and a Senior Reader at Atlanta Review, and was formerly Poetry Editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review, and associate editor for Loose Change Magazine and Carriage House Review.  Her work has appeared in over 70 journals and anthologies, including Poets & Writers, Iodine Poetry Journal, Rosebud, The Cortland Review, Willow Springs, Roanoke Review, Poet Lore, Asheville Poetry Review, and Blackbird.  She has been on staff at the Meacham Writers’ Conference and the Chattahoochee Valley Writers’ Conference, and completed residencies at The Hambidge Center.  She has received several Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations.  She is the 2017 recipient of the Codhill Press Poetry Prize, Finalist for the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Poetry, and 2016 recipient of the Vi Gale Award from Hubbub.

Her second collection Fraying Edge of Sky (Codhill Press, 2018) won the 2017 Codhill Press Poetry Prize, and was previously a Finalist in the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry in 2017, the Wick Poetry Prize in 2017, the Codhill Poetry Award in 2017, the Antivenom Poetry Award in 2016 and 2017, and the Richard Snyder Prize in 2016 and 2017; and was Semifinalist in the National Poetry Series in 2017, the Crab Orchard Series in 2017, the Elixir Press Prize in 2016, and The Washington Prize in 2016. 

Her debut collection Ambushing Water (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017) previously was Runner Up for the 2012 Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize; Finalist for the 2015 and 2016 Robert Dana Prizes for Poetry; the 2015 and 2016 Blue Lynx Prizes; and the 2014 Codhill Poetry Award; and Semifinalist for the 2015 Miller Williams Poetry Prize; the 2012, 2014 and 2015 Crab Orchard Poetry Series; the 2013 and 2014 42 Miles Press Poetry Awards; the 2013 Elixir Press Antivenom Award; the 2015 and 2016 Codhill Poetry Award; the 2015 Washington Prize; and the 2015 Richard Snyder Publication Prize.  

 

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