I Revise; Critic; Happiness by Jean Sampson

I Revise


I revise because images,
like moth wings,
grow, hidden in secret shrouds,

because the sun
never stops seeking
an oak in every acorn,

because milkweed,
beautiful in bloom
offers wind-borne
gifts to the earth in autumn.

I revise because the sky
molds and re-forms clouds
the way a sculptor
works wet clay.

I revise because the Muse
is a shape-shifter
who lifts me up
on eagle wings at dawn.
By dusk, we crawl the ground as ants.

I revise because I like surprises,
poems that turn themselves
inside-out like tee-shirts
ready for the wash,

Because nothing reveals
its real face at first.
I hide behind stanzas
like Sally Rand,
hiding behind her feather fans.

I revise because I am like a snake
who outgrows her skin.
Struggling, I leave behind
old words, old visions.

I revise because
each expression of life
eventually finds its true voice,
each tongue of grass
sings its own song.





Elusive silverfish
stealthy shadow-dweller,
you nibble me to dust
as if I were a book
in an attic trunk.

Termite or carpenter ant,
you chew away supporting beams,
leave the surface intact,
hollow the inside out.

Insidious invader,
you sneak in a flea
hiding in the cat’s fur.
Now you bite me.

You come in
from the outside world…
someone’s attic,
a rotting tree,
the summer grass.

You are an intrusion,
a wasp’s stinger
whose poisoned barb leaks
until I pull it out.





I used to think happiness
was a punctuation mark,
the pause between words
like lost, hurt, alone, scared,
broken sick, or sad.

There were only a few dots
or squiggles of it
scattered throughout a day.
You had to live a lot of words
to get to a comma
or a period’s brief rest
where a little happiness might,
if you were lucky, leak in.

Who hasn’t run through life
as if it were a modern poem
without caps or marks
to help it all make sense?

Who hasn’t tried to make it through
on just one breath,
leaping to reach the final dot
safely beyond the dark words
waiting for one false step?

Jean Sampson
Jean Sampson, a Charlottesville native, lives—in the same house in which she was born—with her husband, Bill, and her alpha male cat, Hector. She teaches Beginning Drawing for Chickens and Gutsy Abstract Painting at her studio in McGuffey Art Center, the same building in which she went to elementary school. She wants to paint visual pictures with words just as she paints on canvas. She thinks of her mind as the playground where words and images roughhouse together until they create her poems.

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