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About this poet

Leah Naomi Green grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. She received an MFA from the University of California, Irvine.

Her first full-length poetry collection, The More Extravagant Feast, was selected by Li-Young Lee as the winner of the 2019 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets, and will be published by Graywolf Press in April 2020.

About The More Extravagant Feast, Lee writes,

“This book keeps faithful company with the world and earns its name. The darkness and suffering of living on earth are assumed in this work, woven throughout the fabric of its lineated perceptions and insights, and yet it is ultimately informed by the deep logic of compassion (is there a deeper human logic?) and enacts the wisdom of desire and fecundity reconciled with knowledge of death and boundedness. These poems remind us that when language is used to mediate between a soul’s inner contents and the outer world’s over-abundance of being and competing meanings, it’s possible to both transcend the nihilism of word games, thereby discovering a more meaningful destiny for language, as well as reveal the body of splendor which is Existence.”

Her chapbook,  The Ones We Have, received  the  2012 Flying Trout Chapbook  prize. She is associate editor of  Shenandoah, and teaches English and Environmental Studies at Washington and Lee University. Green lives in  the Shenandoah Mountains  with her husband and their daughters.

Narration, Transubstantiation

“God is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.”
                                                              —Borges


1.

The peony, which was not open this morning, has opened,
falling over its edges 

like the circumference of God, still clasped 
at the center:

my two-month-old daughter’s hand 
in Palmer reflex, having endured 

from the apes: ontogeny
recapitulating phylogeny, clutching for fur.  

Her face is always tilted up when I carry her,  
her eyes, always blue.  

She is asking nothing of the sky, nothing 
of the pileated woodpeckers,

their directionless wings, directed bodies,
the unmoved moving.


2.

Hold still, 
song of the wood thrush, 

twin voice boxes poised, smell of the creek
and the locust flowers, white as wafers 

on the branches, communion: pistil, stamen, bee.  
Hold still.   

She doesn’t say 
a word.

 

3.

When we eat, 
what we eat is the body 

of the world.  
Also when we do not eat.  

She is asking the sky for milk.  
Take and eat, we tell her, 

this is my body 
which is given for you, child,

who are here now, 
though you were not, 

though you will be old 
then absent again: sad 

to us going forward in time
but not back.  Not sad to you at all.  

The peony whose circumference 
is nowhere, you, whose head 

now is weighted to my chest, 
the creek stringing lights 

along next to us,
the peony which has opened.

Copyright © 2017 by Leah Naomi Green. Originally published in Pleiades, Summer 2017. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2017 by Leah Naomi Green. Originally published in Pleiades, Summer 2017. Used with permission of the author.

Leah Naomi Green

Leah Naomi Green

Leah Naomi Green’s first full-length poetry collection, The More Extravagant Feast, was selected by Li-Young Lee as the winner of the 2019 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

The buck is thawing a halo on the frosted ground,
shot in our field predawn.

Last night we pulled a float in the Christmas parade.
It was lit by a thousand tiny lights.

My daughter rode in my lap and was thrilled
when the float followed us. Ours is a small town.

Everyone was there.

poem
The deer is still alive
in the roadside grass.
In an hour, we'll cut her open, 
her left hip broken, the bone 
in her dark body; now the white Camaro 
shocked in the night and the boy

wet-faced in the back seat, 
his parents at a loss 
by the hood, too young 
to have meant any of it: the giving 
or taking.
poem
The fire beetle only mates
when the chaparral is burning,

and the water beetle
will only mate in the rain.

In the monastery’s kitchen, the nuns
don’t believe me when I tell them how old I am,
that you were married before.

The woman you find attractive
does not believe me when I look at her kindly. 

There are