Read RI Poet Laureate Tina Cane’s Inspiring New Poem, “Shelter in Place”


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Shelter In Place

Schools are shuttered     everything is cancelled     and my body has become

an extension of my house     this shift is strange     but not entirely unfamiliar

the way a cardinal’s home     is a disordered stick bomb     just about captures

how I feel

how the mother bird uses her shape     as a template to form her nest

shoving sticks together     in a fit of random engineering     randoming would be

the verb I guess     or jamming as it applies to me

a steady state of hysteresis

in which applied pressure     changes the ensemble     in which the structure

bounces back     but not completely

I’ve been thinking

of ways to speak     to my children about fear     how to be adaptive

I want to tell them     about zebra finches     who are content in captivity

and who unlike robins     which favor mud as cement     make their nests

from anything they find     strips of paper or string     fibers from a coconut husk

I want to stress     that these elements the finches assemble     seem haphazardly

placed but behave collectively     how there’s a logic buried     deep in the mother

building her nest     which is a story of the nature of her body     as every child’s

first home     that we don’t struggle alone     as the architects of our days

that nature will continue     to amaze us      in ways we don’t expect

___

This poem originally appeared on Love’s Executive Order, March 20, 2020.

 

Tina Cane 2. 2017Tina Cane serves as poet laureate of Rhode Island and is the founder and director of Writers-in-the-Schools, RI, for which she works as a visiting poet. Tina is also an instructor with the writing community, Frequency Providence. Over the past twenty years, she has taught French, English, and creative writing in public and private schools throughout New York City and Rhode Island. Tina’s poems and translations have appeared in numerous journals including Spinning Jenny, Tupelo Quarterly, Cargo, Two Serious Ladies, The Literary Review, and Jubliat. Her work, The Fifth Thought, was published by Other Painters Press in 2008. She is also the author of Dear Elena: Letters for Elena Ferrante (Skillman Ave. Press, 2016), Once More With Feeling (Veliz Books, 2017) and Body of Work ( Veliz Books, 2019). Tina was the 2016 recipient for the Fellowship Merit Award in Poetry from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. She lives outside of Providence with her husband and their three children.





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