Christina Lovin


I am not primarily a prose poem writer. In fact, much of my poetry is written in forms such as sonnets, sestinas, and pantoums. But occasionally, some poems seem to work in more than one way: “At Dripping Spring” and “Invisible Present” are two such poems. When I begin to work, there is often no sense of line breaks, meter, or rhyme, although I am always interested in the “musicality” of my work. In reading these two poems aloud, I realized that the paragraph or prose form would work just as effectively (if not more effectively) than a traditional free verse poem. “At Dripping Spring” was written following a visit to a place in central Kentucky where people still go to collect pure, spring water. I had never been to such a place and was quite taken with the constantly flowing water. “Invisible Present” is one of several poems resulting from my residency at the Andrews Experimental Forest near Blue River, Oregon. I found myself immersed in an old growth forest where scientists are researching those old forests and the birds and animals living there, particularly the spotted owl.




At Dripping Spring

Turn right, he says and she obeys, then stops the car before a swell of creek that writhes beside the road. Why did you stop? He asks. This is a road. He smiles at her bewilderment. Turn left now. This is a road. And having faith in him and all he seems, she eases down into the stream, the current running hubcap high, tires grazing solid stone as wide as any country lane, then follows it along downstream, to where the tracks of other wheels rise up the bank on grass worn down beneath the shade of walnut trees, and elms tall as her childhood memories, protected here from storm and ravaging disease. Engine quiet now the sound of running water resonates above the scolding of the crows. An open mouth of darkness—half-stopped with stone to press the small cave closed and seal the secret throat—spills cold, clear water from that fissured cleft, through a mossy pipe and out from earth into the overflowing trough. It never stops, he says, even in the driest times. And she can see from where the water springs, distilling through the hill above where fields grow wild with fescue, where earth is stony loam. Down through the soil, through sand and gravel— forced between the plates of shale day after summer day, or trickling thickly from the numbed maw of winter. He bends to gathering, careful with the shrunken skins of walnuts blackened on the ground, knuckling the firm green hulls of the newly fallen without regard, dropping all into a plastic bag she finds among the litter left by partiers and lovers. A buckeye falls. Or just another walnut in its simple casket? The quiet startles up with the insult of an unseen bird and peace is shattered for a moment, then reassembles at their feet. He reaches down, then tucks a brown-eyed kernel in her palm, closing both their fingers over cool, smooth skin. Water lisps the worn lip of stone in constancy—around and down into the stream below and out to sea at some bright point a thousand miles away—tires slip down the bank into the stream, drag across the dark flow, up the other side to open road.



The Invisible Present


          Destruction is more likely to occur…in the secrecy of the invisible present
                    --John J. Magnuson


We cannot comprehend the current moment, for once we see that it has come to be, the moment’s gone and we are rushed into the future.  We arrive only to begin leaving, our oaths to this earth sliding into the past like light from long-dead stars even as they are spoken into being.  So let this young Douglas fir stand here for hope.  Let its three-foot stump, forty years hence, represent greed; the bark and shattered limbs scattered around the clear-cut site remind those to come that wastefulness is sin. This battered old snag, so low to the ground but still honest in its lovely decay, can stand for the righteousness of men; for all men, no matter their hollowed souls, stand upright in their own vacant eyes. Consider the roads through the forest as necessity:  the damage they create—nagging doubt; the child dead from the slide of rock and mud can embody good intentions—undeniable, immeasurable.  Felled logs along the forest floor will be our recompense and resurrection:  they flourish even in their deaths.  Mosses and lichen are small cities of industry, forging chains to haul the green world back from the brink. Let this current hour show itself before its fleeting fire goes out.  Let the future hold what we had hoped for the present, the past again be filled with forests. Let the invisible present be illuminated by the strong light of truth held up by men who crouch low on the forest floor searching for the smallest answers to the only question of the spotted owl: Who?  Who?



Christina_Lovin.jpgChristina Lovin is the author of What We Burned for Warmth and Little Fires (forthcoming, fall 2007 from Finishing Line Press). An award-winning poet, her work is widely published and anthologized. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from New England College. She is the recipient of several artists’ grants from the Kentucky Arts Council (most notably a 2007 Al Smith Fellowship) and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Lovin teaches college writing courses and presents writing workshops in and around Central Kentucky. Visit her on the web at .