Lisa Russ Spaar

A syllable for will. For “me.” As time shuffles the day’s decrees,

her “no!” to Nana playing the piano with bare feet. Also “no!”

as fingers twitch, outstretched, toward fire extinguisher, lit candle;

the dark cabinet harboring ammonia & toxic Drano, a thousand times “no!”

To the dog’s dish, its clot of kibble, the mangy canine bed, the electric cord

that begs a nibble, “no, no, no!” And all this with a knowing,

nascent guess that self is both a choice & a performance.

I like best her “no?” meaning “yes.” To step, barefoot, into my big slippers.

To blow spit & breath at the downy nob of a weed’s spent noggin,

or, under stair-tread, at the silk-spun spindle of a web, spider scuttling up, down,

twixt here & there. I love her tongue leaning into the teeth-stopped palate’s ridge,

her humming a moment, then, solo, sounding a syllable for wonder’s vibrant “oh!”

Lisa Russ Spaar is the author and editor of over ten books, most recently Madrigalia: New & Selected Poems (2021) and Paradise Close: A Novel (2022). Her honors include a Rona Jaffe Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Library of Virginia Prize for Poetry. Her Second Acts column is a regular feature at the Los Angeles Review of Books. She is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, where she directed the MFA program for many years.