November 2007

Jeanne Murray Walker


Jeanne Murray Walker's work has appeared in a hundred periodicals, including Poetry, The Nation, APR, and Shenandoah. Her most recent book is A Deed to the Light (University of Illinois Press, 2004). Her seventh book will be published next summer. Her work has been honored by many awards, including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts and a NEA Fellowship. She teaches at The University of Delaware and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two children.
Body Parts    

Some of The National Museum of Health and Medicine's most
unsettling stuff is . . . amputated body parts from soldiers
wounded during the Civil War.

     —NPR website

Think how one soldier, on every anniversary
        of his amputation, brought blood red tulips
to his leg and sat by the glass case,

both hands on one knee,
        his thoughts electrifying the space
between him and what he can not quite give up—

hanging in that interval, like the shadow
        between a maple and the earth it loves.
I've noticed the way a porch

inclines from its house,
        to see how far it can go without permission,
but hoping to hang on for now—

of two minds about wanting to get away.
        It's like coloring outside the lines,
like testing deep water beyond the buoy,

like venturing into outer space,
        daring to edge farther and farther
off the base in schoolyard games.

It's practice, isn't it? A way of thinking
        about the day that the body parts,
the soul flies up to heaven.



Jeanne Murray Walker: Poetry
Copyright ©2007 The Cortland Review Issue 37The Cortland Review