Asking for What I Need



I tell you,
the body’s business is passion,
and this only.
The light has followed us into this room,
the small birds sing,
your nakedness is spruce and shadow,
cream and chestnut silk.
Joined, we move,
awash in delight,
unmediated sun and thunder.
In your embrace, I,
woman of most ordinary flesh,
have gained the garden.
Nancy A. Henry


Knowing myself dust
I am rooted in earth and lie down there often
feeling kin to country mothers
who eat dirt in secret,
packing soil around the hungry seed.
Old as I am,
I am liable to stretch out on grass any day
to watch the Earth’s view of the sky,
back welded to her sweet stony heartbeat,
all my blood slowing down.
God was wise to teach us
to plough ourselves under, enriching the field.
When that sure day comes,
may my body enjoy its sleep in dust and,
resurrected, say a little sad goodbye

to become at last all star.

Nancy A. Henry

Nuestra Señora de la Llama

 Nuestra Señora de la Llama
Mostly she is light,

Hiding a fire inside herself,

fingering the memory of matches.

She consoles herself with blood.

She consoles herself with salt.

She consoles herself with the pungent scarf

of your damp hair.


She ventriloquizes rain

as the myth of pure white

plays itself out

on the black whale’s back.


Never dropping her gaze,

Our Lady strikes fire on her bootsole.

 Nancy A. Henry


Buff your spirit bright as lemons.
Arrange the lichens, shells,
the tiny bones.
Let the multitudes a-crawl
in this withering grass
be your small Christs.
Praise their silence.
Kneel down.
Above you, the unkempt branches
shelter starlings in their tangles.
Higher still,
seven  crows
stroke the heavy silver light.
Be secretive, shadowed,
                                                                    your sisters have burned for less.


March carries you
on white shoulders
into spring
where the twisted thorn tree
blossoms into wounds again.
A calf bawls among
yellow meadow flowers.
You watch your sister,
the pale sheets billowing
from her hand,
grace lavished on the earth
like rain.
Nancy A. Henry

Saturday Morning

Saturday Morning
Here is a poem I found while you were sleeping;
it reminds of the particular ways
you make me love you,
and I’ll just leave it here,
in case you get a chance to read it;
here is a cup of coffee, black the way you like it,
that I will set beside you on top of the clock radio
as you page through the discography
of Frank Zappa. Here is another pillow
for propping up against; yes, I am going
to make some toast for us but first,
I can’t help mentioning
how the pheromones
draw the cats to the bed,
how they loll in the tangle of our sheets,
too blissed-out to swipe at your bare toes.
I am having aftershocks,
finding reasons
to interrupt you, to bite your shoulder and press
my face against your back .
You just want to read—is that asking too much on a Saturday
morning in February? When last night you met me with
pea soup and smoky scotch and led me to our couch
to tell me everything with your hands?
I will leave you alone now,
but first I need to know if you’ll want marmalade
or butter only,
and I was just thinking of bringing you this,
and a small black cat,
and just, I promise, one more kiss.
Nancy A. Henry


I’m here about a girl–
sometimes in an apron, 
flowers unfurling on her hips;
sometimes in a shift 
the starved yellow of dawn,
her wintry thighs sugar pale;
sometimes with her sandaled feet
propped on pillows,
painting her toenails silver.
There is something she’s dying to tell me,
face down on satin in the blue handmade light,
suspended by one hand between dusk and dawn.
No one is in this place without a reason.
I’m going to tell you your rights.
The first is
Nancy A. Henry


Lover, make me a river stone

worn smooth and fine

in sand and brine

by the grind and grate

of our love and hate

of all we despise and appreciate,

make me a river stone.

Dragged along the gravel bed

by the forceful tide

of the tears we’ve shed

polished by pain

to show the grain,

make me a river stone.

Veined with crystal

rare and fine

jagged edges

smoothed by time

I’ll break your heart

if you’ll break mine,

make me a river stone.

In the flood and in the drought

flowing blood and dreams and doubt

this riverbed’s the one way out;

make me a river stone.
Nancy A. Henry