National Poetry Month Spotlight: Sandra Kolankiewicz

The Acrobat
Of course you are terrified,
your breath gone, heart in your ears
like a dull adz thumping the branch
you can’t split, that pins
your joy to the ground,
torn from the tree that you climbed
the day you first learned
you had wings.
Certainly all admired your fix
on the view, the fierce
flesh about to leap at the horizon
as if you were a performer up so high
none of your spangles were scratched,
legs had no dimples,
no skin sagged below the shimmering hide
that was markless and boneless
in its apparent strength.
You see it now, don’t you?
How each soul at the end
of a telephone tether
gasped when you tried to fly?
When you turned into a third person
and sat with them, watching yourself
arch toward the void, missing
your mark, no net but a forest below,
and you, surprised by real trees that met in
true notches that, plunging,
you cracked until you found
the moss-covered floor.
Here you lie,
finally afraid because you survived
and can consider it now
while you wait, first, for the ambulance
and, then, for the ones who forever show up late,
except for the undertaker who always arrives
the moment your heart gives out to metaphorical thrombosis,
or the symbolic blocked carotid artery
bursts up through your ear drum,
or that one little blood clot in your lung
emblematically shakes loose as a result
of the fall and the oomph of the ouch, in spite of the fact
you can still wiggle your toes
and nothing is broken.
Soon you will realize
the most important tissue is connective,
and that, of whatever is left for you,
suppleness will be mandatory,
the ability to stretch, reach,
maintain required even there
on your back in the forest leaves
from last summer, your sinews
holding the disparate parts of the body together,
like the clavicle, for instance,
which, with the small, stacked vertebrae,
is the only support for your neck
besides the damp ground
where you sprawl and
hope while they are not coming
and instead are still looking for you in the sky.
Poem first appeared in the inaugural print edition of Red Ochre Lit, Oct 2011.
Q: What is your writing process?
A: I usually hear a first line of something and scribble it down if I’m not near a computer.  I take it as far as I can and then try to shape it.  At some point I start trying on different forms so that it can grow into what it is supposed to be. If I’m not careful, I’ll edit the first effort so much that I lose whatever spark it had–so I try to save various drafts just in case I go too far and ruin it by thinking too much.

Q: Is there an exciting poet (emerging or established) whose work you just discovered this year?
A: I just love Robin Skelton’s The Shapes of Our Singing.  I am blown away by his scholarship on poetic forms and also by the fact that he composed all of the examples, which is an extraordinary achievement.  In my dreams I do what he does so fluidly that no one notices the form.
Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat anywhere in the  world, where would you travel?
A: A morning when I get up at 5 and write while everyone is asleep, a time when I am so into what I am writing that I forget who and what I am, and all that matters is the energy I feel through creating.   If everyone would just stay asleep an hour longer some Saturday dawn when I’m really grooving on a poem–that would be a writing vacation!
Sandra Kolankiewicz’s stories have been published widely in journals.  Her chapbook Turning Inside Out won the Fall 2007 Black River Chapbook Competition, and her novel Blue Eyes Don’t Cry won the Hackney Award for the Novel in 2008.  She teaches Developmental English at West Virginia University Parkersburg.