THEIR VOICES CALL
IN THE DARK
Montana Poets Series 2, #2
Craig Czury, Editor
If you like poetry rich in images and rife with sound play, poetry that renders the human condition with Chekhovian clarity and wisdom, poetry that speaks to your heart and paints the plains rural landscape with the detailed honesty only a lifelong local could pen, then you want to read Elsie Pankowski, for she knows the moan of the “blue wind, . . . the snarl of sheets”, has witnessed the “performance” of the flowers. A portrait artist of the first degree, Elsie's poems focus on a particular person, object, animal, or place, always exploring the universal topics of love and fear. We are fortunate that she grew up on a farm, was driven to write her observations down, and that she understood at an early age that dragons are best slain by mothers' smiles.
Mark Gibbons, author of Forgotten Dreams
Elsie Pankowski stands at a doorway that is her life. Her welcoming is one of clear vision with a fine ear for the music through language that real poetry becomes. In her sonnet, Light and Dark, she states, “We set off upon our course despite / the certainty that in the end we part.” True, but also in the end, beautifully written poems as in Their Voices Call in the Dark will make for us connections that will last a lifetime and lifetimes more.
John Holbrook, author of A Clear Blue Sky in Royal Oak
Elsie Pankowski's work is full of sudden surprises and deep insight.
Not only does she pay careful attention to the smallest things
but when she springs a remark at you it makes you sit up in your chair and grin.
She's a quality poet who takes a serious look at the ways of the world,
so essential to the mind of the poet and the ear of the reader together. Who else can say,
“Those technicolor hours when time was a vehicle to ride.”
She knows the land, by hand. She knows the horses and the barns and rivers,
the endless exhausting work, the chicken coops and grandmother's shed,
dusty haylofts, pigeons stirring in the cupola.
She doesn't miss a thing. Her sharp eye and considerable experience inform us of her landscape
in a voice sure and true. Put a woman in gloomy rooms
in a prairie town, she says, make the wind wail a blue ballad.
There's a gun case in her drawer. A mute phone she watches, and she spends
the dragged-out night
wide-eyed in a snarl of sheets,
reliving her mistakes.
She puts me there. She brings me into the landscape she so unerringly portrays
and not an extra word in it.
Sheryl Noethe, Poet Laureate of Montana
From the book:
HOLDING BACK THE DARK
My mother bakes bread
in the kitchen. Where a breeze
stirs daisy curtains at the sink,
she washes spoons and bowls
and sends me to the cellar
for potatoes from the bin.
My bare feet track wooden steps
down to damp earth floor.
In weak light, I sort through
leathery lumps, breaking away
Beneath my toes, a salamander,
dragon of my dreams, moves
and scurries off beneath a shelf
of canned pears. I run to tell
about the beast that lives below:
dragon without fire, creature
of the dark. My mother listens,
window sunlight glowing on her hair,
the aroma of warm bread circling
around her, then slays the dragon
with her smile.
Sometimes I'm sure you're here
and, if I turn fast enough, I might
catch sight of you.
The phone rings. I still expect you
on the other end, wanting warmth
like a traveler wandering in the cold.
My hands slip into the familiar shape
of your leather gloves and your
presence fills me, joins me.
In my recurring dream, you have
stepped out on a shaky wire stretched
across a chasm. I call out:
Don't do this...don't do this...
but you always fall.
Elsie Pankowski lives in Great Falls, MT and has been a telephone operator and a partner in an excavating company. She is a five-time First Place winner of the Mary Brennan Clapp Memorial Poetry Contest, open to all Montana poets. She has produced two chapbooks: a Sunrust Featured Poet Chapbook and Gathering Stones, published by Pudding House Publications. Her poetry and short prose have appeared in several hundred publications.
Their Voices Call in the Dark
is an 80 page hand-sewn paperbook with spine - $16.00.
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