Terri Ford is a graduate of the M.F.A. Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina. Her first book is Why the Ships are She (Four Way Books, 2001). She is a recipient of grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Kentucky Arts Council, as well as the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She was the Ohio Arts Council Writing Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusettes in the summer of 1999.

Terri Ford performs her poems at venues around the country. She performed as the First Voice in Stage First's production of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood in Cincinnati in 1997. Currently, she is collaborating with Uncle Glockenspiel, who makes a lot of noise to accompany her poems. For six years, Terri ran a poetry reading series in the greater Cincinnati area.

The poems on this page appear in Why the Ships are She. They are reprinted here with the permission of Four Way Books.


Four Poems by Terri Ford


How happy we were to begin
to use scissors, to point them in jubilation toward
one another, because we were warned
expressly not to. Sharp, silver,
thrilling with glint, what relief

to jab and pierce those paper
snowflakes, snipping like Girl Scouts gone mad.
But before we were passive-aggressive, we were
passive and learned to make flowers
of our folded hands, quiet as souvenir birchbark
canoes balanced on bathwater. Blame me

for anything, everything. Damage me. How easily
the boat tips still.


There is a snake. There is a snake on the tarmac.
There is a snake on the tarmac with
bad karma and it wants ritalin. Now.

I'm being pinned into my sister's dress.
It needles, it pinches,
I'm stuck. I am stuck and roarous, I am all
Alaska, I'm the Kodiak bear
chewing Alaska, or a barbecue
underwater. Singe —

I am in the desert. Nobody
saw me. No one
will ever see me      I'm half eaten I
am the fish in the claw or the claw
that burns    I am eating

or being devoured       I am some
snake breakfast   I am the snake
I am eating myself  
  I log     I gorge
I am boring myself
I am sick

The Beach of My Mom

I know why the ships are she. I've got
this parent, striding down shore
like she means it. She does, swinging heads
of iceberg lettuce, purple cabbage. My mom
is a team, she's the strength
of blue, told off the Christmas tree
the year my dad left.

My mom is taking things out of my hands
to improve me. "Just tell me how," I say — apple pie,
hammer, needle — but she hasn't the words, asks
for the whatzit sitting on the thing
over there. This is how
she's always loved me — nonspecific, standing
too close like a basketball forward
in the too bright light, trying to take
the ball meant for mine, so when I look up
my moments of light are obscured by a reaching
of arms and a holler and all of the vast trees
are calling to me lest I injure myself, which I do.

My mother's not sleeping. She says
it's her change; for years she's charted every
outbreak: light spotting, old rust; or floating, how
she woke up drenched. She is endless, the beach
of my mom. I came from this
roaring. Against this current I'm wading out.

Armory Square Hospital, 1863

The limbs came off. All day
they sawed in their stained
white coats; it's what surgery
meant, soldier — the arm
comes off, the legs

come off: where you are wounded, so
shall you be freed, and the legs
and the arms of the teenaged
and free, these limbs shall be carried

out to the grounds, these limbs
shall be piled up out
on the grounds, these limbs
should be buried beneath
the ground, but sometimes
the animals roust in them first
and eat them.

Trollope fainted. Whitman assisted, cutting
his own hand, and cradled the young men
and kissed them. Love for him
was a convalescence, a rigid pain, roused
devil of fever, war
in a sheet. Later, he removed himself
as they slept, emerging into pure night
where he walked beneath

a wet moon. The rain
came down, everything
came down, the rages of love
suffused, complete.