Read the striking first poem from Gretchen Primack’s collection, titled “Picnic.”
Peas snug in their sweet green
coats, tea snug in its thermos,
absolutely orange tomatoes. Mice
root and clack and fill
their little lungs, each eye bright
as a berry. It is easy to forget Hell
here, and that is what we talk about:
Hell, and forgetting it. Once
I tried to save a bee, named
and cared for and cried for the bee.
In this plot curl the brown brain
rills of rows of seeds almost ready
and seeds spent. I’m tired of it all
being about life and death. We are
navel-gazy, a couple of Uncle Vanyas
woe-ing and alas-ing our way through
middle life. I’ve dressed this salad
before, searching for people who Get It
while drops pock the pond and
the pincushion of the garden.
It is still Sunday after all this time;
this Sunday is as long as March.
We need to hear our hearts to feel alive,
sometimes in a bitter way, sometimes
a lovely way, hear them too fast
and too hard in order to feel alive.
This might be why people hurt so many
so often: to hear the hearts of the scared
makes hearts beat fast.
No, mice, you are not this way. No,
bees, you are not, dogs, pigs, hens.
But we are, and you are
at our mercy. You cannot forget
Hell for even a day, and so I cannot