NEA Literature Fellowships

Charles Rafferty

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(2009 - Poetry)


When he gets home she is drinking
from the aquarium, and as she brushes the hair back
to give him her face hello, he swears
he can see the ragged fin of a damselfish
sucked in. What kind of woman is this--
who eats his fish in secret, whose salty kiss
he's starting to understand? There was a time
when he found her pockets full of soil.
Days later he discovered the scoop marks
where her fingers had been in the dirt
of his potted palms. Another time her mouth
had tasted like dimes, and he regretted
the coin collection--the little gods
and Indians that lived underneath his socks.
Suddenly he has an explanation for his missing
keys, the remote control, the photos
in the album removed like words
in a steady redaction of his past.
Could she really have been swallowing his life
while he kissed her hard and paid the bills?
He remembers her penchant for negligees
and dirty stories, the arch of her body
above him. And there it is. His breath held fast
and devoured, without effort or malice,
as if it were the plaything of a woman bored
who hasn't come round to cruelty.

Charles Rafferty is the author of four collections of poetry: The Man on the Tower (winner of the Arkansas Poetry Award - University of Arkansas Press, 1995), Where the Glories of April Lead (Mitki/Mitki Press, 2001), During the Beauty Shortage (M2 Press, 2005), and A Less Fabulous Infinity (Louisiana University Press, 2006). He has placed poems in hundreds of journals, among them The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, Quarterly West, Poetry East, Connecticut Review, Massachusetts Review, and DoubleTake. His work has also appeared in four chapbooks and in several anthologies. He currently teaches at Albertus Magnus College and in the MFA program at Western Connecticut State University. By day, he works as an editor for a technology consulting firm. He lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, with his wife and two daughters.

Photo by Wendy Robertson Rafferty

Author's Statement

The fellowship came as a great surprise--and as a much-needed confirmation that I was on the trail of something worth pursuing. I plan to use the fellowship money to buy myself some time to write.

Beyond the simple necessity of pen and paper, poetry demands only solitude and concentration. These things have become increasingly difficult to come by, but the fellowship will make them possible. I look forward to the challenge that this fellowship offers.