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What else is an empty mother
but a waist behind a sweater
knitted to fit her at fifty, sixty, more?
Adult tastes in the music of her time.
Central London standing behind her
and beyond, a barley field
its green pods spilling open. 
Two pilgrim roses and two Rosa Glaucas
and twenty more she knows by name.


You can never
persuade one person that another
is a liar. People prefer the liar.

Honestly, with full knowledge.

People prefer ruthless power
because then they feel safe and they are.
He seems so sure, he is so sure
he could be a mother.


Her granddaughter fumbled frantically
with the buckle on her red purse
at the threshold, her head bowed
ashamed to cry at their goodbye. 

God grant me the eternity
to complete this path:

The same one four days later
whipped in Didcot wind

by the nuclear power plant.

The shops and lifts 
in the Templar's Mall.

Sitting on a wall
outside a bank, waiting for a child.

—Fanny Howe

“Passage” Fanny Howe from On the Ground.

Graywolf Press, 2004.

By permission of the author.

Fanny Howe

Fanny Howe

Fanny Howe (1940- ) was born in Buffalo, New York. She is the author of over twenty books, including poetry collections, novels and short story collections, and collections of essays. Her honors include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Learn more about Fanny Howe at The Poetry Foundation