Margaret (Peggy) Raab, one of NC's most accomplished and acclaimed poets, has died much too soon of cancer. Her funeral will be Friday in Chapel Hill. For her obituary, please go to http://www.chapelhillnews.com/news/story/54472.html. For a podcast of Peggy reading from her work, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu-Udyk_9PU.
Here are a few of Peggy's poems, as well as some comments by her many friends and admirers.
She also published at least three great chapbooks. Here she reads "Low Owl Illusion"http://www.youtube.com/wat
by Margaret Rabb
By pairs and threes they crash
and spin to the shoulder, drivers
stunned, unable to keep their eyes,
wheels, the tingle in their fingertips
from bark and open drifts of silk,
the looseblown momentary bloom.
April. They pass, retreat sideways,
floating away from the little accident.
A specimen tree in a suburban yard
is one thing, fertilized, gravid, buds
popped out all over, azaleas snapping
at its knees. But the woods at the edge
of plowed fields are another story, a waltz
at the dogwood diner, the dance that slays us:
four or five flowers hover over a branch,
crossed, notched, whiter than this world allows.
Two poems from Margaret Rabb's Shoulderable Shine
followed by a note on the author
In the middle of my life I found myself in a dark wood.
On one side, clouds settled like three or four trouble notes.
Then they moved, right to left, a slow freight
shuddering by the crossing grade. Or – I was looking
out the grate as a whistle shifted bars across the gate.
In the middle of life's way I found myself in dark woods.
On a landing a broom leaned out of a bucket.
Beyond the ferry wake, a slanted plume. Sunrays
slipped, then caught a jib and mainsail. Runnels hissed
to the rocks. White sheets cupped and held.
In the midst of life I found I was in a dark wood.
Rain scrimmed the air. It was all unclear,
a sandblasted flood I squinted through. Great,
I'd say, and try the other glasses in my pocket
but they only focused drops against the gray.
Just what I need now, cut loose and nearly blind,
an unknown coast closed in with rime.
Midway on life's journey I found myself in the dark woods.
At night the island might still be overgrown with fir,
starless but for piers and porches across water.
Black-green drooping boughs stir a diffuse
and moonish glow behind the clouds' light cover.
In the middle of the night my daughter's call –
old anger she'll never get over, oil and vitriol
against too much, too little, pitched and caught again.
Next night my mother's voice, scratched in pain,
near panic, twisted gut. Back to the ER
because – what else is there to do for her?
In my middle age, that darkening wood, I found myself
across the continental shelf from home. The flight back
skimmed high plains. Now I can't recall the place
for a waterglass, which drawer holds stamps.
No light outside since lightning hit the lamps.
Midway through my life in the dark wood
of Sylvania County, I found it was a hemlock forest,
a rhododendron hell. What could be more manifest
than native laurel thickets three stories high
holding pale petal spikes to claps of thunder in July?
My mother, nearly ninety, will not bathe or brush her hair
but sits askew all day in the black reclining chair.
After the middle of middle age a vision,
airy or ordinary, will not engage
but only aggravate a reader. Reactive fission
fuels the middle of middle age. A vision
from a line of Dante? Rescue mission.
Infernal fizzle pushed to the nuclear stage
over the edge of the middle. A middle-aged vision-
ary? Her ordinary will? Disengage
the dazzle. Any pen to any page.
For the straight road was lost. How hard a thing
to tell what wild, rough, dense or wooded was.
I turned too soon and drove too far, climbing
a one-lane gravel path. The gearbox buzzed,
the drop sheered off. Pines on that steep side.
Mills River understory ginseng and Solomon's seal.
I forced myself to turn back at the final hairpin.
For I had missed the right road. What hard work
to imagine for you, reader, this wood, savage and tangled,
and down where we breathe, air like condensed milk.
I lay low, gave in, adored the genes
that cool my children's bloodlines.
So bitter, so bitter is it, death is little more.
Past my mother asking for her father,
past my careless girls who husbanded nothing,
no harbor but clouds, no train but grief,
I left the right road. But the good I found
may be told: a shale never broken,
a shadow cove, whitewater at the cleft.
I stepped into the stream, sleepwalker woken
midway – myself dark words, dark woods.
Walking a Black Lab at Night
She pulled out to the leash's
end and disappeared.
From then on it was weird
air-fishing through the reaches
the cable gave her – reeling back,
casting and spinning – sudden slack
that dropped my wired wrist,
her hidden point I missed.
Margaret Rabb has been the artist in residence at the University of Central Oklahoma. She has taught at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, St Andrews College in Laurinburg, and the University of Washington in Seattle, and was awarded the 2006 Arts & Letters Rumi Prize by Coleman Barks. Her first book of poems, Granite Dives (New Issues Press, 2000), received North Carolina's Roanoke-Chowan Award. Her poems have appeared in journals from the Kenyon Review to Light Quarterly and have been awarded the Louisiana Literature Prize for Poetry, the Phyllis Smart Young Prize from the Madison Review at the University of Wisconsin, the Lullwater Prize from Emory, the Hackney Literary Award, and the Wood Award for Distinguished Writing from the Carolina Quarterly. Her new chapbook, Old Home, was chosen by Fred Chappell and published last November by New American Press. Next year Rabb will direct the creative writing program at Wichita State University.
"Dante's Anteroom" was first published in Chelsea; "Walking a Black Lab at Night" was first published by theCincinnati Review.