Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of 
Press 53
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
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Issue 47, January-March 2014
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
2 Poems
by Lorene Delany-Ullman
Followed by Q&A

Another Icarus

The disturbed hillside
and vacant lot breed 

black mustard; 
the hardpan soil welcomes

what is out of place.  
This morning, a heron 

thrusts his orange beak at a mirage
of quivering fish.

How his bluish-grey feathers
sharpen the complexion 
of yellow weeds. 

          He mustn’t give
wings to the exuberant child—
today he’s a small boy

listening for the afternoon trains, 
and soon will learn to ask for too much—

fish in an arid field, 
something desirable from weeds.

Meditation on my Late-Deafened Mother

Out of the graceless clouds,
a loose strand of pelicans

fly west. White plumage
and black wing-tips

quicken their silence—
The long line of

splendorous birds
rides the air currents

into the slate sky—
it is the most quiet

I can suffer. It is ungodly
to curse my mother

when she works
so hard to hear, while this 

migrating flock of birds, 
rises and skims 

the heavens, songless. 

Lorene Delany-Ullman’s book of prose poems, Camouflage for the Neighborhood, was the winner of the 2011 Sentence Award, and published by Firewheel Editions (December 2012). She recently published her poetry and creative nonfiction in Stymie, Lunch Ticket, AGNI 74, Cimarron Review and Zócalo Public Square. She works in collaboration with artist, Jody Servon, on Saved, an ongoing photographic and poetic exploration of the human experience of life, death, and memory. Delany-Ullman teaches composition at the University of California, Irvine.


Q: Your poem “Another Icarus” re-imagines that timeless myth in a barren landscape. Is there a painting or poem on this topic that is your favorite, and why?

A: Similar to well-known poets, William Carlos Williams and W.H. Auden, who wrote poems about Icarus inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” I’ve always appreciated how, in Bruegel’s painting, the fall of Icarus is not the dominating image. Auden and Williams both note Icarus’ splash in their poems, although in Bruegel’s composition, the eye is not drawn immediately toward the drowning about to happen. The Flemish painter’s depiction of the myth reminds me of the kind of tragedy that happens within our peripheral vision; the tragedies we are likely to ignore because we haven’t entirely noticed what’s happening right next door to us. 

Q: Waterbirds, and the waters great or small that they inhabit, are important in both these poems. Discuss your favorite body of water. 

A: I live about ten miles from the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve, an estuary where up to 35,000 birds migrate during the winter months. In the suburbs of southern California, “The Back Bay” (as the locals call it) is place of refuge; a body of water I’ve known since childhood. As a fitness enthusiast, I often run “The Back Bay Loop” with friends. It is a coastal wetland surrounded by high-class homes, making the bay a surreal sanctuary for scores of wildlife. Weirdly, it is this juxtaposition of the posh residencies against the mostly native flora and fauna that gives “The Back Bay” an inexplicable aura.

Q: The pelicans of “Meditation on My Late-Deafened Mother” are silent, their presence entirely a visual feast. Is there a moment when birdsong is particularly strong in your memory–where, why, what bird?

A: A murder of crows roosts in the eucalyptus trees directly behind my house. Their squalling call is quite sharp, especially in the early morning. I consider crows to be one of nature’s alarm clocks. Mockingbirds are also prevalent in the neighborhood, but I enjoy their mimicry. 

Q: Would you consider yourself a poet of the spring, summer, winter or fall? What season is most apt to be reflected in your work, and why do you think that’s the case?

A: Fall in southern California offers the most diversity—the weather can be near eighty-five degrees, and fueled by the hot, dry Santa Ana winds, there is often the threat of forest fires in the nearby mountains, or it might be cool and with drizzle. Real rain is a gift. While I realize that I live in the mildest of climates, I am fascinated by how day-to-day weather changes our environment and us. My work is often a reflection of the intersection of weather, environment, and the human element.