I sometimes ask students to write a poem by transcribing an existing poem backwards. The syntactical relationships are loosened, and something new is made of the poem's lexicon. The exercise will be in the next edition of Wingbeats. With Laurie Ann Guerrero's permission, I transcribed the poem "Babies Under the Skin" from her new collection A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying and wrote this new poem:
The Under Babies
Touch of nourish, turn us
living. Stay the thought of
milk as muscle, as mother to
yearning babies. To my fingers,
meek and musty, your kiss is a nipple,
a grasp to reach the wet pink and papery
lipskin air of mouthfuls swallowing
death in even the most rooting of mouths.
Fish, wind, and water birthed you, so I celebrate us
and also the other, each the need for
the strangers we are and for when
unsure and shy you come.