In the Poet's Spotlight for
March 2008: Patsy Anne Bickerstaff
Anne Bickerstaff graduated from the University of Richmond with
a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Westhampton College and a
Juris Doctor from the T.C. Williams School of Law, and has studied
creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of
Virginia, The Richmond Visual Arts Center, and the University of
Richmond. She has two adult sons, two grandchildren, and lives in
Richmond, Virginia. While pursuing a career as attorney and, later, an
Administrative Law judge, she wrote, with collaboration from her late
husband, a mocktail recipe book, Alcohol-Free Entertaining (Betterway
Press, 1986) and individually, a chapbook of poetry, City Rain (Librado
Press, 1989). Since her retirement, her most recent poetry sequence,
Mrs. Noah’s Journal has been published by San Francisco Bay Press in
2007, and was nominated for the Library of Virginia book award. Her
chancel dramas, The Bystanders, Reflections in an Innyard, and
Zacchaeus and the Citizens of Jericho have won awards and have been
published and produced in numerous locations in Virginia and elsewhere
in the United States.
Ms. Bickerstaff was awarded the Robert Penn Warren Award of the
Cumberland Poetry Review. She has received numerous awards from the
Poetry Society of Virginia, the National League of American Pen Women,
and several other state poetry societies and organizations. Her poetry
has appeared in over one hundred poetry journals, reviews and
anthologies, nationwide and internationally. Her creative non-fiction
has also won awards from the Virginia Writers Club and has appeared
widely in publications.
She is the current president of the Poetry Society of Virginia and a
former president of the Virginia Writers Club. She has facilitated
poetry workshops in Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia, and has
presented readings and workshop events in schools, libraries, galleries
and churches throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Patsy Anne Bickerstaff is listed in Writers in Virginia (Virginia
Commission for the Arts), Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the
World, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in American Law, (Marquis)
The International Who’s Who of Poetry (Europa) and Poets and
Index of Bickerstaff's Poems: Scroll down or click on Poem Title
of Patsy Anne Bickerstaff (below)
© copyright Patsy Anne Bickerstaff, All rights
CHAINED TO A POST
The story goes,
a newcomer in Heaven asks
about a man chained to a post.
"One of those fool Virginians," Peter snorts,
"If we don't chain him, he'll go home."
He would go home to Richmond spring, dogwood blushing,
grandiflora buds like vessels of cream
set by the porcelain capitol,
St. John's quivering with Henry's echo,
Poe's ghost touching his mother's stone,
horseback heroes, corner flower-stands;
home to summer on rivers and ocean,
mossy-musty scented Tappahannock, Deltaville,
music-box bubblenotes along the Piankatank,
Tangier accent like sea-smooth glass.
sunrise gull-cries, surf-hymns;
home to Arlington nights, lightsparkle towers cloudglow high,
streets like jeweled bracelets dropped in dark;
to October dancing Shenandoah Valley,
tossing apple-spangled gypsy shawls down the Blue Ridge,
over shoulders of white clapboard villages
laughing in goldglaze;
or Bruton Parish Christmas,
candleshine on snowfall in memory-corners,
newborn nation's carols, carrying promise
up long starhalls to forever.
Virginia permeates being: perfume of peanuts, tobacco,
tastes of Brunswick, Smithfield, Hanover,
song that remembers
the color of hands that built her,
clanging steelship giants, moving proud as duchesses,
shapes and textures of farmers' market, county fair.
O God, that chain
had better be strong.
First published in Showcase magazine, as winner of the Blue
Ridge Writers’ Guild
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EVENING OF THE FIRST DANCE
No girl is pretty at almost thirteen,
Her hair all wrong, big feet, new breasts too small,
Standing too plump, short, gangling-thin or tall.
Young brothers criticize, and can be mean.
His face mud-stained, jeans torn, hip pockets full,
He slammed the screen, and tossed his football down.
As Mother buttoned my blue velvet gown,
He stopped, and murmured, "Blonde and Beautiful!"
Not Goldilocks, but Venus, Guinevere,
Or Princess Grace, was what he seemed to see.
Two words, and childhood's cruelty lay shattered.
That dance is long forgotten; I still hear
The first time someone said those words to me.
It was the only time that really mattered.
Published in Cumberland Poetry Review, having been awarded the
Robert Penn Warren
Award by judge Richard Wilbur in 1995.
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All night, a plush muzzle, filigree rack
quartered in cross-hairs;
incessantly, he reasoned
how age and winter show less mercy
than shells' coup de grace;
how God gave man dominion;
how fine a trophy he would have;
how scared he was.
Twisting up Forty-Two through Highland to Monterey,
coffee-warm darkness in the Jimmy
crackled with uncles' laughter.
Silent, he fingered roughness
of the canvas cover
on the Second Shotgun.
Maybe there would be no deer;
maybe he would miss.
"No way," the voice inside him sneered.
At his stand,
he watches morning
fade black to purple,
silver blazing gold, melting liquid blue;
arrowhead of ducks splitting winds aloft;
foliage glowing cinnamon and amber;
wide sleek reach of a red-tailed hawk
skating the sky, scanning for breakfast.
"I can if I have to," his mind repeats;
he leans on a branch, listens
to its creaking complaint;
a beetle's pale scratch on its bark;
tock! of acorns dropping;
squirrels waking, gossiping;
mountain mockingbirds' travel chatter.
He strokes the stock,
traces artistry of woodgrain,
imagines faces: his father's, and the buck's.
papery leaves whisper
under halting steps.
Sunlight catches copperflash; brush shivers.
Like Abraham's ram
the sacrifice appears, metallic feathers
refracting dark rainbows,
coalspark eyes glittering insolence, glaring,
A thud in his shoulder, burst of noise and plumage;
he takes his prize.
After the field dressing, tying and trussing,
after the checking in, pictures
with the turkey feet up, its wings open fans,
the uncles are talking next year.
"I reckon next year I'll play football."
Bolt-struck, his father draws quick breath
at quiet, independent words.
He grins, remembers
helping renovate a Packard
while game taunted from woodsedge.
They are so like in their difference. "Football is good."
Their eyes exchange unspoken thanks
for unspoken gifts.
"Yeah. Football is just fine, Son."
Published in the 1993 Anthology of the Poetry Society of Virginia
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PLANNING THE VOYAGE
From Mrs. Noah’s Journal
It will be sad enough, without the friends
Whose laughter graced the ordinary tasks
Of weaving, milking goats, and making bread,
Who shared their garden fruit, and scraps of news:
Grandbabies, recipes, and harmless jokes,
Some secrets, not so nice. I understand
God’s anger, looking in their hearts. But still....
Since God does not hear women, give my thanks
To Him, for letting us bring all our sons
And those dear girls they married. Had He said,
"Leave one, and take the rest," I would have stayed.
Much as I love you, I could not survive
Such heartache, through the terrors we must face.
Hear me or not, God knows my breaking point.
Are all the stalls secure? We have a chore
With feeding, cleaning, grooming, mucking out,
And we can do it all, with love and faith,
But not with scratching, scrambling, fights. One cat
Can strip the world of gerbils for all time.
I dare not ask if that would be so bad;
God’s will is otherwise. Who knows what beasts
Will take His purpose into endless years?
He gives His trust to us, to care for them.
Who knows what we shall mean to His new world?
Who knows how one just man, good in God’s eyes,
And I, your little nameless gerbil-wife
Shall be envisioned in some future time?
Let them remember only that we loved.
Have you been told where we shall live? I trust,
But wonder. We can learn the mountain life.
I used to like that village by the lake,
Its pretty cottages, its beach. It will be gone....
Will someone find it, in another age?
The rain can come. I think we are prepared.
You have the beasts; I saved some bulbs and seeds
To plant a garden-plot, and I suspect
Another little Japheth on the way.
Oh, I had other plans....but all with you.
There will be rainbows, and there will be mud,
And blessings from God’s hand. For His own sake
The centuries will celebrate your name.
"Grandmother" will be name enough for me.
Published as an award-winner in The Raintown Review
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