Ann Hostetler

Ode to the Dash

Thank goodness you’re here
to help me attach the words—
I’ve just introduced them and don’t
yet know how they’ll get along.
Honeysuckle belongs somewhere
in this poem, but the how is still
unclear, as is the where. When a child
I learned to pluck the green bead
at the base of the blossom—draw out
the stamen—and with it, a single
drop of nectar, place it
on my ecstatic tongue.
But honeysuckle,
this poem’s not supposed to be yours. You’ve
taken over like the pesky weed you can be—
sending up shoots beneath the aging
lilac bush in my backyard.
O dash! Come back and bring
your reminder of silence—
synaptic grace—
leap from honeysuckle—to hubris—to home—
whispering, “Emily—Emily—Emily.”

Suzanne Valadon Poses for Renoir

He loved how the light fell
on my skin, a scattering of rose
and blue on milk.

Sometimes he dressed me in a linen camisole
threaded with a scarlet ribbon, crushed
my auburn curls beneath a dark felt hat.

Once he buttoned me into a navy coat,
sculpted my breasts and waist with his hands.
I was a good object, because I knew

how a painter needs a model to absorb
the gaze with her presence.
I grew stronger as I hugged my muscles

to the bone, anchored myself in the pose,
captured his gestures in my mind’s camera,
forming a palette of my own.

Ann Hostetler is the author of Empty Room with Light, and editor of A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (Iowa, 2003). Her work has appeared in The American Scholar, Nimrod, Poet Lore, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Washington Square, among others.  She edits the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing at www.mennonitewriting.org and teaches at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.