Adam's Ribs is Terry's collection of Poems published in 2008 by Off The Grid Press.
"In these poems Adams stakes his claim to be the new American Adam, and his bona fides is an eye and ear that perceive and shape with the double perception of innocence and experience. Reading Adams’ poems is like riding with him on his Harley, “footpeg scraping sparks from the concrete….”
Selected poems from Adam's Ribs
I miss how Adam's rib made me longer,
how it protected my heart from the heels of angels.
I want it back inside me, and I want a new rib
from each woman who began each of my lives,
and another for each woman with whom I was a first
trauma, or joy.
These new bones will stretch me and lay me down
into the first and sufficient body of the snake,
in whose form and motion I will regain the soft sheathing
which has been exiled in women. My shape
will overwhelm the design of male,
the thrust of myself become
an advancing caress, a salient of gentleness, like the tip
of a root growing with a hiss — the syllable
prefixed to all humanness.
Rather than an intrusion, all my ribs in unison
would be my legs, loving the ground,
and my soul would slip easy and warm within.
The toil of all my days will love me again.
I will turn left and right, and left again in one
motion, finding my way through and among
the rocks, carrying nothing away.
My children will crawl upon the Earth
and nest on the Earth; will increase themselves
out of their skins and give their old masks to the Earth,
over and over while still alive.
We will swallow along our whole length
and be as pregnant with our meals as with our offspring—
we for whom there would be no more longing based
on shape or absence,
who could never make with hands a thing divided
or broken from life.
Breath, in The Sun, June 1994.
They told me when I awoke to this body
each breath will taste my blood
with the tongue of every creature that has lived,
and I said yes.
And the air I breathe will be torn by rocks
abraded by fans and bruised in the factories
of steel, and I said yes.
And they said the ants have a right to this breath
as much as I, and it erases their paths
as they walk and as easily,
it erases mine.
They said my breath will read me from inside
with its licking torch as if I were a cave,
and I said yes.
And the air will carry the breathless
patience of stone and the seething heat
of asphalt and scatter me from the memories
as flickeringly as footsteps,
and I said yes,
The air will stir the wet of my body
in the ocean of bodies, and in shared bodies
of hives and cities, and in the poisons,
and I said yes,
I will breathe air that has passed through the nail holes
punched by children into jar lids
to save the lives of fireflies, and I say yes.
I will breathe the force that blows windrows
in snow, and rubs waves in the sand,
strips topsoil from farmlands
and makes the cypress cringe from the sea.
Though it is sour with dreams and loud
with sickness it will run beside my heart
like a young girl beside a horse,
it will forgive my legs for running,
and chase my mind away
from its fear, and I say yes,
I will blow into whirlwinds in the breath
of my lover, and into sea storms I will fly to be healed,
and to the vastness inside clouds I will go
for rest, and I will wash out my tears
with the mist blown from white caps,
and disperse my venom in daggers of sunlight,
and I say yes,
I will torture my vision through
with the everlasting scanning of seabirds, yes,
I will breathe each layer from the horizon,
and hush my thoughts in the deepest calm of caves,
and ripple the slow, sunken rivers, like sleep,
then whistle through blow‑holes hidden in thickets
linking the underground to the sky.
I will whisper through the perforated coinage of sewer lids,
I will lie down in hot valleys with the breath
of vegetables, and I will say yes.
I will breathe a clear cloud of silk around my heart,
and wear a frayed scarf of fire,
I will breathe what determines the path
of falling feathers,
and blows the snow from the seared summits
of mountains. I will stay trapped
a thousand years in a tomb until a mouse will free me.
I will blow a cloud on the final mirror
of the dying, before the cistern of silence cracks,
and I will make a quick slate
for fingers shouting behind cold glass,
Pietà , in Poetry, September 1991
The son sits on the edge of the
bed; always the other is tucked in:
the mother who is going to die
that night refuses the son’s
goodnight kiss, thinking the cause
communicable. Thirty years later
the son is there again, suddenly
seeing his daughter as too beautiful
and vulnerable at fourteen
to kiss or touch in this place.
The one not kissed thinks she is bad
or he is angry, feels for no reason
she is dying, or he is dying
and won’t say.
The Touching, in Poetry, February, 1991
I did not pull away in time
for this to be a bump
and he did not react quickly enough
so we are stuck with my knee touching the tip
of his elbow.
I can’t think about anything else
and I can’t seem afraid or aware and he
must not pull away as if
he wanted to pull away
because I would wonder why.
I listen for the weather of the room, the rhythm
in the floor, the color in the iris
of the middle distance
to provide a distraction, so I can leave
with no reason,
as with no reason I came together
with my brother and
for fear stayed attached
Antique Lace, in The Best Of Writers at Work, 1995
My stepdaughter called me into the musty back
of the antique clothes shop;
she had a lace bodice clamped to her sides
with her elbows, like a split cocoon.
She asked me to button her.
At that moment I thought this was
the exact limit, the tips of my fingers
almost touching her, the bodice gathering
her breasts tighter with each white button
I worked into its white loop.
Then she turned with her face level with mine,
her beauty there in her eyes, and said
next time her boyfriend would do that.
A month later she took me to dinner, reached
for my hand, dug her nails into the backs
of my fingers and told me
it had happened, and it was wonderful.
She knew I could not move.
She squeezed harder and said it hurt like fire,
like needles, and when I knew what she wanted,
when I closed my eyes, bowed my head
and turned half away, she said
it hurt just like that.
Linotype, in Ironwood, the final issue, Summer/Fall 1988
My copyboy guide walked me down the vibrating stairs,
and further down,
into the stomping shuffle-clatter of rolling presses
in the basement of the TIMES, where the words
of my father shook the earth, spewed sparks and oilrags,
in the inked hands of pressmen in railroad caps,
heaving at levers, shouting
with hand signals in the bedlam. Barrels of ink,
rolls of paper big enough to roll me right out;
the blurred belt of news careening, taut across rollers
like a demented, captive worm-bird;
the conveyor-stream, with every hundredth folded paper saluting.
This is where his words took on the strength of pounding metal,
the certainty of riveted bracing I-beams,
welded wheels, grinding truth
off the abrading paintless concrete floor.
His description of the world reeling, fork lifted out into the trucks
that huffed and lumbered off
into the dawn of Indianapolis alleys. The folded-out
photos of naked women wherever a wall was bare,
between pica charts riddled with ink-blood.
And looming above all of this in the heart of the pressroom,
the Linotype machine,
like a mountain of gasping typewriters and gut-shot jukeboxes,
whose inventor, they told me later, went insane;
and the operator dwarfed at his blazing keyboard
who turns half way toward me in his chair,
who bends way down to my ear
and screams through all of this “spell me your name!”
So then I screamed myself out,
letter by breathless letter into this ear with the hair
bristling out, and way around back of the machine,
a minute later, from the unimaginable tumble of precision arms,
pinions, vats of oil, flapping of shelves, and noise and heated air,
my name comes to me,
my name comes right out to me
wet and warm and shining with fame,
The Natural Arc
A graph of the equation of dread
on the x axis,
versus necessity on the y —
ant trail along a door sill
won’t go straight,
it bellies inward at all mysteries,
a post, or a corner,
like the drape of a spider web.
is always distracted with the job
of divination, or memory —
Did we miss anything over here?
Or here? The ant-stream goes
both directions always,
saying this time we are up to strawberries —
veer a little to the left,
wobble to the right, saying
let me feel what you remember,
and I will go the way
Praise for Adams Ribs
Terry Adams’s poems dazzle with their keen expressiveness and perfect lines. They do more than dazzle: they get inside you and stir the emotions by rendering his personal encounters with the living and the dying precisely, unsparingly, plainly, unmanipulatively...
—Phyllis Koestenbaum, author of Doris Day and Kitschy Melodies
In Adam’s Ribs, Terry Adams makes a not-so-subtle claim to be the new American Adam. I’d say wholeheartedly that he succeeds. His voice is both gritty and dreamy, and it gets in your ear surreptitiously like the jazz he writes so eloquently about.
Adams is a poet of blue states as well as red; of carburetors, condensers and rotors, as well as of menstruation; of the dug-out listening post outside Da Nang, as well as of the Rodin Garden. His Adamic power is perhaps most evident in “Linotype,” where he catalogues rolling presses, pressman in railroad caps, barrels of ink, rolls of paper, fork-lifted newspapers, and finally, a linotype of his own name, coming to him backwards “wet and warm and shining with fame.” May this distinguished first book shine with fame.
—Ann Neelon, author of Easter Vigil
Adams has paid close attention to red-hot emotional moments frozen in time. His characters bump into one another or, more often, take leave of one another, and his narratives and incantations are charged with a wistfulness quite unique, given the current literary scene.
—James Reiss, author of Riff on Six: New and Selected Poems
Terry Adams has put together a fine collection, poems that etch themselves into our minds by virtue of their powerful and sometimes astonishing images, their often-risky subject matter, their angled approach, their tone of contemplation and yearning.
—Chitra Divakaruni, author of Mistress of Spices