Stopwatches of Desire: 34th Post

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I’m sorry so many of the poems come out of the dark side. I’m trying to keep myself in the light, but that’s not when writing occurs.

 

The Word “Are,” for Example

Raised to be frugal with self pity,
I hesitate to complain.
Alibis run from my mouth
like ants from a flooded hill.
I went there directly from the funeral,
weary of the mourners, severe,
time-spotted, hunched like flowers graveside.
I went there wanting to speak in tongues.
I went there, where attraction divides itself
into hungry collisions and sweaty testimonials.

I met a charismatic,
pierced his ear with a sewing needle,
scrubbed his stubble with my gums,
licked his sagging pockets every one.
He said what we need is sleeping pills,
stopwatches of desire,
cheap insurance.
I killed him for his assumptions
scratched on tabs of paper in his insoles:
“all” and “never” were some of his claims.

We Eat the Seeds: 31st Post

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This poem first appeared in The Centennial Review, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 2.

 

FIVE PEOPLE (HOMELESS)

  1. Sally, Inauguration Eve

This dirt gone?—white.  I am
and Everyone says He’ll do the job
Give us hope but I was
wearing wool A-line skirts with
the very clouds above for shirts
last time, when my opinion
meant something.  Click click
my tiny Italians on polished
boardroom floors Gentlemen,
I said I fail to see I
did fail to imagine this cardboard
throwing its brown cast on me.

 

  1. This Red Scarf

White clothes mean sticks in the arm
but if you stay clean sheets
one night or two.  On the lake bank there were
white trees!  I had ice skates.
They had no leaves so the light came through.
The Polish girls wore scarves tied under their chins.
I was no Polack but see, I tie this scarf
tight and keep my head down
watching for ice.  You fall here
no boys laugh or help you up.
But if they stick you
they help you up real nice.

 

  1. Richard

I’m used to being in charge
so this will be about you.
I want you to know I appreciate the aluminum cans
so neatly stacked beside the trash can.
I see you see me take them, see you hurrying
to meet my six o’clock pickup daily.
I admire your scheduling abilities:
kitchen scraps to the chickens before work,
the soft globs of their droppings to the compost heap
before dark; the garden weeded Saturday mornings,
fruit plucked and distributed to neighbors in the afternoon.
I would have hired you in the old days—
kept an eye on you, as they say—
recommended you.
I keep you a secret now,
for the cans.

 

  1. K.L.

What’s left of this planet is my home.
Birds are not afraid of me, curled in this bush,
unless I jerk my legs, dreaming
I fly with them over the roofs
and across the highways.
We eat the seeds that drop
and peck at the not-ripe pears,
scattering when the farmer comes
to nail his straw-filled savior to a post.

 

  1. When I Was One of the People

All these things I shall tell you are true.

When I was a warrior my skin flowed yellow, red and green

like the sashes of the old ones.

When I was a warrior I devoured the night

and spit stars at the immaculate moon.

When I was a warrior my courage rode in front of me,

a blind slave stolen from an enemy camp.

When I was a warrior the wind and I embraced with great joy

and we brought forth spring, summer, fall

and the weaver child, winter.

When I was a warrior I kept sadness behind my eyes, mute as light.

When I was a warrior I could swell until the earth was inside me,

feverish and bloody,

and I could sweat until the earth was healed

and I could bleed until the earth was whole.

I am the owl and the darkness now.

I am the hawk and the light.

I am the crack in the clouds now.

I am the wind in the night.

 

The Mockery of the Swollen Garden: 29th Post

Sunflower & bees

 

After the Death of His Twin

—for John Fuller, age 80

 

The solo creak of his Naugahyde chair.

 

The excess of fruit broadcasting its ripeness.

 

In the closet, twice the needed pants and shirts, twice the needed gaping shoes, worn at the heel.

 

The nervous voice of his landlord, trying to remember which one passed.

 

The sniff and yip of the dog, double-checking under the table.

 

The mockery of the swollen garden.

 

The sports section left folded with the classifieds.

 

His unspoken opinion of the news story about welfare mothers.

 

The uselessness of the second bookmark pressed into the novel.

 

In front of the TV, half the snoring noise to waken him to his started insistence, “I wasn’t…”

 

The other narrow bed, tightly tucked.

 

The hearing aid left on the end table for the first time.

 

In the bathroom mirror, only two hips, two nipples, one penis.

 

The surprising regularity of his heartbeat.

Anything to Grab Onto: 26th Post

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Lament

–for my mother

The time

everyone else

had left the party but the music was still throbbing

and Stefan

two languages

away from me

had my blouse half undone–

that’s the light

I mean

orange

smelling of alcohol

dangerous with its promise of brilliant regret

The time

I jumped

heavily clothed into the water

for lifesaving practice

and the water

pulsed

above me

reflections subdividing like amoebas–

that’s the distance

I mean

deeper than

my arm’s length

resonant with resistance

The time

I climbed

on Trinidad Head

alone on black wet rock

shocked

by the sudden

brawl

of ocean too close–

that’s the texture

I mean

where anything to grab onto

is life

even if it tears your flesh like a cat’s claw

Wanting to Shout: 24th Post

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Being quiet has its advantages as well as its ability to kill one.

 

I Want to Shout that My Hurt Is Greater than Yours but I Mustn’t

Locked in the apartment she rented this morning
she wrote on a calendar cover: This is because,
She could smell the last tenants in the flattened areas of the carpet,
in the air in the nightstand drawer.

In the Central Valley a foreman hands out long hoes.
Drive by: look to see if workers bend to the cabbages and garlic.
Imagine the turnips’ moist bodies, soothed in dirt.
Drive by: crop dusters rise and dip and roll away just behind you.

The body stretched, running away.
The body shapely against angular gravel.
The body in the center of my memory.

In the Central Valley rows of stakes
with seedlings lashed to them. You drive and drive,
relieved to see the quick curve in the rows where you think
a tractor driver may have swerved to miss a rabbit.

Cupping a two-month supply of Prozac in her left hand
she walked from bed to couch
and back to bed. No, I would do that.
I imagine she does it.

The body tossed in the field for owls or coyotes.
I suppose that’s where you put it.
The body still on the gravel in my memory.

In the Central Valley almond trees seem neat and classic as penny loafers.
I hit a hawk, even after swerving.
A hundred miles later when I had to stop for gas
its body and wings were still there, fanned out across the truck grill.

I drove past parked trucks: TNT Reddaway, Dole, Reliance,
CWX, U-Haul. She was my lover’s most recent ex-lover.
I let the 5 a.m. red sun burn a hole in my sight,
only to see I’d made a perfect black backdrop for my thoughts.

I pried the bird off with sticks
and carried it to a row of bushes. Those stiff
angry-looking hedges they force to grow behind some gas stations.

 

No One Duck Has to Carry the Melody: 21st Post

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This poem, like the ones in my First Post and Third Post, appeared in Phoebe: A Journal of Literary Arts (Vol. 24, No. 2) and was a finalist for the Grege Grummer Award in Poetry.

 

THE CHARM BRACELET PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE

1

Integrated Functional Responsive Capability

Lack Thereof

This above all This above all This
Above all Don’t show me that Bass beer I used to
Hate someone named Bass
The ducks were
Chuckling a Beethoven scherzo I tell you
Why isn’t there a verb to describe
The way squirrels move All those
Handsome boys
Like leaves
Blowing around campus I was supposed to be
Here an hour
Ago This above all See the ecologists
With their bags of silver bullets What’s
It like having such big hands Since when
Does pleasant weather make you lose Those
Radio collars on bears make me
Cry The
Ducks were helping each other
No one duck
Had to carry the melody The refundability
Of the bullets was a job bill for the home-
Less This above all Do they look alike or
Don’t they
What happened before Do I need
To do something I began to
Cry about the
Pattern of bricks so the nice man gave me
Pills to kill bacteria This
Above all The
View of calf muscles pleased me I was not
In control All the churches
Need repair like the envelope of my skin

2

Pardon Me: Is My Hair Pouring Out or Shooting In?

The urban raccoon padded over this cement
Before it hardened That crow
Looks enormous
On the bare branches by the river Hang on
Hang on I hugged the bus stop tree Whitey
The carriage horse are you retired yet Was
It like a
Spongy forest floor or something
From a B movie I heard the male klipspringer
Never moves more
Than sixteen and a half feet from its mate
This above all She used to laugh
At people who
Wore watches The breeze lifts
A shoulder feather like a wand The raccoon washes
French fries in a parking lot puddle Fortunately
Many things are none of my business
I don’t want
The raccoon to hear domestic
Violence This above all Whitey get up Which is
Funny nothing or everything The girl had
A beautiful bottom The man had chemicals
The collar lay on a cage of bones
You don’t know
Me well enough to This above all This above
All He had the gall to ask if there was a
Difference
Each sport must have its own
Vocabulary I carried a coat with me
All day but I could not put it
On my crescendoing skin I need to know
If this is important

Sixteenth Post

A Flamingo Preens Its Long Orange Feathers

This poem, which I wrote about my father, was published in The North American Review (Vol. 281, No. 3, May/June 1996).

 

The Discomfort of Reincarnation

If you stare long enough at rain
it becomes
—no
I do not love information.
What I like to believe
is that at the last he was able
to lie down comfortably with no thoughts.
Not even the memory of our last time outdoors together
—his wheelchair parked at the edge of a kidney-shaped lagoon,
he and I nearly covered with ducks, geese and pigeons
grabbing fresh bread in whole slices and reaching for more.

December in Arizona and I was in shorts,
thrilled at the soft warm breasts of the geese
as they pushed against my legs.
He laughed in scattered short syllables that might
have been words.
I cry at the memory of my own complex laughter,
a fact I don’t care to examine.
He could be one of those selfish birds.

Thirteenth Post

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Thank you to everyone who has read my poems. Your visits mean a lot to me!

This poem was published in The Cream City Review (Vol. 18, No. 2, Fall 1994).

 

Rain

In this puzzle piece of desert
snugged close to its neighbors by Joshuas
and the suck of dryness,
death is a softening
—a limp half hour before one reassumes
the unyielding stance of any other day.
But this time your pushed-out arms,
set jaw, and stern face fail to sway me:
I have seen that pose
in wax museums and found it disappointing.
If the guard is away, I want to squeeze
a bloodless hand with my own warm, moist one,
suspecting both will change in some way.
I want to see the head,
tiled a bit more than would be comfortable,
jerk upright and complain.
If you could die again,
I would kiss you in the soft places
and wait like parched ground
for the rain of your complaint.