Good Writing Habits: 32nd Post

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Not About

Poems often are about
exactly what they are not about.
This poem, for instance,
is not about the person
all those other poems were about.
Good writing habits forbid my telling
what this poem is about, but I
assure you
it is not about
what it is not about. Here
you see no mention of smooth hands,
no sly references to sex disguised
as descriptions of long train trips,
rivers slamming into bridge pilings,
or autumn trees bursting into flame,
no metaphor comparing that person’s eyes
to whatever the next best thing was.
Not even anything like a simile.
Not in this poem that is not about that.

 

 

 

 

Freaks: 30th Post

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Well, we’re all freaks, of course, one way or the other.

 

THE MAN WITH NO WRISTS

cannot twist a poppy to pluck it
nor see in a single movement
the entire surface of an apple held aloft.

He admires the resilient wrists of women
washing clothes in the river,
the blurred wrists of pear packers,

the sturdy wrists of boys playing tug-o-war.
He watches the violinist’s bow arm
dance its sexy hula,

sneaks a look at anybody’s watch
at every easy chance.
Drunk, he slobbers over his mother’s

lilac-scented translucence
until she powers a slap
to his wet cheek.

The Amazing Man with No Wrists!
I bought a ticket to see him.
In the audience a woman waved,

her arm a fluted column,
fingers swaying like palm fronds.
A man threw pity like a discus.

Where can he see his heartbeat?
I wondered, looking at my slender table
with its feast for slicing.

 

We Call Our Game ‘Knowledge’: 28th Post

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What It’s Like to Be Adopted

Ah, my pretties, there was a stillness
think of it as sphere-shaped
a ping-pong ball without the ball—
and perhaps before that grand explosions
around other emptinesses. Our stillness
collapsed, smashed itself white and blue
flew red and purple
out, we say. Flew to what
we call here and there.

Sweet ones, the pieces moved this far and
that far until
divided by now and then we called their changes
speed, their journeys time.
We call our game knowledge
as we hold hands and live its fun and terror
for, dearest listeners, each particle attracts all others
so we know of gravity, love, luminosity,
and the shifts of momentum called history.

We play here
in this tiny history
the balls we toss falling
(where we call down) like the bits
of what we do not know
flying toward the center of another
stillness
before they what we call begin
what we call again.

 

Like Stones from a Bridge: 20th Post

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The arbitrary assignment I gave myself was to write a poem about a school of little fish and to use 5 words per line/5 lines per stanza as the form. This poem was published in Whiskey Island Magazine (Summer 1989).

 

The School of Little Fish

They stood looking down at
the school of little fish.
I seek the black fish
said the old one for
it cures the pain of

age. I shall have the
green fish whose flesh gives
great vision claimed the learned
one. Said the pretty one
I want all the pink

fish for my collection. The
fat purple fish are mine
cried the hungry one. The
young one gathered all the
fish and threw them high,

high and they fell back
like rain on corn like
drops of lava like good
news like stones thrown from
a bridge like the arms

and legs of soldiers like
snow like memories of love
like leaves like words on
deaf ears like candy from
a piñata like little fish.

 

 

Eighteenth Post

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This poem was published in the journal Tyuonyi in 1992. “Tyuonyi” is a Keresan word (and Keresan is a family of American Indian languages) meaning “the meeting place” as well as the name of a major prehistoric ruin in northern New Mexico.

Passacaglia

let the shape
be the sound
of two violins which
as we know
or at least
I can tell you
is if
both are played
with equal intensity
only one
point three times
the sound of one or more
likely the shape
should be
doubled requiring
ten sounding oh come
let us let
a point on a line be
side a parallel
line escape its
apprenticeship in
poverty sink without
guilt to a comma or rise
beelike to more
glorious intersections why not
let me
be a riddle
and you be
consolation
like an edible
pawn or let
the falling
twilight of ash
groves succeed
daylight without
apology with
black birds demoted
acrobats standing low
rather let the shape
be the triangular beauty
of acknowledgment and daily
without regard
for the ratio of mass
to velocity
let the horizon
disappear
into the horizon

Twelfth Post

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I don’t usually explain poems, but I like readers to know that I wanted to write a poem to a heavily tattooed woman but also to address a poem to the whole Earth, and this is the result. It was published in Willow Springs (No. 37, Jan. 1996). The quoted poem at the top is copied exactly as found.

 

Binoculars on a Tattooed Lady

I’m Jane or
I’m not sure if I’m 
Jane or not.
I feel like Jimmie
but I could feel like
Marlena. I’m green
I could be a leaf. If
I were blue I could
the sky.
       poem by a homeless woman

I want to worship at the fins
of those procephalic dolphins caught
at the top of their arc out of the Sea of Cortez
garrisoned in your temple.

I want to smear
on your forehead ashes
from the collection of burned lovers
in the urn on your hip.

With you
an elbow becomes a category,
your ass a pasquinade.

Who says you don’t shoulder your burden
who burden your shoulder with that
sunken ship.

Asymmetric beauty
I want to soak you like an avocado pit,
pierce your clean body
and see what grows.

Eleventh Post

016 Palms

This poem was published in Writ, 20th Anniversary Issue (No. 21, 1989).  Though the inspiration was my love for Bermuda, I have a long-time deep affection for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as well, and their heartbreak and resilience are much on my mind.

Unedited

After you rode there on horseback

in the flowered breeze

under trees so sweet they curled shyly

when you touched them

you felt you’d earned the right

to lope on the crest like a movie star

absurdly romantic, impossibly attractive.

The sand was talcum powder

peach-colored and toast-warm as you ran

from your horse toward the surf.

In the warm waves that tumbled finned

people and little fish like dice

there was the surprise of not knowing

where your body ended.

Farther out you could gurgle

in rubber tubes and view widescreen technicolor drama

—your spongy hand visible on center screen

pointing with newfound grace

at purple lace waving under yellow trees

and rainbow actors skimming in and out

of orange doors. Back on the beach you’d eat

sweet onions glazed in sugar and rum

shared by whispering locals

sweet and shy as the bending trees.

When you rode back, imagining

your own silhouette against the orange sky

your thin shirt open in the still-warm breeze

the longtails swooped for insects

and the frogs sang like rusty swing-sets

behind the closing credits.