Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Our Own Private Devils

Steal your breath?
Photo of "Venus" by Katy Brown, Davis

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

Sometimes it started as an echo
slipping from under the bed
a slur of taps not sharp and clear enough
not in time with Mother’s drumstep heart

The not-so-famous child of the ‘30s
in the night vault her bed the coffin
for kids who failed to smile
roll their eyes as they danced
Mother frowned at her
from across the studio floor

When she couldn’t sleep
still seeing workers
on the catwalk high above the soundstage
they stared down at her
just one of a dozen toy soldiers
tapping out a stair dance for the camera’s roll
don’t fall, don’t look at the steps
klieg lights blink her eyes
take after take with stomach churn
sick after a day’s shoot

In the night,
just in time to the bathroom—
(body still burnt orange
from the 6 am makeup)
spill it all into the toilet

How it started onstage
five years old dancing with Mary
the piano played “Two Little Girls in Blue”
the spread of darkened audience
the wave of clapping became hands
that squeezed the dough of her yeasty core
Mother’s head, her mouth a round O
head sliding along a high taut wire,
Mother’s head with its blue-lit eyes
glaring down at her from above the coffin


—Patricia Hickerson

that moment of ecstasy she gives herself
before falling into deep and satisfied sleep

it’s about these women
she has known them all her life
they whisper at twilight over teacups
tell secrets in the kitchen
behind the swinging door

the older one, hair stacked in grey wieners,
laughs, stirs the gravy
eyeglasses steam up at the stove
bends to the sewing-machine
pumps the treadle
the younger one always watching
blue eyes like glacial stones
her smile a glare of bright fangs
across the dance studio

they have been with her since she was born

harsh streets where these women lived
shop and office where they worked
then she came along

when they need money
the women strip off her showgirl costumes
the ones they’ve measured her for
pinned her up in
glitter of rhinestones
sheen of satin
velvet moss
all thrown in a heap on the floor
tie her half-naked to a wheel
splay her out
invite men in


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

When I was little
It always troubled me
That no one would
Answer my question
Or they would give a non-answer
Like because I said so
Called the ISS Postulate
In our mathematically inclined household

They would say
Do this
Do that
But when I asked why
I would be in deep trouble
They thought
I was being disrespectful
But I only wanted to know


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

Getting up from his brimstone bed
the Devil decides to go a-walking,
to look at this snug little world,
and to take stock of things here.

Fred prays to be delivered from the,
Devil who roams the earth, and can
take any shape to seize, unawares, a
poor man’s soul in its glooming gloom
of depression. Fred then goes to sleep.

A stranger comes to Fred’s door, with
a bible, reciting passages, Fred knows
the Devil can cite scriptures and feels
a faint cold fear in his veins. Fred grabs
hold of the man, demanding of him…

Who are you?… What is your name?
The man makes a weird growling sound.
Fred, startled, lets him go, and the man
runs away. Fred angrily shouts after him,
I know who you are! I know who you are!


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Worry drives at swelter-speed down
asphalt two-lane, its barbecue of roadkill
rabbit, sparrow, dog; on all sides
vacant landscape, tiding sea of brown.
Devil Worry walks you up a little hill, rocky
island in that angry sea – or is it only
wild with possibility under a flame-torch
wind? The cost of life. April’s flowers
drowned in grasses dried and brittle. Brown
nattering of flies, a seething under surfaces.
Snakes beneath this rock or the next,
coiled to strike. Stand tip-toe upon a little
hill, trying not to touch the lethal ground.

Photo by Katy Brown

Today's LittleNip:

More eating rice, less talking mouth.

—Chinese Proverb



(Thanks to today's artists for riffing on our Seed of the Week: The Devils That Chase Us.)