GHAZAL OF THE CYANIDE ALMOND
—Jane Blue, Sacramento
The little cyanide almond exposed inside the peach.
The teakettle whimpering instead of whistling.
The pain of last week is gone. An earthquake has rattled Tokyo.
Someone is mowing, always mowing, slashing the street with their noise.
Before I was twenty I had no memories, knitting them together for later.
Dragonflies circle and tilt away like helicopters.
Or cutting trees, murdering trees, with that hoarse, slicing sound.
Last night a panther poured itself through an upper window in a house on a hill.
I lay on a big bed with a former lover, light slanting in like water.
You say your life is narrow, that there is no adventure in it.
A red geranium peeks from behind the sycamore.
Overheard on a television ad: “You can own a new solar system.”
A black honeybee comes to my pen, drawn by the smell of ink?
One memory grows out of another, like a plant from a seed.
(first pub. in Poetry Breakfast)
(After Li-Young Lee)
Dreamed a rill that became a torrent.
Dreamed a woman who was my mother
but not my mother.
Dreamed St. Catherine’s severed head in Siena,
trees bright against the haze,
the Palio a bowl bared of its tumbling horses,
the bright pennants and clamor of bettors.
Dreamed a fiat, let it be done.
Dreamed the stream purring under our bedroom in Vermont.
Dreamed a perfect sleep.
Dreamed a woman and a man dancing in a pyre,
so I could resurrect him,
so I could remember the spark.
So I could go in and out of the twelve houses
of the sun, the twelve houses of the moon.
And the man was not you; we lived in an alternate world,
and no one knew, not even you.
Dreamed the blue stars and the blue moon and the blue leaves.
Dreamed the world as a film
you can pass through like a ghost
and back into your life, inevitably altered.
Dreamed him. Dreamed you.
(first pub. in FutureCycle)
WHO IS THE BEAR?
He has grown too menacing for friendship.
He watches men in the woods
and women in their pantries.
He has no way to speak to them
but he wants something.
He lumbers into their houses. He tries
out a church, breaking the handle from
the church hall door. He goes to a table
and eats 22 jars of peanut butter
to be packed off to the poor. He is the poor.
The lids fall apart in his claws. He has
no idea how strong he is. He sniffs
and slurps. No one is there to see
his bad manners. He walks to the kitchen
and opens the refrigerator the usual way,
pushing the handle, releasing the sweet
odor of oranges. He punctures
a dozen cans of concentrate, licking
the cardboard, as easy for him
as raking a hive of honey. He swipes
a few sweet rolls, then leaves,
damaging little except his own wild
heart. The pastor asks his flock to pray
for the bear. Pray for him to stop ravishing
their homes, be caught and returned
to a paradise that no longer exists.
The wilderness has abandoned the bear.
He is alone and hungry.
He no longer knows what he is hungry for.
(first pub. in Women Artists Date Book 2013)
THORNY ROSE AND JACK-O'LANTERN
The smell of a dryer sheet in the air.
A female jay hunting spiders
in the cobwebbed roses. A white plastic bag
limps across the street in the wind
like a sick cat; then lies down in the gutter
and dies. Assignment: draw your pain. Draw
a thorny rose out of a Jack-O’Lantern head.
I scare myself with that flat, in-holding mouth.
Rose blooms, pain blooms. Jack-O’Lantern
rots, frightening the children. A “dark demon,”
my sister says. A jay squawks. I’ve got to get to it:
Mike’s dying. Thirty-seven years old. Addicts
are not what you think. They can be gentle people,
people in mourning. His father died when he was ten.
His mother never gave up. Wrote his obituary.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
I peek in at daybreak to see
what's left over from the night.
A newborn child. A boy,
another son. What prospects for him
in this world? Part black, part
white, mostly dirty brown, the birth
drying. Outside, I shiver for January
cold. Frost covers everything,
the sun's a smudge
through unlaundered cloud.
But it's the sun. Our earth rides
balanced on its spin.
The neon “I” is out
at the SLANDER MOTEL.
I imagine dented fenders, and litter
in the gutters. But the other sign
I imagine curtains parting
without a face looking out; or
someone crying behind a dead-
bolt lock. Don't ask
what passes in a rented dark.
The Islander's shut its one
(an earlier version of this poem appeared in Nerve Cowboy, 2001)
—Michael Cluff, Corona
This is the locale
that would make
the Bates Hotel
appear to be a heaven on earth;
for here, the paws of rabbits
are used to curdle soup
composed of follicles
and formica chips.
The toilets flush
imposing jet propulsion
on idling sitters
the alligators live in corroded tubs
while nitre flows easily
on the barely audible
of Southern renown.
And deals are made
by deluded demigods
that paralyze local constabularies
and rapid fire assaults
on the guilty as well
as the innocent
while men in three-piece suits
red silk ties
and yellowing socks
yodel their onanistic pleasures
to a lifeless, mewing sky.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
Just across the river,
And just before Davenport
Began, was the Tall Corn
Motel. Old, weedy and
Faded, I always thought
It would be a great place
For a no-strings fling.
But English majors
Hang out with English
Majors, even if they
Don’t disport with them,
And I could never entice
Anyone to sin with me in a place
With (Yes, it was coming)
Such a corny name.
Except maybe once. But
A small circus had just
Pulled in and a baby
Elephant was grazing
The parking lot. Nothing
Spoils the mood like
A baby elephant in
The parking lot.
ANOTHER NO TELL MO-TEL
The place I learn
a few negatives
and the use
of evocative lighting
red reinforcing red
organic paralleling fluorescent
in raunchy roundelays
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
Yes, Taylor Graham and hubby Hatch have three new lambs: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so it seems like the nursery rhyme was called for. (See Monday, Jan. 21's post for Thursday's photo.) Here, by the way, is a nursery rhyme trivia quiz: www.rhymes.org.uk/nursery-rhyme-trivia-quiz.htm