—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento
At the first cup, man drinks wine
at the second, wine drinks wine
at the third, wine drinks man.
The first glass,
I think of all I must do,
the poem I intend to write,
the meter I cannot memorize.
The second glass,
how red the red! Sparks
when held to the sun,
santé de Christo.
A slight spill resembles
the west coast of Africa.
I could copy Chaucer
and his gift of the French lyric.
A spot coagulates purple,
resembles the lost continent of Mu.
Postscript: I review my illegible notes
splashed with the brown stain
of forgotten countries.
(after "The Poet", a painting by Pablo Picasso)
grind against a flat world, this poem
drawn in quadrants, points refracting,
jagged cells, trapezoids
mined deep as from musty boxes
in long forgotten clearing houses.
She looks in other closets, armoires,
hidden words behind panels papered
in black toile, scrapes deep
crevices, taps a bit of shale, wonders
if every poem has another shelf-life?
Words, like delicate mica, dislodge
with pick, shatter: an uneasy puzzle
a therapist might direct a patient
to rearrange: eyes, nose,
mouth in right order,
or like a marionette stretched too far,
the unarticulated skeleton: arms,
legs, head, snapping back
to edges that don’t match. The poet
walks the escarpment, crushed
granite cracks underfoot. High above
the valley floor, she notices
a slit in the burned out rock shelter,
fragrant pollen dormant
for decades, sprouting new growth.
MY NEXT NOVEL
(after Simone de Beauvoir)
I set the afternoon aside,
fountain pen and journal on the glossy table.
I scatter a few scribbled words,
the breeze grows swift, disturbs edges.
My focus, intent on the blast of white,
remains a shadow. I grow dizzy.
Vertigo makes me stop
and wonder how many years this will take?
I read newspapers.
The bowl of carved wood fruit,
a gift, seems ridiculous—the Venetian mirror
over the fireplace, smudged and
needs a polish. My brain
fills with passion, but I need my
heart: a talisman, simple, foreign
and lovely to calm and re-order my life.
My last book caused a ruckus,
a friend stopped reading,
had a fit, and ripped off the cover.
“Camus, in a few morose sentences
accused me of making
the French male look ridiculous.”
I drink tea, take walks, have a perm,
amused by my own starts and stumbles.
I stop in front of a modern stationers.
Perhaps an antique nib
to slow me down? My grasp
has become weary, my writing sloppy.
In the window a new item—
ballpoint. I find the marine blue
comforting, the barrel smooth
and cool in my feverish hand. I hurry
to my flat and move on to the monologue.
In October, writing a bear poem,
I think about my own hibernation.
Wild apples fallen deep
in abandoned fields give off cider.
Squirrels chew and scatter
maple’s ivory seeds.
The she-bear nestles in, carries
sperm that don’t impregnate
but temporarily float
in wintering fluids
a rich ovum bath, so cubs
appear after the spring thaw.
I look forward to January
my bed piled with books,
resisting fog and cold,
the kernel planted—the husk firm.
(after A Few Phrases of Anais Nin’s
and Some Words by Arthur Rimbaud)
Two months search for a small flat to write,
to dream, turned up futile.
I had basic needs: a green park
and boulongerie close by.
A small ad in the bookshop,
Houseboat on the Seine, old but water safe.
I’d admired dwellers along the banks.
Would it be too noisy? Could I pay attention?
A friend on a Fullbright obtained a fine loft
with grand skylight for his art, yet
was unable to paint in the best conditions.
Moving in with my books, Underwood, diaries,
fresh ink, new candles and India print comforter,
this would be the perfect atelier.
I remained docked; ribboned blue, green,
and black water dominated. The sky with globes
of ivory and silent clouds competed
with the river for my attention.
There was always the waif of fish in the air.
A cat took up residence on the steps.
Prone to inner ear problems, I was hopeful
the occasional pitch and roll wouldn’t bother me.
Settling in, the thump against the quay
often echoed by a musician a few boats away,
mandolin in sync, plunk-a-plunk—a comfort.
Time was elsewhere, my pen dipped
in water-borne thoughts. Noon sun in wedges
of gold and aquamarine, became multicolored fish,
tiny gills heaved with ideas, puckered lips rimmed wet.
Afternoons were a delight, cigarettes next
to a fluffy red geranium in a cracked pot.
At sunset in a rose gold mist,
other shapes dipped from smaller craft.
The citron moon webbed sulphur, evensong,
a voyage within. I forgot my calendar,
went on land for a paper and the latest trash magazine,
replenished the larder with artisan lettuce and fruit.
One night late I re-read Rimbaud, dream
of currents, panting seas, blue deliriums…lost boat
in a hair of coves. Half awake, my comforter
floats, the mandala design unravels,
snakelike, squid, lolling head and black jelled eyes.
I walk tilted to the upper deck—
here, notebooks sit empty.
I find modest lodgings near a wide promenade,
wintering trees and pond,
passive toy boats inspiring.
A few blocks away,
a café serves creamy tomato bisque.