Three more weeks till spring.
She’s the only one left, with Death
for sister and a brother who died at birth.
Parents widowed almost before they
were married, married to alms hospital,
pest house, hospice. Her favorite
color black, she danced in it, never
too young for mourning. This morning
she gets up from the grave, walks
down the steps, counts pickets
of the fence like numbered crosses,
recites the names of her increasing tribe.
You say it’s time to throw things out;
THE “S” LITTER
These nameless puppies—Yellow, Gray, Black,
Yellow-gray… for the yarn collars they wear
to tell them apart. 6 days old and full of mother’s
milk, they hum in the closet, already chasing
rabbits in their dreams, or else the scent of spring
that teases us out the door. When they find
homes of their own, they’ll have proper names
that start with S—Swinger, Salsa, Sierra High,
or Sizzle. None will be christened Sorrow.
STEEPED WITH INDISCRIMINATE
—Lelania Arlene, Sacramento
My nails were shining like driving into sundown,
I was thinking of time and how it was a sensation
I thought I felt.
I was wondering of other language families, of leaving town
I saw some birds playing spin the bottle, disorientation,
But still they knelt.
I dreamt I was wearing a suit of lights that drown
In reflective threads, large sequins, thus indulged in oration
lap of roses to pelt.
I stood on the stairs, airing out like some new noun,
Wearing ancient velvet scented of pepper and carnations
Naked soles a pair of Queens dealt.
Looking outwards towards an imaginary crown
Of sunflowers and indulgence, of silent flirtation,
On his hips an asteroid belt.
Recalling the knee walk, no virtue to take lying down,
The assets of virtue and penances, blood and cross avocation,
All sins and metals to bear smelt.
LOVE LETTER FROM A LAGOON
Encircled within your warmth, my world is as large as my love and as small as this bed,
Matching breath for your precious breath, I doze in and out of brackish lagoon air.
I look through the window, light is bleeding through faraway leaves, effulgence faded,
Shifting, the tips of my breasts skip along your strong back, leaves pull my half-lid stare,
Closer the foliage, farther the dawn recedes, waves of liquid heat lap at me, longing spreads.
Your hands a starfish, my body an estuary, free-flowing connection to the sea, a sound in the air,
Breaching as if splitting a Bird-of-Paradise blossom, nectar flows a font to my consort's thumb, rhythm weds.
Glance at the aquarium window, which shows green firmly, leaves pressed against the pane as if in prayer.
Peak flowering, tides be damned. In the land of seashell nipples that hold crash to your ears in waves' stead.
GAME OF CUPS
A man with one hand could not cup, nor light his cigarette
I said Hey Man, How do you cope?
He said, I stopped waiting.
We became friends, I bought him a candle, determined yet
To be of significant hope.
Pillar of light and flame mating.
A stranger opened the man’s door, in a rush of fiscal upset,
It was the snuffed wick, the last rope.
Smoking he quit. My friend is no longer exhaling.
I and I and a faithless bitch, hope,
She trails the name of your dead like reciting a guest list at a wedding.
The fetid wind she blows, whispers darkly lewd sentences into the ears of the attending innocent.
They staked myself as a goat, first fruits. A tether, a sad comfort in ignorance roped, I fainted in a just dreading.
Feckless and reckless in dreams of safety as I circled in the sun, vulnerable, recalling pulling a chariot, a Farmer's Son’s lament.
I served a God who took care that my bones remained whole, wrapping my remains-sender away abetting.
Suck my marrow not, tell me nothing of history, A Nanny, A Kid, Parchment am I , Vessel for Wine and lust spent.
They called me Satan, a Devil was I? I roll my eyes, I served as catgut, ate kudzu, calmed flighty racehorses in straw bedding.
They sacrificed me, ululating, wicked they as I died with clover in my jaw, memory of a found quince. They ate the richness of my flesh, they of thumbs wrenching.
It's sometimes fleeting, but often our feet reveal that something below rings false.
Listen, listen with your whole body,
Lest the past expose like an old bone.
Let your loved ones run unpinned, unbound to waltz
Hear, hear with the inner throne you embody,
The mess you pose is a caged bird that has flown.
PSYCHE, THE BRINGER OF SORROW
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Where have you gone is what I ask. I mean:
What force in my long past pushed this low mound
to mountain up from crust, a ridge to lean
or gravestone-darken all the dawning ground?
A psyche is the girl of soul, and you,
soul, came to me brown of eye and sweet of smile
to loom, a gliding astral form to blue
my mood, sunspot me Goth-black like your style.
Sadness got stuck far earlier in my psyche
than you, my ghost and ghostmate: don’t your eyes
look through me with the snap and brilliance I
used to see in my mother’s? Feral as Nike
in the Greek statue, yet warm, sly, shy, wise,
you’re breath. You fill my lungs. You leave in a sigh.
(2000 and now)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Then: On the road with Hollywood!
Our own complex, our condos made
ersatz Christmas Harrisburg
for the movie Lucky Numbers:
our cherry trees in early spring
stripped of bloom and stem of Bing—
invaders denude our blossom-glade
applying Styrofoamy iceberg-
lattices of lightweight “snow.”
When they’ve ravaged, like Sherman’s bummers,
our floribundant mini-Georgia,
crowds of us cluster: look, it’s Kudrow!
Over there: it’s John Travolta!
Now: that brumal Bollywood
long melted, miracle survival
—tree-riot tantamount to orgy,
pink petal-fevers fit to rival
Housman’s white-clad “woodland rides.”
Gliding down each branch of sable,
these moon-crazed February tides.
It’s Elizabethan contredanse:
see Edward de Vere and his Queen Bess
caper quick, change hands and prance,
leg-lofty leapers to excess.
Turn this cherry tree Maypole: he flings
she-hips lip-high. Dance the lavolta!
Mustard took over my garden plot located at a church
because vacant lots and fields are all awash in yellow blooms
carpets of sunshine despite the drought in the golden state
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento