Since poetry is sparks against darkness, conceived
in general in private, so easily snuffed by any
such a subjective random draft, made yet not made. Seek
art, I’ve found no solace; still, try to wait, go make a place,
it better not be here. Fear makes us hasty;
to comment too soon is like cursing the unborn,
…poems simply do not like locking up fledglings in a wooden prison
suit that forbids turning to see. But never mind
my personal limits. Sparks transform wood.
taste Only what results, what emerges—nothing else concerns us.
if acceptance is what we look for in lighted
hallways and busy avenues among family
friends and fellow travelers there is no
wonder that writers are idiot masochists,
melancholics paddling upstream with
inadequate equipment just because the
stars swirl marbled custard and the moon
calls for odes, hymns, and haiku, when
acceptance provides enough elevation
to cause bruises at the next fall and next
fall she returns to the trenches, tied to her post,
flames licking wool skirt or fashionable
pant suit, the flames she might apply
to most student work if only to get her
point across – REVISE – which does
not mean correct or edit or rewrite
but re-vision, see again, see anew,
close your eyes to what you think
you know and realize truth in
technicolor created solely for your
particular inner etch-a-sketch…
back at the drawing board drawing
inspiration from denial, denying
herself the freedom of failure as
family, friends, and fellow travelers
walk straight lines down neon
streets of promise accepting draft one
as script acceptable for rerun on
daytime network television set
blinded to the light creeping under
the front door, warming the threshold –
the same light she sips carefully,
stores in jars on the windowsill
and breathes in black and white,
in prayers seeking acceptance
How to Moth an Egg
2 Northern Eggars
Burnished Brass with a lid
Clouded Silver Saucepan
Ruby Tiger Tablespoon
Langmaid’s Yellow Underwing
True Lover’s Knot timer
- cover the eggs with Chevron by about ½-inch
- Then quickly but gently Swallow Prominent one at a time using a Feathered Ranunculus
- Now switch a on Conformist, and give the Drinker exactly 1 min
- remove the Great Brocade from the heat using the Dark Dagger.
6 mins will produce a soft White Plume
7 mins will produce a firmer, more creamy Frosted Orange
All the above words are taken from the following two sources. Original case, layout and punctuation preserved.
Delia’s How to Cook: Book One, Delia Smith
BBC Books.,1998. Recipe – How to Boil an Egg
Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland, Paul Waring and Martin Townsend (shown in italics)
British Wildlife Publishing, 2009 – Index of English names
I often ask the refrigerator
what I should be writing.
Flayed open, it watches me
with one eye closed, squinting.
It has a sign language
of internal organs, crisper drawer
not quite shut, butter cover flipped up,
that after years of staring
still tell me only
that I am not really hungry
that I have opened this door
in hope for peace and fulfillment of mind
that only comes from my own can of words
cut open by the metal teeth
of discipline and shared out freely
with anyone who cares to dine.
I’m here/not-here and
my medicine’s not helping;
stress can bring it on,
and there’s nothing worse
than the holidays.
Words eaten by a dissolving mind:
There’s a roast turnkey on the table,
which means that everyone in this mouse—
no, that’s not right, not a mouse.
I get confused sometimes.
I meant hole. Hole for the holidays.
What a crock.
Anyway, everyone at the stable with the turnkey,
must be a prisoner, including me.
We certainly can’t leave—courtesy
bars the door. My uncle’s carving
the host turnkey which suddenly doesn’t look
much like a beard. (Oh, god, is it still alive?
Are they cannabis? Am I?)
It’s not alive. It’s a beard, not a hanuman,
and we’re not cannonballs.
I cling tightly to that objective truth,
and don’t dare speak as they talk of pally ticks
and present rents, though I’ve certainly got
an onion to share on both.
The words tangle behind my teeth; they don’t
taste like Granny bears or sweet potentates,
but rather more like bile. I’d like to
disagree, but it’s not as if they’re going
to understand me. And to my dismay,
I realize that I can’t understand them either:
fool tacks raids are going up, and they’re
worried about their wealth care pinions?
I drink more whine than I should,
And when they leave, my head’s a-spin,
though I do understand when they say,
This was great! Let’s do it all again next year,
and I reach for my acid omen open.
Keep It Hot!
Mother places the hot dish on the table
and says it ain’t Bicol Express unless
it has red chili
with the pork cubes
and burns your tongue.
My newly freed uncle takes a mouthful
and says it ain’t a protest poem unless
it clearly shows
the specific injustice
it was written against
and sets your soul afire.
A Family Recipe
Latkes, fried potato pancakes with frayed
edges from the onions Emma stirred in,
derived from latka, Yiddish for patches made
to clothes worn through, reworked, and worn again.
Latkes for her family, whole at Thanksgiving
since those children who had married out refused
to come for Hannukah. Meanwhile siblings
renewed their childhood scraps, each one abused
in turn, as in-laws glared and children squirmed.
My first characters sprang from that bickering
as family, gathered to give thanks, transformed,
and bitter herbs continued blossoming,
though not at Seders we also wouldn’t share.
Then latkes patched all squabbles till next year.
Night sky, as he drives around the beltway
the landmarks become unfamiliar
until he loops around again
and everything makes sense.
Sometimes he sees both sides of an argument
and occasionally neither.
Sometimes the arguments are so intense
he feels they might blow his world apart.
In the morning he is still here—
he fears his loved one is lost.
He learns she still exists in her world,
but he has been moving away from her.
And here’s the twist:
His young son once said all people were connected
and they both sat quietly with this wisdom.
In gratitude, he taught him how to cut around a paper loop
so that it fell apart into a single longer loop.
Later, they studied topology, re-imagining
the universe as an expanding donut shape:
elastic boundaries that could stretch, pucker
and invert through a time-space portal—
events and galaxies pouring over into an inverse donut:
crumbs out, sprinkles in, all relationships realigning.
Now, he wonders which star contours guide him through
night sky, as he drives around the beltway.
Woman of an Era
“Poetry can … remind us of beauty where no beauty seems possible….”
I will never be an icon
like Adrienne Rich,
who stayed plugged in
even with the three kids
and the patriarchy and all that.
I may never be an icon, but I’m trying—
a woman doing the hard labor
with dust up from brooms and children and
the laundry and the day job and all that.
The words have learned to sit close,
at “go” with no countdown,
so in my 10 minutes here or there,
I see the this-and-that and dive between, agree to the small quiet and
the thick swamp surges havoc,
purges the dust,
gluts the page, gorges the levies
before it goes down—teeming wriggler-
syllables left sprawling across the white,
the segments thick and urgent—
livid, awry, alive.
I am a woman of my era,
an earnest one,
aiming to raise my kids
in spite of the take-out dinners
and bad examples and all that…
and leaving a moonless swell
to stir the tides when I am gone.
your aunt plays “Tofurky” in scrabble
poking fun at my vegetarianism
I haven’t told her about my gnawing on chicken wings
secreted away in the bathroom during events
or how I have started biting off pieces
of dog treats before I feed
them to the dog
or how I have been writing
about vampires lately
that’s why I hate Scrabble
I never have the right words
to express my hunger
so I play the word “up”
off the “u” in “Tofurky” for 3 points
and steal off to the empty basement to gnaw on the claw of a crab
I stole from the Thanksgiving surf and turf
as your aunt racks up triple word scores
in my absence
and cracks open a crab leg in public.
bodyparts and recipes
I wrangle with that letter-writing
tripe, which yanks
tighter round my neck
the older I get, strangling taut
across the ocean miles &
Canadian pine, fealty
dragging on my spine—
I thought I’d written
it off. Empiric
& myopic, I bit clean through
a fortress of ancestral ribs,
dribbling my life-juice
on its walls in escape.
How naïve are we, dismissing
the inscription of our DNA,
where stories tangle like entrails, &
fingernails of resistance
drag on family blackboards.
Oh how I cursed! I rehearsed
how to pull free, be released—
let go: but she yanked
her apron tighter, battering me
with that hand-me-down recipe:
two cups fret, ten parts guilt,
adding a pinch each of indignation
& offended sensibility;
inundating me with dishes of boiled
tradition, to be eaten steaming,
or there’d be no dessert. While he,
beer-bottled & booze-roaring,
snoring throttled, snoozed.
This twosome of propriety drip, drip,
dripped, words eroding me, so long
ago. But now…
I read our history, carved into a
lineage of similar bones.
Cloned clavicles & scapulae;
vertebrae like won tons
float in memory’s soup;
my freckled skin’s mimicry etched;
and brand-new, miniscule fingernails
that will tap out destiny’s future.
In you, my babies, through me,
recipes & bodyparts
bubble & echo;
and now, even if I wanted to—
I won’t let go.
don’t swallow, raw, those words;
tonight they are meant to serve
and be served.
so take a heart, yes
any heart and
split the flesh for
the kernel of truth.
well. you need both.
simmer them in words,
your own blend
of consonants crisp, brittle, marble-smooth,
and throat-opening vowels, chopped fine.
add ample macerated assonances
and alliteration tips, to taste.
to chase the chill
from your bones
or better yet, let
it age, so future tongues
may claim its sweetness
like honey, sliding amber
down the mind.
–> May Chong
Recipe card images courtesy of sweetlyscrappedart.blogspot.com and callmevictorian.com