In each word, a porthole like a quark
and in each group of words, a larger porthole
until we find the shark thrashing
mid-blood, or the scarab crawling
under glass, an image
hologrammed in a bubble,
a moment he can feel
through his armor by the scent
and heat of his own fog,
a signature nuanced by his gait,
while worlds away the shark ignores
a seagull swirling windswept over the skin
of water, a bloody flesh pulsing into her bones,
her feathers like a basket sweeping over a redolence
that sticks to it, making her flight
with blooming sea.
—> Siham Karami
I open my book with time-yellowed pages
for the recipe, the one my mother
taught me by sight, by smell, to translate
into measured cups and scales.
I imagine my mother a young lady
asking her mother, Mama! Aqui, por favor,
bring it here, el cuaderno mía. And Nona
might have said, Bueno, hija,
here’s your copybook.
Plump figs from the garden explode
with flavor in the kettle as they bump
into each other with the simmering,
juices bleed from their bodies.
I anoint the mixture with sugar and orange
peel; a hint of clove.
I hear her soprano words, Stir gently
with a wooden spoon—never metal.
When the jam is ready, I am careful
to transfer it to a sterilized jar. Seal it with wax.
I stare at the book as if it were my mother’s,
the one she’d write her recipes and poems in
about life and food, but the pages are blank.
The original, thrown out with the trash.
Poetry Is Stolen Fruit
Sweetest that way dripping juice
and aphorisms the best words I want
peaches but never enough.
Shall I compare thee to love
and porn I know it when I see it these
with real toads in them. Scratch that
Moore said I too dislike it but didn’t.
No as in why. As in how
a summer’s day must ride on
its own melting. Like little animals
trapped inside this poor body
composed of one hundred bones
and nine openings imaginary
toads with real gardens in them.
How did I get here as I
write it I itch to pilfer it. Bicker
bitch covet I sleep with it
The Story Eater
Janet bought the story at a fruit stall. It was stacked in between the peaches round, pink and hairless. The story fit into her hand perfectly. When she hefted the smooth sphere to her lips, the proprietor angrily approached her. But when he saw she only bit into a fiction, his face smoothed with disinterest. She punctured the skin with her large, white, straight teeth; the juice dripped down her chin, staining her with plots and sub-plots. Drawing her relentlessly toward conclusions. Leaving her sticky with conflicts. Dyeing her with resolution. Her hands stuck together with the sap of narrative. It was a plum of a story, moist and full of liquid. Not much aftertaste, just a tinge of bitterness when she bit too close to the pit.
—> E.E. King
Love Song of T. S. Eliot: A Sonnet
His new false teeth made it hard
For him to speak the French
He wanted to whisper to her,
Those lines from Baudelaire,
That always touched him so,
Lines about the light love creates,
So Eliot took the teeth out
And gummed his Baudelaire
Until she begged him to stop,
Her tears rolling through
Her laughter but he wouldn’t.
Wedding Garland Poetry
Only the freshest marigolds are picked.
When strung up tightly squeezed,
they seem like keyed up metaphors.
Their golden orange glorifies
the bride and groom, assures
their married bliss, though
by a long day’s end
in summer heat
the flowers wilt and shrink,
expose the strings.
Dispose the garlands like clichés.
this poem here, for instance
—Kevin Ducey, “Hero Tales”
I don’t understand this poem,
but I liked it, especially the part about
the singing vegetables. Most of it, anyway;
your imagery is somewhat lurid. It might
help if you eliminated all instances of
the verb “to be.” It would definitely help
if you took out every other line,
beginning with line 14, and
wove them into a wreath.
The fact that you so frequently use
fruit as a metaphor makes it seem festive,
sort of. Or sordid, considering the condition
and use of the said fruit. The mangoes were okay,
though additional yogurt and honey would have
added to the nutritional content. “Honey”
is a cliché, as well as inferring emotional
baggage you would be well
advised to avoid.
It’s really all about me.
I’ve tried to define myself
to make you understand what I like–
I’m someone who wants you to send me
I just can’t tell you exactly what or how.
Check my schedule for dates.
I’m all over the calendar
on when I want you. But beware
at times I will be close-minded.
Winter solstice is my loneliest season
when I crave your voice and adoration.
In summer sweats I tend to cool off
and go to the beach
with novel acquaintances.
I am poetic at heart
though I can stray romantically
even be other-worldly in a fictional way.
I’ve been known to be open for anything.
Please don’t talk me to death.
I love a good narrative conversation
only if it’s going somewhere.
Don’t paint still life pictures.
Put me in the scene.
Make me feel and want you
long after we’ve conjugated words.
A minimum of three and up to five
times will tell if we are a match.
I’m out here every week
looking—often begging—for you
to make the first move.
I can’t exist without you.
Dutch treat is fair compensation
though when I’m especially hungry
—> Alan Perry
I regret to inform you
that your son fell in battle,”
was what the priest meant to send
on the clay shard to the king.
What the messenger picked up
read, “Pay to the order of
Ningirsu the farmer,
twelve jars of beer.”
When the real news arrived, days
late, of battles fought and lost,
the farmer’s reward, too, lost
its delight, and he, like his.
king, wept blood from his heart for
a prince, lost like the battle,
the message, and life’s savor.
Then Urukagina slew
the careless priest, whose stylus
set scratches in the soft clay,
which hardened into falsehoods
that cut a king’s heart like knives.
Seeking Ars Poetica
ten on a keyboard / three
to grip barrel of a pen
are not where the poem begins
stay awake while asleep
how to deal with shocks of daily—
no—minute by minute—
rubble of earthquake typhoon massacre
children’s hospital bombed
migrants’ dinghy overturned at sea
showers after midnight
open your palm shake out
I grieve for the novel
he began in hungry youth
Year by year it fades from bright
primaries to grey pastels
white obscuring its intense
graffiti on an undiscovered wall
I saw its birth, mutations
It grew skin, shed skin, lengthened
sprouted ever-reaching limbs
entered, filled me with wonders
yet to be and I waited
for its completion, for all
gestures to move from sparkling
whirligigs of light magic
to fruition, fulfillment
with our secret, sacred myths
with intuition’s incense
pierced a veil, wed genres
who taught Duke Wayne that stride walk
indigenous cowpoke jazz
juke joint country, red clay fields
Taj Mahal big footin’, hear
Albert Ayler’s wails invoked
Andy Bey’s ululations
moving you through dry to wet
making your hair chicory-
petal blue, sunflower gold
milkweed purple. I mourn for
hero’s unfinished journey
the severed mind link, this song
interrupted, whose notes I
keep humming, misremember
that no one knows or misses.
This Isn’t One
Sonnets aren’t rugged, they aren’t meant
To carry the strong tang of sweat, the low
Whiff of heated old soil under cement,
The sticky moisture that will slowly grow
Under armpits in an unpoetic
Way. Sonnets can’t convey that cold gasping
Air that comes out of bars on summer days. Slick
Manufactured frigidity stinking
Of old beer and Naugahyde that dies as
Soon as the door closes shut and the heat
Once again holds all the cards as it has
All day. Sonnets aren’t the right form to treat
That sort of stuff. So this isn’t one. This
Is just a poem formed like a sonnet is.
The Art of Poetry in a Time of Drought
When corncob withers right on the stalk
and wind finally rises to cool the leaves
that gesture more like licks of flame,
when salt burns sweet to quench a thirst,
then chill your wrist under a brass spigot.
Remember a hornet sting or the hot current
pulsing through electric fence remedies
Grandpa’s rust and rheumatism.
Remember a splinter may discover its own way
out of the body if one can bear it long enough.
Garlic to thin the blood, nettles to stop the flow.
The well rings hollow, the cistern dry,
a wind full of chaff is still an empty wind.
So turn to the music of bone games and rain sticks,
watch for a twitch from the rod that will divine
hidden water within the most parched of soils.
In times of drought fever, it is said
rest on a mattress of husks can bring visions.
—> Allen Braden
Tell Us a Story
“But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.”
Ken Kesey from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Now don’t be tellin’ stories,
my grandma used to chide
when my cousin Jack got carried away
embroidering events with calamity,
escape and unbelievable luck.
To embroider: to adorn with needlework
raised and ornamental designs
in cotton, silk, silver, gold.
If A=B and B=C, then A=C
Beauty is Truth, and Truth Beauty
The deft fingers of Jack’s imagination
flew across our summers, layering
them with truer colors: deeper purples
brighter greens, richer reds.
In the backyard magnolia we mounted
castle walls and manned the turrets.
In the creek bed we roared
down the Grand Canyon on splintering rafts.
Under the stars we drank
potions that transformed us
into the finest selves
he could weave for us.
Tell us a story,
we still beg.
Too shy or too chic to ask
we plunge into written worlds
we pass among ourselves
or we sink into the dim-lit
theater’s dark promise
our truth-detectors scanning, clicking,
drawing us toward the magi’s gold.
For Betsy’s Mother in Her Dying
Every life is a story
if only we know how to live it.
Step by step, morning to evening,
we are our own prose.
Your ink may have faded a bit,
but the pen still wipes its tale
of love and endurance
across the faces of your family.
How to write your own peony:
Find a quiet place
and start backwards:
the liver-spotted leaves
of late August,
of ants gone elsewhere,
notice the blowsy laughter
of petals falling and fading,
a room of ruby-hat women
bending over cake and tea,
succumb to the succulence
of perfect petals, then
write them leaf by leaf,
legal intoxicant, the champagne
of buds bursting, dewy
debutant coming out parties,
sent smiling up
from receiving line roots,
end with an intimation
of winter white,
end with a memory
of runcible green.
a sense of place
poems written in the basement
hiding from everyone’s business
give cool concrete pause
from the heat of human interaction