Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not Constantinople (poem)

for tom and kathryn

Balding under his beret, the man
stood, lofty and leaning, leafing through
cards in plexiglass casing. Off and on
goes the cap and so goes my attitude
about him -- pretension easily added
and subtracted. Then he speaks
to the lady to his left -- Say-la-veeeee --
a thick French drawl. Beret off, pretension
still on. I am strangely dismayed.
Over they come, a curious pair, she, short
and frazzled with a dueling accent
I cannot decipher. The man fans four cards
across my counter and asks, "Way-er kin
I git postcarrrds? She wants 'em." I stare, slightly
stupored, before offering advice that will lead them
out of my store, but only after they give me what
they owe. She starts to dig in her red leather clutch
for what my British tourists call shrapnel, coins
clinking together with unfamiliar clarity.
"They don't take Tuuuurkish money here," he chides
and he winks at me. I take his American
currency and catch a glimpse of his American ID --
California-based. He slides his beret back on
and gives a flick of the wrist wave. "Buh-bye now."
She smiles, strained, and I wonder if they'll find
the postcards they seek. I'll never know, probably,
and that lingers long enough on my mind to write this down.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Today Tomorrow Yesterday

Remember yesterday
when you looked for me in the plaza
(not the stone cobbled plaza or the tidy brick plaza or
the lazy yawning plaza in the movie about Ripley)
and you found me in pieces,
stretched like a marble unrolled from a sack
(balled up and barking inside
but shiny and brilliant on the out)
I remember you asking me on your way into the atmosphere
if you’d find me unrolled from the sack tomorrow
My answer is yes --
look for me in the plaza
(not the hotel in New York where my boss likes to tell
people she used their toilet)
I’ll be there, the bowling ball with pink and gold lettering
striving to knock down the pins of my foes
and try to delay the premature coming of congested thought
I know when you were here yesterday I smiled a lot
but there’s no saying what tomorrow may bring
Look for me behind glass and seek your reflection
in the palm of my hand -- see your life line? It’s the same as mine
(strange thing to notice
here in the plaza)
You found me again in my usual place
trying desperately to shatter
-- But all I remember is seeing you yesterday

Not even a Poet (poem)

1:30 AM is getting to be
the middle of my goddamn afternoon.

Seems I’ve spent more
pulseless moments pursing lips
and breathing softly
at this vacant hour than
any other, writing poems
about writing poems about writing poems
about writing poems about
writing poems --

And I’m not even a fucking poet.

I wish I could claim
insomnia as the peddler of my wake
but it’s more to do with shifting
siphoned, muddied thoughts of clay
away from the drawbridge
of my brain --

Arming Moses (poem)

Chad wishes that M-16s
could be sold as collectors’ pieces
to be slung over mantles
as trophies of war.
He says Charlton Heston has
some good points about the 2nd
Amendment: Moses gone mad
should be allowed to assemble
a militia, defend the burning bush.
He tells me he doesn’t have
guns anymore but he knows
how to shoot one,
(even though he won’t gut Bambi,
not even for survival).
Another patron turns and says,
“You never hear about a multiple stabbing,”
while Chad talks about re-loading
his hypothetical shot gun
from atop the library.

For the Man who Made Me Coffee in College (poem)

Can’t help but wonder
if I’d be better off
married to him, stuffed,
housewife-ish, living in my in-
law’s closet, drooping
with children destined to grow up
short with nice teeth
but bad eyes, a boy
named Eddie and a girl
named Lizzie, each chasing
a large, ferociously kind
golden retriever named
Wahoo. Maybe we’d have
season tickets at the Jake.
Maybe I’d make love
to my husband in pitched tent.
Oh, it used to be
what I’d pray for every night.
But it’s not at all
what I’ve got. And I don’t how
how he would have proposed
and I don’t know how complacent
I could become, but I do know
he would have loved me right
and I do know I would have been happy
trapped in his arms.

Reaching the Dead (poem)

Ever since your father died,
the shower drain has clogged
and unclogged and clogged again,
light bulbs have twisted in
and out of sockets, baseball
has made you cry and so
have boys. You’ve learned
to play the flute and you’ve learned
to earn your way. Nothing
seems wrong but nothing
seems right and you wonder
what your father has to do
with any of it. So you think
and you write and you want
to go back to sleep because
you’re too anxious, too indifferent
to take it seriously.
You’re tired. He’s been dead
for a long time and you’re not sure
you want to raise him
from his quiet.

But you must. Look: his hand
reaches and begs. If you take it,
you’ll learn to condense time
and trip on ghosts
without disturbing them.
Then with his hand in yours,
with his lifeline wedged
in youthful palm, you could tell him
what he’s missed. Take it.
You want to. He wants
to know. It’s not only the living
who want to reach the dead.

Five Ways to Say Goodbye (poem)

Five Ways to Say Goodbye

This is the first March
I haven’t fallen in love.
Maybe that’s because
I loved you long before
this month, or maybe
it’s because I’m alone
for the first time in years.

When you call me
my phone blats a circus
theme, um-ba-bop, um-ba-bop,
something your brother whistled
with scowl and harmony
the last time we failed to connect.

What can be made
of dreams, real ones
played through the night?
Will a dream slip into my bed
and grip me, rock me, soothe me?
Will that content you?

I need a voice.
Laugh with your tongue.
Press your fist
in my palm.
I will sigh
and you will need me to.

I love you
out of habit,
out of season.
Love me, too, maybe.
If you get the chance.