Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Poem: previously published in 1997 by Poetry London Newsletter, and The Nerve: A Writing Women's Poetry Anthology

Vincent Loves Lucy

It would've gone this way:
him taking her to his little room at Arles,
after ditching Ricky in Paris,
the Cuban left scratching his head at the station,
trying to figure out which train his dizzy 
wife had boarded by mistake.

It would start out like a dream,
guileless as the gleaners in the fields:
Her speaking her cartoon French to make him laugh.
Him whispering that her rosebud mouth
was the keyhole to unlocking them both.

But it wouldn't take long for him 
to start throwing the knives,
for the two of them to reach 
combustion you might say,
what with all that flaming 
improbable hair.

Picture the two of them:
so fair, sailing over wheat 
colored grass, the lift of her 
parasol, him coaxing her up
like a kite in the wind,
onto the Langlois bridge's 
delicate scaffolding.

Then all of a sudden 
her skirt gets caught,
the stubborn tilt of her hat 
as she yanks and yanks,
the boats crowding in 
unable to go through
and Vincent making 
no move to help,
only trying to paint 
her refusal, only blotting out 
her reflection with thick blue strokes.

Of course she'd spill 
unwanted into every painting:
the orange doorways, the frantic 
slashes of sunlight, the crows
singing badly in the fields.

Alas, these brushes 
with immortality 
don't last, no matter
how well imagined.
The whole thing, 
for Lucy, too much
like being locked inside
a steamer trunk, for Vincent, 
a mouth overfull of chocolates.

Before you know it, there's a telegram 
waiting for Ricky at the Hotel desk.

Help stop, it says. 
I tried to buy a painting stop
But the guy misunderstood me stop
Can you and Fred and Ethel pick me up?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Previously published in Footwork in 1987

Barn Fire

vomits flames and smoke into yellow day,
about a mile ahead down the Thruway,
leaves us breathless in the car,
searching through the trees
for a glimpse of the fire’s
hot mouth, as we draw near,
barn skeleton like a
child's drawing in black crayon
vibrating over a floor of solid flame,
walls gone; everything going to charcoal.

I think about hay –
how sweet it is, fresh from the fields,
how it chafes and generates
heat when it’s shut away,
sparks and goes asmolder in the dark.

I was sixteen when my father begged
Uncle Dick to put him in the hospital.
He was terrified, he told me,
that he’d kill himself.

Our mother and he were separated
a couple of years already,
but she drove the two hours it took
to get us up there, soon after he called.

The plastic bracelet hung on his wrist
as he asked me for a light, as we
sat in Rockland State Hospital’s ]
dayroom, a poisonous fog around us, as he
chain-smoked Pall Malls, letting them 
burn down to little cylinders of ash.
He coughed as he talked, a fire 
slowly rising in my chest as he ranted.

Did we know they took the mattresses
off the beds, forced him to pace
back and forth down the hall,
like a moving target?

His hands were shaking, his long 
tobacco fingers pinching the cigarettes 
flat, as his voice cut the air, my throat 
going so raw, I could barely swallow.

Did we know they were starving him?
His supper last night was a 
slice of bologna, and a handful of dry 
spaghetti, with a packet of ketchup.
He cried so hard at the thought of it, 
he couldn’t even choke it down.

We’d bought him another carton of Pall Malls, 
a Life Magazine, a Look. The blister around 
my heart was getting bigger; I could hardly breathe.

It’s only temporary, Tom, try to 
hold on, my mother said. Then she 
told us to say goodbye to him, it was 
time to get going. He asked us for hugs.

I remember my hands beating the air 
around his shoulders, like homeless swallows.
The closest I could come to any comfort.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Previously published by Writing Women in 1997

The Year of the Plum-Colored Bathing Suit

her breasts were blue-veined
porcelain and full of milk
for the baby.

She waited for him to notice
them spilling, a soft waterfall,
wished he would ask her
to put marmalade on them at tea-time.

All summer she offered him sweet rolls,
hoped he would cup her lightly
in long china fingers.

Instead he stayed out of the water, reading,
or changing the baby's diapers,
or teasing their oldest boy