Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Previously published by lingerings in 1999


You find your grandmother
sitting on the dusty antique shop shelf,
in a golden glazed rough-edged mixing bowl,
the kind they used to sell in the hardware
stores for cheap, so no one, back then,
paid them any mind, functional as they were,
in a kitchen like hers, where you made
what you could from scratch.

You are moved to pick the bowl up,
your fingers reading the low relief
on its sides, a house and garden:
as far from the tenement she lived in,
as you are now, from the calloused 
grip of her hand on your little arm.

You think maybe you’ll rescue it
from this place's clutter and chaos,
but then you look at the price,
and picture her tsking
and shaking her head.

Too dear, she would have said,
and you agree, putting it 
back on the shelf,
taking what’s free instead.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tuesday Poem: previously published by Icarus Rising in 2001

painting by Sally Noble

Crow Woman

sits up black as humid earth,
rises out of a wallow of water
and humus, black and stake-burnt
for harboring knowledge,
for power enough say no,

witch woman, cinder saint,
shakes a tail feather loose
and delivers a baby,
footprints filling with ooze
in her wake, as she struts her
reek of passion, muck of sexuality,
stubborn blood that will not come out,

crow woman, shaven headed
intimate of trees and tinctures,
tarred and feathered adultress,
sticky baby you can’t let go of,
nodding earthward, flying, flying,
landing you in the brambles,

earth angel, flying the highways
commuting, commuting
the sentence, the sentence of night,
and you, and you with your sharp
crow eating night kill eyes,
dare you to follow,
dare you to try
to get rid of her.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tuesday Poem: previously published by Feminist Studies in 1999, and in The Paterson Literary Review in 2005

The Circus Comes To Paterson

Once they set up Clyde Beatty’s Big Top
at the foot of Sandy Hill, in the empty lot
where projects used to rise in long barracks rows,
housing the soldiers and their wives after the war,
and then struggling families like mine,
until they finally knocked them down,
flattened them like furrows
ploughed up for just a few seasons
to give us all a chance to sow a future.

And there it was: our future,
in a house, with an alleyway and a garden,
on Summer Street, ripeness setting in, I guess,
because when the circus came
our parents were giddy too,
as we joined the crowd in the bleachers,
sitting in the backs of flat beds,
and pulled in a circle
like a wagon train at chow time.

And we were just like pioneers sitting there,
doing something we’d never done,
a circus right in our living room,
that’s what it felt like
until the elephants came out
and no more than five minutes into the act
one of them broke ranks,
dragging the trainer with her,
the poor guy dangling like an earring
from the hook he held to the side of her head.

That elephant’s berserk!, someone screamed,
and we screamed too when she charged at the trucks,
as people fled up the seats and dropped off the back.
We were paralyzed, which turned out to be all right
because she wasn’t interested in us at all,
she was more intent on the freedom she saw
through an opening in the canvas
and was gone before we had that figured out.

The rest is hearsay.
Stories about her lurking behind the drugstore,
so that Doc nearly had a heart attack,
when he went to see why his dog 
was barking so loud, of how 
she wedged herself between 
the shoemaker’s house and garage,
bending the aluminum siding, 
as she eased back out, how she reared up 
and stamped a footprint in the sidewalk,
before turning tail and running past our house,
so Ralph next door thought he was 
going crazy, when he looked up 
from the paper, and she flew by 
like a bat out of hell.

They caught her way up high on the hill,
locked her in the back of a tractor trailer,
but the circus that day was done for,
there was no going back.
They worked her too hard
my mother said to my Dad.
This is what happens .

Meanwhile I stroked the garage’s new curved edges
where her anger had made its mark,
watching the girls take turns
stamping the sidewalk as hard as they could
inside the ring of her footprint.