Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Poems (what an idea!)

"I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days"

(from "Animals," by Frank O'Hara)

This morning on the bus I was reading Frank O'Hara's collected poems. How lovely, and how energetic. Ultimately, tragic and ironic at the same time. It was a good day for all of those things, and the sun was out then.

Someone asked me whether I posted my poems on my blog, and I explained that there was a potential for publication conflicts, so I had pretty much not posted many poems so far. He thought it might be nice to see more samples of what I write. Hard to quibble with that, even if Frank is a tough act to follow.

Here are a few.

This is the second poem in a series of sonnets (my informal formal verse) in Weathered Steps.

Des Moines

Heat lightning scrapes the late sky tired, dry
when the smudged glass doors of the depot close.
We huddle on the stoop, our gear piled high,
watch through the weather’s threats for an old bus
that might not come. Cabbies flock like bored crows,
peck at conversation, offer advice
with doughnuts from a pink box. Thunder grows
in my other ear. We hedge, out of place.
They say that we can ship our packs ahead
but not the dog. “I-90 isn’t far,”
a driver suggests. “You can hitch that road.”
For the cab fare, he’ll even take us there.
We hold the shoulder, watch cars leave a while,
feel days—and many miles—from Seattle.

Here is one of the poems that I read at the dance concert last weekend. It originally appeared in Heliotrope and in Tattoos on Cedar.

Somewhere in Florence

Rapunzel Considers Italy

Lone tower or second-story bedroom:
any chamber will suffice
to keep me within by charm or choice.

The witch remains elusive,
a vapor or a cure,
a pale root in the garden below.

I retreat more often into my bones,
veil time with the mystery of the carpets,
hair in lamplight, my rampion scraps.

In the dark snarl of hours,
I plait arguments, tell myself maybe this tale
should move to a house outside Siena.

Beneath a slender moon, sky seeded with stars,
perhaps a plot is sown with tomatoes and greens.
Olive leaves might turn their faces away

from the wind’s first private breath,
a breeze brimming with language
and few familiar syllables.

I remain here, far from Tuscan enchantments,
stroke the simple doubt that any home
could satisfy my quest for quiet

until solitude would lose its luster,
lead me to leave my peculiar prison,
clip my locks, walk into the daylight world.

Here is one of the Pandora poems. It originally appeared in Ascent.


Without being born, Pandora has no middle age,
only this endless procession of centuries
gone as dank as a cellar, plastered with plans
and the most familiar fictions:
What everyone wanted,
what everyone thought.

She knows there must be a stairway,
a way out, a walk through the cedars
and brambles that tumble toward open shore.
There will be wind enough
to swing her around like a horse on a roof
until she needs no sense of direction,

no ears for more voices.
She will stand at the seam between sea and sand,
feel her body fill like a sail
in the sharp gusts, slaked by sky
as it flees the horizon’s hard line,
by ocean and salt and that clean, dousing light.

Finally, here is a poem for fun. (I am on some kind of mailing lists!)

A Brief Meditation on Why I Won’t Be Renewing My Subscription to Your Esteemed Magazine


Was it nearly a year ago
your invitation came in the mail,

mentions of martinis, a picture
of a blonde clad in something
as sheer as a summer’s day, swept by wind?
(Always, there must be wind.)
My heart—and another organ or two—leapt as I
said Yes.

Then, when your thick, slick book arrived—
words, words, words.
No drinks, no dames.
Not even an olive. Not a twist
in sight (but for literary device).
Merely glib or utterly—

imagine young women clad
in tattoos and cynicism,
spending their last cents
on stamps and cigarettes
and those lonely boys hanging out of windows,
working on their verbal swagger.

You might see the glass half-full,
but when we talk about cocktails,
it will always look empty.

These days are chock-a-block
and I have sports to watch
before I sleep. I think I’ll keep
my money in my wallet
and one eye open for that girl.


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