Eh, not really thrilled with this at all. DVerse wanted a food poem, and I realized that almost all the good food stories I have are already worked into poems; not many options! The situation behind this poem would be better suited to another poem, and the food is not really the centerpiece. But I guess it will kind of suffice? It remains the first and only time that decorum demanded I try foie gras. It was delicious; never again.
You should be in my film, the empress says,
holding court around the dining room table. She is still
formidable in her eighties: she squeezes my hand
with her own, and her rings flash in the light.
Skeletons and mannequins occupy the parlor,
and night birds flap through the evening as it breathes.
And I start thinking too much about the future
at the same time that I think too much about the past.
We are all speaking in hushed tones, sitting in
highbacked chairs. Someone is passing a baguette
for the foie gras that sits like a severed cat’s tongue,
grape jelly for its sorry blood. The empress smiles.
I am too polite for my own good; I make polite
decisions, feel the doors of what my life could be
opening and closing. You should be in my film;
but the night birds are singing, go home, go home.
Say nothing, and the empress’ attention wanders.
The future grows narrow, thinning like a pink taste
in the mouth. Another day begins to ferment
underneath us. My bags have already been packed.
This one creeps me out a bit. Not sure at all where it came from, except that Khara House (who is beginning a lovely series of prompts) issued a rhyme challenge, and my brain hopped to “villanelle“. (Dammit, brain.) I wish I could say the subject matter was an uncommon occurrence round these parts.
I’ve been having a peculiar time. There’s a Long Poem with capital letters unrolling in my mind lately, as well as the beginnings of another idea of one, and I hardly have any room for anything else, it feels like. I’m trying to set myself a chunk of writing on it every day until it’s done, because all my ideas are getting funneled into it like a whirlpool. That’s how it goes, I suppose.
A Man is Screaming in Sheridan Square
A man is screaming in Sheridan Square.
He sits on a rotted bench facing west;
he’s tearing his shirt and pulling his hair.
After the dangling moon, this is where
the forgotten folk are denied their rest
by a man screaming in Sheridan Square.
The thin white statues stand fast, with a glare
for disturbers of peace: they can attest
he’s tearing his shirt; he’s pulling his hair.
Sea urchin shadows ply the humid air.
Queens of night stroll by in their summer best.
A man is screaming in Sheridan Square.
He’s unstoried in his tuneless despair.
Words fracture to ash, burrow from his chest,
tearing up his shirt, pulling out the hair.
Later they’ll tell it, pretending to care,
brows knit, mouths downturned. It will be confessed:
a man was screaming in Sheridan Square–
was tearing his shirt– had pulled all his hair–
I saw this on 32nd Street the other day; it was several frenzied seconds of an unexpected hunt. (Damn. I should’ve used that line in here somewhere.) A few other passerby and I just watched while the whole drama unfolded like a special on Animal Planet. Sometimes we forget the birds are dinosaurs; sometimes we are viciously reminded.
I’m glad I got to use “plectra” and “pterosaur” in this one. I wish I could have come up with some play on words for “chirality” (pterality?), but that would’ve just been going too far. Woo hoo!
Sparrow Chasing Butterfly
took a hunger-born instinct with key teeth
and twisted it in the door of chaos:
what else can you call
the crazy-straw-swoop of this midair helix
they’re coiling over the hoods of bakery
delivery trucks and flat-nosed buses,
between pin branches
and across the surfaces of puddles
brown in the earthbound afternoon:
you are watching
chemical reactions and the thrill
of stimulus– response–
the pterosaur coming at last to rest,
huddled on a scrap of tire, with two small
plectra of buttered silk caught in its beak
and a jealous, defiant eye
that is a black bead taking in the light,
rolling it into something wet and
daring it back at you
Two publication newses! First, the newest issue of Assaracus is available at the Sibling Rivalry Press bookstore for purchase… I have eleven poems in there (!), and I’m very happy to be part of such an excellent journal. Check it out; there are lots of fine poets in its pages. The other news is that the latest issue of Goblin Fruit is now live, and I have a piece in there (an oldie but a goodie), which you can hear me read. I’m at work now, so I must be brief, and can’t listen to the audio file right now; you’ll have to tell me how it is. Yipes.
This one is from the Poetic Asides prompt yesterday of a “spooky poem”… I was thinking of vaguely creepy folklore about banshees and empty places and the like. It’s a secret sonnet, as I am wont to do, but really I’m feeling “meh” about it. I don’t know, maybe the prompt didn’t tickle me like I’d hoped. Anyway, here it is.
been here three years (or thereabouts).
i came to see the emerald isle in autumn, thinking rain,
rain, all along the valley floors
and guttered streets. and hiking, on the hillocks
where the sky and land were all the same, this endless
dun-dark green. someone was singing
airs along the scarps: ballades of wars, lost loves,
demises. full as silk, then shrill as steam,
her voice was dolmen-echo, barrow-lure.
i clambered up to find her, balanced on the rocks;
cried out, your songs are beautiful. she thanked me, said,
i can get carried away, with my laments. i asked,
what shall you sing to me?
she sighed, they’re all for you.
Poetic Asides asked today for a poem involving a sea creature, and for no particular reason, the first thing I thought of were selkies. If you haven’t seen The Secret of Roan Inish, I recommend you do so post haste, but if you can’t, then reading up on selkies via Wikipedia or wherever will do if you’re unfamiliar with them. When I was young, I went on a boat trip with my family off the coast of Wales, where we saw seals on the rocks in the midst of a rainy day. (I got to drive the boat for a little bit too, but the seals blinking at us with what I imagine was amusement left more of an impression, obviously.)
This is like… half a ballad. I was trying to visualize (audialize?) Loreena McKennitt singing it as I wrote.
Ramsey Black Rocks
When the boat set out from Little England,
there was commotion in the sea. White on white
was the summer water, over a bay as brown
as tea. Crystalline rain ringed the prow, the keel,
and the whole world a blind blue-grey,
as the captain called the seals.
We rose and fell with the unfriendly tides
battering our land-selves to sleep. And we dreamed
we walked on the ocean, whose heart was beating
so deep. Then the rocks rose up, the captain
turned the wheel: we slipped the blades of old
dark daggers, full of silent seals.
They’d had a morning haul-out on the heath,
until the sun rippled away. Now they peered at us,
and we peered back, to see the hummocks where
they lay. We envied a thousand inkbirds
sharing their fishy meal: we longed for wings,
long red beaks, the company of seals.
And soon, the captain brought us about,
his seabound trick completed. The whirlpools, then,
the Horse Rock tides: the white on white,
repeated. A prodigal sun reclaimed its day,
dyed the dun sky teal. And long black commas
arrowed the waves like vanishing seals.
I heard a tale once, a long time past,
of wives who cast off their skins. I could believe
in longing now, in a stormbound life
without sins. Beached again, we looked back for
mysteries to steal: when land wishes for drowning,
with closed eyes, it sees the seals.
Teal-and-scarlet ball of used
chewing gum, perfectly spherical and
sitting on the sidewalk, covered in
small black ants, who mottle its surface
into a chitinous globe, madly
rolling in place.
Spilled water forms a map of
secret continents on the sidewalk;
to concrete tectonics, shrinking until
dry grey stone swallows them whole.
Talk about awkward moments. I saw this couple on the train, and just felt like I needed to take a shower after. I don’t judge or make assumptions – there may have been a lot of love there, and at least it was indeed legal – but it was still a bit skeevy. This pushed the boundaries of “May-December romance”, and I’m never sure who’s more opportunistic in such a situation: the old man (or woman!) who dotes on a lover barely past the age of consent to win his (or her!) heart, or the young one who takes it with a wink and a smile and not a second thought? Are such couples actually happy?
All that in mind, it reminded me of Oberon obsessed with the “changeling” in Midsummer, which was the seed for this one. And, of course, to prompt (We Write Poems, this time), I used a number of words I hadn’t before; see if you can figure out which ones! I’m going to go wash my hands and face because I just feel the tiniest bit gross after thinking back to this incident.
Auberon and Child
They took up two seats on the train to Secaucus,
and at first was the changeling’s face: rosewood dark,
something vulpine in the features, the quirked brace of a smile
as he chewed a piece of pineapple. He had been too long
out of this world. The tricks of some Other Place
grew roots up through waxed legs and a reed body.
Everything about him was designed to be coveted: he wrapped
tight blue button-down and the briefest of shorts
around his youth. He pulled a white fisherman’s cap
low over the points of his ears and licked twig fingers.
When he rose and took up his sensible shoulder bag,
his lord rose with him, all liver spot and bifocal and full of
lecherous intentions. Changelings don’t date changelings
anymore: now they keep company with grizzly bears
long in the tooth with spit-flecked voices, who
heft their luggage and speak with voices that crack like
old leatherbound books, who listen to the train loudspeaker
with their mouths open and heads cocked to one side.
The bear shuffled along in his sapling’s wake,
shortsighted and dumbfounded by his own delicate creation.
Hand-in-hand, they descended to the platform, stopped at
the jewelry woman’s table. One twig finger pointed,
and one bear paw dug out his wallet, handed over
three crisp twenties for a gold chain to hang round the neck
of this new-leafed tree for a beardless kiss in return.
Living under a moonlit hill has taught youth well: he’s learned
to twist that magic around and put on his own seductions.
And as long as it’s legal, the passerby look away
with discomfort when a wrinkled palm cups those
khaki shorts, as they climb the stairs out into the night.
It’s a beautiful birthday for France today. I thought I’d share a picture of the view from my desk, because it’s friggin’ gorgeous out the window at the moment:
A really slow day here, so slow that I managed to write another poem for the Poetic Asides prompt of sound… this time choosing a more linguistic take on the topic. Certain sounds, and languages, have a definite effect on me that I can’t quite explain. And while Swedish isn’t one of them as a whole, this particular sound (whose transcription in the International Phonetic Alphabet forms the title) is mysteriously amazing to me. Not that this poem is, I think, much better than the first attempt, but at least it’s a different approach.
We resolved to get tattoos, linguistic in nature, being newly-minted
university types with something to prove. Nothing fancy. Just glyphs,
phonetic symbols, a crossing of eye and ear and skin that was
easier to carry around than an oversized diploma. This would say,
trust us. we’re linguists. When it came to meaningful images and
their blood-spattered engraving, there was a kind of sense to it.
Which to choose, though: for all my favorite sounds looked boring,
appropriated from Latin without any vim. People would wonder
what was so wonderful about [w], or laugh at the lonely line of [l].
I needed distinction. Uniqueness. And then I turned over the page
where she lay arcane and secret, skinny and shadowy. She was
half-H, half-N, neither and both at the same time, and pronounced
completely different. I gave it a try. My tongue did all the proper
calisthenics against the roof of my mouth and made a spattering
shthhkkhaahh across my lips. A hundred tries and it still slipped.
Like trying to poach an egg with your throat. The book said,
origin: Swedish, and I thought, this must be the articulation of
wind through conifers, of glaciers calving off into the Baltic Sea,
Viking sound. Seaborne sound. I confessed utter enchantment,
though my friend said, you’re as Swedeless as they come. Yes,
but look at her. Stuck onto words masquerading as SJ and SK,
skittering and shattering her way out of definition. Look what she
has done: my dreams have become a long, hollow wind-note.
It grates, erodes. It travels, fills a world with unpronounceable noise.
Carve her into my flesh, before
she changes my mind.