Hour 8: Roxy

I am Persona Non Grata,
seeing as how I don’t really exist,
except in the pages of your novel
trilogy, twenty years in the making,
twenty five if you are honest.

Why so long keeping me dead
in order to bring me to life?
Are you afraid people will think
I’m you, and your cover will be blown?
It is something to think about, you know.

If I survive, and you don’t, it will be like
something out of Beckett, and you’ll be pissed
at least for a little while, until you recall
you all die anyway, mere mortals on the earth,
while my life is eternal, if you ever dig me up.

Hour Seven: The Apron Dress

My mother’s clothes
always smelled of yeast and flour,
cinnamon sugar and vanilla.
For years I thought her apron
was sewn onto her dress.
She never took it off, except on
Sundays, when church was mandatory.
Daddy, her husband, had been ordained
although he secretly drank in the woods
and molested her daughters, the neighbors’
daughters, too, if he could lure them to revival.

Like Steinbeck’s Casy, always fingering his buttons,
most preachers can’t be trusted with daughters.
I can see mama donning her apron dress, returning
to the oil cloth table, the rolling pin, the gas oven
that might explode in all our faces,
if we ever told.

Hour Six: Corn

Staple of the Cherokee, one of three
sisters, along with beans and squash.
Corn is all you need
for tacos, for liquor, for punch lines,
syrup and grits.
As corny as it gets,
you can’t keep it down on the farm.
Eat it in Paris, in Peoria, next week
in Kearney, Nebraska. Corn on the
cob, corn dog, muffin, chowder.

If you don’t watch out, corns on
your toes, from all those kernels
up your nose.

Hour Five: The Fishing Hole

We called it Joe Pond
for the neighbor who owned it.
Never laid eyes on him
but his pond was full of bass,
carp, and catfish big as Siamese.

I have photos of three generations –
mama, little brother, his little girl –
each perched on the edge of nowhere,
disappearing, thrown back into the universe.

The Five Singers

1. Amy Winehouse
Dead before I ever heard
your name, that voice.
Did you die in vain?

2. Tracy Chapman
I want you to sit down,
have tea, sing some poetry.

3. Ronnie Gilbert
You can’t be gone.
Not now, not ever.
Even if I forget my own name
I’ll close my eyes and hear “Goodnight Irene.”

4. Joan Armatrading
Ma Me O Beach, lucky enough
to walk under ladders, I’m taking
my baby uptown, leaving the
empty highway behind.
Thanks to you, I know
when I get it right.

5. Hildegarde
A 93-year-old woman in
Hospice care, speaking mostly French,
remembers you singing in a cabaret,
circa 1952, the big war over, the cold
war just begun. You charmed the men
and inspired the women. First to sing
“I’ll Be Seeing You,” how is it possible
you never recorded it for posterity?
We can only listen to others sing it
and pretend it’s you.

Hour Three: The Question

To what and to whom
does one say Yes?
To purple and to sweet talk,
old cars and Donovan,
walks along fence rows
in the snow, and Yellowstone.

Hour Two: The Drowning

I have always imagined it to be
like walking on water, all the way
to Spain. Or Nova Scotia.
I’ve never been to Halifax.
There might be shipwrecks there
from that exploded boat
and I’ll be the one to find
the missing brooch,
a letter written in washable blue,
my favorite ink, when dry.
When wet it cannot be relied upon
to deliver the message as to why I went,
like Spaulding Gray, into the drink.
What is left to say?
No stones in my pockets, I rely on
the force of history to pull me down.
As to the reason, be it self-inflicted
or that killer who stalks for years
and finally strikes, holding me under
until I gurgle, like a full water bucket –
it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters
except these fish around me, friendly.
See how they flash in the water:
one last rainbow, rainbow, rainbow.

Testing, Testing 123

Hour One:  The Warm-Up

Check the vim and vigor,

hotel lobby at 6 am, CNN.

Morning breaks with panic

in Dallas.  Who shot the sheriff,

or tried to?  Bullet holes in the

window, in the windshield.

But all is well in Nebraska –

a place called Alliance.

Just a little morning fog,

some classics roll by for a car show –

no racist or homophobic terrorists in the tent,

as far as we know.

Say hallelujah – now we vent.

1 3 4 5