What now brown cow?

It was time to read our lines, and the tipsy one went first.
And when she was through the class gave round applause,
While I scratched my head in wonderment and confusion.
Her poem was all rhyme and hickory dickory dock and goo.

The teacher gushed, “How profound!” her eyes wide wet,
As if she’d seen Jesus kiss Mary right on the publican steps.
But looking around me, eyes stared starry, dazed, stunned,
While I scratched my head in wonderment and confusion.

Her poem was all rhyme and hickory dickory dock and goo.
Who could manage this? Couldn’t they see it right through?
She’s smoking (don’t know what) and mirroring us hypnotic,
While our leader bubbled frantic praise so not to miss a drop.

And when she was through the class gave round applause,
For she too was awesome and fearless and saying her truth.
But to me, the joke was too cruel, the penalty unfit the crime.
Unwittingly, I wandered through the doors of alt poetry 101.

Cybernetic Hips

Laser my heart, you brimming song,
Pulverize first pause into submission.

Burn aortic passage with smokey din
Blind heat of pebbled words in, in, in.

Singe my valves, drum my beat, pain
Right where I live, not gut, not brain.

Don’t say your gun’s misfired, lie me
To sleep in one fell shot of jet stream.

Penetrate the skin of resistance there
At center stage you tore tongue, hair.

Ready, aim, spin a flame ray smashed
True to its target, seared into my flesh.

Be my one true spacey love, dream bot,
Cold chips, cybernetic hips, lover’s knot.

Time’s Prison

You asked me for my why, and I wrote it down all at once
It took me a minute or two to scratch out the stuff of it.
But then you asked me, “Why this why? Why is it this?”
And I sat down another day and wrote it all down again,
With other words, other thoughts, other dreamful reasons.

And once more you asked me to find it, find my why, dig.
I shook my head to another day and slept on it some more,
My night terrorized by questions and visions born in sweat.
Tackling the demons once more, I penned papers on papers,
I tore at ink and line and wrote my why and why not plus ten.

“Look, “ I said, “How much can I rip from my guts? How deep?”
She asked me why I ask, why not tell, why not the whole truth.
So I laid it down, tore it up, scratched it out, pored hungry art
And spoke it to an empty screen with nothing on it but me.
I stuttered and blinked, twitched it out to those who’d hear it.

Then I pressed play and watched it, me speaking my story.
And my why tensed between my teeth, flexed in my arms,
Trapped in my shoulders and neck, eked out in strained tones,
Like a trumpeter’s taut lips finding the sweet spot of wept wind
Forced air, struggling to the notes, hit them at the right pitch.

“No, no, no, noooo! That’s not it at all!” I screamed at myself,
My own image on the screen, speaking to no one at all,
Inside my head, looking at me, at her, the one tossing words
Carelessly, aimlessly, trying so hard, not trying at all, not enough.
You, I, we held back, kept it to ourselves, and gave up too little.

So I went back to my pen and cursed the notebook’s sheets,
Clean lined and beckoning, and with tensile fingers curled,
Anticipation clawing at my bloodied brain, I wrote and wrote,
The beginnings, hunger, anger, stubbornness, sorrowing quest
And tripping time’s prison, my why written, I locked it up, keyless.

 

24 seasons

Heated room, the fan blowing hell’s fire to the four corners,
Her sword’s aimed, blazing to the sun’s lost rays.

Morning.

She’s got sky ambitions for an earthbound beauty, rosetted
Corsage sewn to her wrist in blood.

Afternoon

Swilling tear drop infusions in a China cup, the afternoon pour,
A sick, oppressive humidity sinks her inside the sofa,

Evening

Chill in her spine, the night crawls upon her like witches’ wind,
Dragon’s breath in her hair.

Night.

No relief in sight, charred words will crumble onto cyber pages
Til rheumy dawn casts the garland crown.

Acrophobia

image

When FDR declared the nation had only fear to fear,
He never had a gun to his head,
Ballistaphobia
never had a cobra hood opened at his bare legs
Ophidiaphobia
or strolled past the body of a jumper from a Manhattan 32 story high rise,
Necrophobia
the thump of the fall nearly lifting his feet off the ground.

But it wasn’t then that acrophobia hit.
No, it was the carefree days of carnivals and Ferris wheels,
free from regulations and safety straps, not even for seats
that turned upside down with the slow-turning wheel.

I was five and my car mates were nine and ten, measurably
larger, taller than I so that the metal bar kept them in as
the wheel spun us upside down and then right side up,
me clutching with all my strength to keep myself inside.

Thanatophobia. I had never heard the word in my five years,
but I lived my way through it many times since, perched on a ledge      peering down thirty floors into a postage stamp courtyard, pondering the weighty sum of a life’s body at its impact against the immovable.

Acrophobia

(Just realized this one never uploaded)

When FDR declared the nation had only fear to fear,
He never had a gun to his head,
Ballistaphobia
never had a cobra hood opened at his bare legs
Ophidiaphobia
or strolled past the body of a jumper from a Manhattan 32 story high rise,
Necrophobia
the thump of the fall nearly lifting my feet off the ground.

But it wasn’t then that acrophobia hit.
No, it was the carefree days of carnivals and Ferris wheels,
Free from regulations and safety straps, not even for seats
That turned upside down with the slow-turning wheel.
I was five and my car mates were nine and ten, measurably
Larger, taller than I so that the metal bar kept them in as
The wheel spun us upside down and then right side up,
Me clutching with all my strength to keep myself inside.

Thanatophobia. I had never heard the word in my five years,
But I lived my way through it many times since.

I should be alone

It’s five in the morning, I should be alone,

the only one up in this house,

as I finish what I started twenty-four hours ago,

this poetry marathon, a sleepless creative

hell of my own making, only because I have

to work in two hours and then fry myself on

a soccer field after that, ah but sleep.

She’s just around the turned corner of the morning.

But who do I hear creaking the floorboards above me?

It’s she who sometimes doesn’t sleep at night.

The insomnia came after the concussion, that kick

in the head just over one year ago.

I saw her asleep at eight, while I was on poem fourteen.

I’m not surprised to hear her stomp, stomp, pull open

a drawer, stomp, stomp, and plop into her squeaky bed.

I had forgotten how quiet the night was in my room

when she was away at college up north playing soccer.

But at this hour, this sacred sleep hour when no one

arises or goes to bed, I lay in my bed, IPad propped on

my naked belly, the screen’s light, casting a shadow on

the ceiling while the fan blows white noise about me,

and struggle through the last “poem” of this marathon,

the final, number twenty-four, for which I am thankful.

A Room

A room in this old house, holds history–

mine, yours ours and theirs.

This room is where I sleep nights;

it’s where I awaken each day to

slatted light from vertical blinds

that open to a window laden with

orange tree leaves and ripened

fruit, the color of the sun setting

on the Pacific not more than a mile

from this very room in this home.

 

Its cornflower blue walls contain

my thoughts and prayers, my

ujjayi breath, sometime despair.

This oaken floor steadies my

bare feet, wears my yoga mat,

including the cat on top who

skrick scratches her claws in it.

 

But it wasn’t always my cave;

it belonged to others before me.

Two nieces slept here, the last

who chose the wall colors, and

the one before who now sleeps

in my parents’ home, while they

sleep in mine now, in their room,

which used to be the play room

for loud television shows and toys

and kool aid colored couches for

friends to jump on and destroy.

 

And before that, it was the bedroom

my husband designed and had built

by a friend who charged too much and

stole his baby grand piano on pretext.

And before it was our bedroom, where

our children were conceived and I

labored in our big blue sunken jacuzzi

tub beneath the bay window and lime

stone tiles surrounding the midnight blue,

it was an office converted from a garage,

where his business began selling hardware,

which eventually turned to software and an

office elsewhere, which he sold to find

more fulfilling work, which he still seeks.

 

But when my parents moved in, we moved

the bed, desk, dresser, night table and lamps

into my room, the room I share with no one

except the dog, a few cats and the constant

turnstile traffic of inquirers and visitors living

in and outside the house, my room, the hub,

with its Picasso print of woman-dove face in

black and white, who resembles my oldest

daughter even though I bought that print

twenty years before her birth, and now that

she’s twenty herself, she tattooed that face

on her left arm, just like it appears on my

bedroom wall, above the hand painted

poster that asks, “Is there no way out of the

mind?”, purchased and overpriced by a

friend of my daughter’s who painted and

sold it to me after she returned from rehab.

 

And the Van Gogh with the gilt frame, huge

hanging above my bed, well that was a gift

from my nephew when he was only 23, and

he knew I loved art and so wrapped this big

old Starry Night print and gave it to me, so

that’s why it’s there framed above my head,

garish and cliché but sentimentally stationed.

 

Because my room holds pictures of my girls,

and a fan that cools me summers and a

heater that warms me winters, and dozens

of ceramic boxes and knick knacks and the

remains of my jewelry box, what wasn’t

stolen by someone who knew the dog

well enough not to get bitten as an intruder.

 

This room holds hours of frustration, and

ideas, poems and graded essays, years of

reading and writing, drawing, coloring and

crocheting, fretting and forgetting, crying

and laughing, the entire history of a house,

its inhabitants, furnishings, we call home.

At the Diner

At the diner at 4 a.m.,

cheesecake and coffee

the brew so dusty sweet

and the cake real ricotta.

At the diner, we’d talk

after the bars close

and the beer wore off,

and eat French fries

or eggs and put dimes

in the table top juke box,

hear our favorite songs

like Free bird and

Sympathy for the Devil.

And we’d splay our

legs on long, red, vinyl

seats sometimes cracked,

our backs against booth

walls of plastic sheen.

At the diner, we’d hum

the songs we heard at the

bar we just left, our favorite

local bands playing, while

we drank Heineken and

smoked Camel cigarettes,

out back for a J or two.

But under the bright lights

of the diner til quarter to 7 or

later, we’d laugh sometimes

spitting our coffee or Pepsi

at some stupid shit one of us

said, and everything’s funny

when you haven’t slept all night.

At the diner, off the expressway,

the waitresses know us, and

bring us our eggs and toast

the way we like them, sunny

side up and easy tan and grape

jelly in the little plastic peel off

boxes, three or four of them.

And every Friday and Saturday

it was the same for us three,

Deb, Jackie and me, at the diner.

Dear John

Dear John:

You’ve told me a man must have everything.

He must have her love and affection, trust

and cares, woes and fantasies, body and belief.

He must contain and compel her dreams, speak

her mind with her, beside her and be her too.

He must have her body, entirely his own, as she

equally partakes of his, fully accessible any time.

He must give her solace and she his support.

They must build things and break things down,

together, working as a team, united as one.

There must be abundant love everlasting, you say,

and undying even beyond death and delivery.

John, you’ve claimed possession of her opinions,

her bodily secretions, and her style of clothing.

You’ve demanded her attention and hands, her

movements during the day and night, her arms

ever clasping yours, enveloping you enveloping her…

Dear John, my dearest of all, love can’t be swapped

and traded, quantified and qualified, bought and sold.

Love is no cure, can’t fill the gaps, cracks or ailments,

not those inherent or fostered in the care of those who

thought love was power and hurt and discipline and

control, John, mere control that fear spills through you.

Love is not for keeps, never on sale, bundled or peddled.

Especially, love is not had but kindled, like wood fires

warmth and sustenance, dazzling and mysterious, in

properties known and magical too. Love has no rules.

John, let me, if you will, teach you all I know about love.

Love–