Poems


Poems from Green Target, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize, forthcoming in Fall of 2018:

Agricultural Fair

Four little pigs ran in an orbit, an oblong

of four tracks, each ringed with a colored

collar, toward a pile of neon Cheetos,

then disappeared into their home trailer.

The caller, a hefty farmer, picked me, said

"You've never been on a farm before in your

life," and he was right.  I wanted my piglet

to win, urged her--or him--in the racket.

Geese hustled, orange shoed, then goats.

In the Mother Moo barn--huge, aluminum--

twin calves, day old, collapsed in the hay;

we hoped their mother knew not to step

near their flicked-back ears, their sloe-eyed

wonder.  The family wore coats burnished

the color of composted clay.  Tiny chicks

hovered under the feathered skirts of a hen,

disappeared there, under their mother,

yellow and black, downy, washing forward

in little waves, toward a dish of dried corn.

Two giant swinging shovels rose up, turned

people inside their cages upside down, fell,

swooped past, dragging screams in a path.

My mother lay content, as if in hay; I put

my head on her stomach, told her to wait

for me to come back.  "Just put her in a diaper,"

said my sister, "and tell her not to get out

of bed."  I slept on the couch; she rang

a bell when she needed me to walk her

to the bathroom at night.  I held her waist,

while she scooted the walker ahead. 

 

The Gettysburg Review 27:3 (2014) 388.


****


The Dark Vegetables

 

Gladiolas--butter with peach insides,

or the color of purple finch, or the red

draw for hummingbirds--an origami

of pedestals, flutter up, zigzag into butter

flies' loosed pennants.  Even the squash

are giant green acorns.  Cucumbers fatten,

first cornichons, then thumb-sized pickles,

then men's organs; everything stirs first,

then begins.  Blue cornflowers borrow

purple.  Hartley's trench coat from the war

smelled of camphor and tobacco; his brother,

one arm shorter from polio, joined the Brits'

ambulance corps, ate eggs in Burma to

avoid vindaloo.  Sitting one night in his

ambulance, he saw a black shadow, its stomach

low-slung, a panther. I call it luck when a black

cat crosses my path.  A neighbor's dammed

the stream, never cuts swales, so his

water runs on our land from higher up,

floods the logging track.  My resentments

get fed by thoughts, set roots, bear fruit. 

In Cairo every night after dinner, I walked,

careful to keep my eyes to myself, downcast,

but watched.  In one dirt-floored market,

black scarves hid women's faces, their men

suspicious.  An infidel in their midst, I turned

back, past corn roasted on coals, tomatoes

a deep green flooded to orange, tasting of captive

sunlight.  Now Tahrir Square teems; "They lead

us to do this, with how they dress, how they

walk."  They rip her clothes, roll her, a watermelon

split open.   Always, fires, men possessed.

We've all seen demons: as a man decides to hit;

a sister rolls her eyes.  As if the seeds inside turn worm.

 

The Gettysburg Review 27: 3 (2014) 389.

****


Threat                       

                                                                       

Through crushed August grass

a child's gray shoelace tugs itself,

its tiny pebble of a head triangular,

a wedge, therefore venomous.

Laced through a sneaker's eyelets,

it nips a finger, a tiny prick.  One

worries in the mountains.  Goldenrod

seeds our heads with bites from some

insect.  Meanwhile upright red rod

flowers burn for hummingbirds.

Portable shield on his back, a turtle

labors, feels with splayed paws, shows

off his orange splotched arms, leopard

patterned, bright as marigold, as

oranges bowled all along the railroad,

where a supermarket truck, pulling

across, got its back half sheared off.

Cop cars beetled up and down the road.

A boy on vacation by a lake said, "Let's

go in," but my husband refused.  The

boy, and another who went after him,

drowned.  Each night of his childhood

my husband dreamed it, woke just

before dying.  One's death is the period

that ends the sentence.   In Cairo

on the sidewalk they link arms, like

paper dolls I cut as a kid.  All at once

a waterfall of bodies bows to Mecca.

 

The Gettysburg Review 27:3 (2014) 391.
***

Poems from Kaleidoscope
(released April 2015 from Iris Press)

In the Kaleidoscope's Chamber

 

As I turn the chambered end, the mirrors

seem to stretch the colors as jewels shift,

circling them into wheels of unfolding

flowers; the mind feeds on pattern, incites

us to find it. The chamber fills with purple,

blue bruises, the open jaw of a dead father,

multiplies the tight eyes of liars, orange tubes

of trumpet vine, pink-tipped brushes of mimosa,

filaments sweet as what I concocted in bottles

from a perfume kit as a kid. Green-felt seed pods

of magnolia from which spring tiny hooks like wires,

pine cones, maple burrs.  My husband's hands

tab the keys, dicing white and black.  My ears

arrange it as music; outside are birds, ushering us in.


Annals of Scholarship 17.1 & 2 (2007): 17-21.


****
 

Blue Rose

for Sheila Jordan's bebop in Provence

Someone's picked lettuce from sunlight,
brined mussels in vinegar and bruised thyme,
to work against the sweetness of smoked salmon,
snipped the heads and tails of four anchovies,
split grey and white, arranged on a plate.

They taste of a concentration of salt
breaking into the mouth. As if their bodies
are permeated by a sea where vessels of olives
leached their oil into the blue
or Tyre's purple, boiled from snails.

Sheila sings as if she has fed off feelings,
her insides transparent. Her voice a fluid.
Like a wound inside my mouth when
a marzipan grape sprayed with color
spurts its brandy.

The blue rings inside me. I am the hood
of a bell slammed by the clapper;
sound shakes, rips
colors and tones, so I see my split selves
come back to rest, cast, and whole.

Brilliant Corners 12: 2 (2008): 5

****

At the Piano                                                                          

 

Love is the wind that hurries through all

our lives and like the leaves spins, bastes the sky

blue.  The sax player is careful with my eardrums.

My husband stabs at the keys and roils them

into sound, tilts his head, sways over the long steps

of black and white.  Into this room leaks the

honey of late sun.   His blues fog the mountains;

in their dips balance the late day's tea cups.

 

****

Golden Moon Casino

In the tub, bubbles sparkle and hiss.
I sniff orange and neroli, turn my body
that warms like a baby. On this hard mattress,
buttoned into pockets, I once cut powder lines.
The floor's blue ground floats yellow circles.
Gold drapes expose the fish tank of the parking lot.
A window seat narrows, made for robots,
tilts forward as if the whole room could lift.
Curtains pierced like shower liners rattle
across a porthole onto Alabama's pines.

My family jams circles into slot machines.
Oz is here, drawing his curtains. I laid my head
on my Mama's stomach: "I want you to die
in my arms." "I'll wait for you," she said.
On the phone when I told her,
"I'm coming back early," she broke
two syllables, "You are?" into a question.
The words rose, opened like a bubble,
planetary, a circle in which she knew
that "o" in the word love was meant for her.

www.chapter16.org (Fall 2010)



The Ecology of Atlas

for Sara

Head-dressed in orange down, the color of Georgia,
he wears two white mantles; his feelers splay,
two minnows' fishbones, delicate as lashes. He
holds his nine inch spread on four furred nubs
palmed to a leaf, his rear legs tucked under
its edge. Four white patches arrest us, the whole
embroidery complex as a Chinese robe, silked
in oranges, whites and greys. Even his segmented
carapace is eyed on its underside, no part of his
body is not marked. Under a microscope
his whole cape is mailed with shining platelets,
a roman army's phalanx glinting their shields so sun
becomes a weapon. Seeing him soaking through his colors
is to learn regard of a small god.

Inside this domed atrium, steaming with released humidity, in the eighty
degrees butterflies like, morphos glint silver, polished
blue; swallowtails flash emerald glitter. Small Postmen
deliver their reds. On the undersides of seeded fern,
Paper Kites, a dozen black and white sails hung
upside-down, each in a luff, inflate. Pale yellow
Sulphers make a circlet of flutter around and around
each other, drawing wreaths in the air that show
and disappear. Like Tinkerbell's sparking wand
they trail pollen, attach themselves one frill to another,
thrift to butterfly bush to bee balm to sedum, soak
the cosmos. So this Atlas, giant in his brown study,
holds up invisible circles, links that sustain us for
each other. Question Marks land on us without fear.

The Mississippi Review 37: 1 & 2 (2009): 126-7. (Honorable Mention, Mississippi Review Prize)

****

Hour of the Cardinals

A judge from Tupelo tells me tankers
piss dioxin past the shotgun shacks.
Done eat the asphalt white.
'Drive til it's empty' is what they told.

Sparrows come through portals
in the chain link windows. Colic
means inconsolable, my sister tells me.
The Pope knew about the gassing of the Jews.

He turned like an eggplant when he died,
all black. In my dining room, a horse
comes through the wall, pastels scratched
against the surface of white-washed feed sacks.

At five, in the winter, they come
six or seven, red-feathered in the boxwood,
for sunflower seeds, a heat's compression
soaked into the cobbled face of a flower.

Abuse travels inside like the shadow of a ricochet.
Lawanda left with her girlfriend
for one of the Carolinas. She emailed
to tell me she'd seen the sea.

The Antioch Review 65:2 (2007): 319.


***
END of poems from Kaleidoscope



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