Posts Tagged ‘sonnet’

First, the alarm, five-thirty, a staticky hum needles

my brain. I’m awake. Then the husband shower-blocks

me, I’m barefoot on the cold tile, you can see how

the feeling begins. The morning is black; I make

coffee. My 7 a.m. students slowly raise their eyes,

drifting into consciousness like clouds, mere dreams

pushing through. Next, not enough coffee. I

cultivate hate: a thorn, buried in my chest, blooms

everywhere, with no origin. No coffee, no wifi, weak

tea. It’s not you, I tell the world, it’s me. My turn

to drift, home this time, where everything I see

blooms blue. On Monday, this is what I’ve earned.

Some days, demands exceed capacity.

Nothing to do then, but consume, and stew, and be.

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There’s the modern rhyme of Nabakov

which the Police have paired with cough–

as in “he starts to shake and cough”–

Sting was a teacher, hence Nabakov.

We maybe should have started out with you,

which lovers and singers rhyme with blue.

These lovers are gone and also never true,

which gives the writers lots to rhyme with you.

The best rhymes, my poetry teacher said,

were in Don Juan, which we then promptly read.

We recited rhymes to hear what Byron said,

our lack of rhyming prowess conjured dread.

Byron called us ladies intellectual,

a backhanded rhyme with hen pecked you all.

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My Preferred Poisons

“Please name your preferred poisons.”
— Wendell Berry     “Questionnaire”


What is the one that ends up in the river?

Washes down from factories and such?

Dioxin? Yes, I would prefer a razor

like Dorothy Parker, who made much

of the difficulty of death. So easy

now, with the plethora of toxins

conveniently at hand, a busy

woman might encounter ricin

in the mail, lead in a glass of water,

a variety of options beneath the sink.

We say we’ll deal with those later,

but even air should make us stop and think.

We ignore the poison effects of how we live

until we’ve not another breath to give.

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Thoughts on Travel

There was that time I went to Thailand on a whim,

I went to Dublin and to Prague and to Madrid.

I wanted to drink Guinness in a pub and then to swim

in the Irish Sea (I failed), but what I did

was to drink vermouth in Granada and furthermore

I toured Alhambra, saw the Prado and

consumed more Rioja than is wise. I swore

that I would dance in Spanish sand

eat paella, drink Cava, learn to speak

the way the Spanish do, with heart and tongue,

but instead I learned to cry and turn a cheek

to the lash of idioms. Oh, I was young,

don’t judge me as you do, I had my fun

but now such days are through.

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On Dreaming

“Dreams are tuning the mind for conscious awareness.”

–Dr. J. Allen Hobson


My late-night viewing provides the backdrop

for disturbing dreams: this one the exact nature

of my bitchiness. I am taken to task by proper

women, with perfect hair and furniture.

This is the exercise of last night’s dream.

In a nondescript kitchen, women surround

me. I recognize some of them, it seems,

but as I move through the dream, walk around,

I am lost in thought, dragged back to junior high,

when everything I did or felt or wore was wrong.

The women scream out a litany of my sins. I

am too cruel, my house messy, my hair too long.

In dreams, the simply thought or feared is real.

The landscape of my dreams is what I feel.

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I’m sorry the things I’m saying don’t make

the kind of sense you crave, where one word means

just one thing. Understanding now takes

action: you must cleave the word, surgically, clean

from itself. Either that or cleave to your ignorance.

Consider sanguine. Does that word want to bleed

you like a vampire? Or bore you with nonchalance?

Slake confused me first; on hearing it I felt a thirst

for water. Or was it salt? Take a word that seems

simple: skin. Which intention hits you first?

Cells that shelter you from pain or the need

to remove it? We’ve reached this apology’s end

half remorse, half the urge to defend.

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Consider the Leech

Consider the leech, either with a jaw,

or not. It’s just like an earthworm, except

the leech feeds on blood. No big deal. I saw

my friend peel one from her skin as she wept.

After that, I wouldn’t swim in the lake. She

didn’t seem to mind, her skin weeping blood,

our ideas shifted a few degrees

to the East. I thought of the flood.

Why did Noah bring the leeches? Did he

believe the world needed parasites?

We don’t, though even doctors once believed

in their healing properties. We must fight

the belief that giving too much is good.

The urge to take and take is in our blood.

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There’s no fool like an old fool. Does

that mean that for the young,  foolishness

is a disguise, donned like a pair of gloves

meant to conceal motive and skin? In a sense

to laugh is to dissemble, rather than

to feel something real, to feel the fool

as when we inhabit the mirth. A span

of breath expelled, the inhale that fills

the lungs again with deceit. A man

walks into a bar and asks, Where’s

the bar tender? Wait. Not a man,

a termite. No point in ducking, there’s

a punch line coming. These days I try

to be the fool, the laugh that’s not a lie.

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this poem as my body

My head, heart shaped, a brain that rhymes

inexactly, an ache in my neck, web of tendons

muscles that constrict like hands– I only find

the collarbone loveable, its horizon unbroken,

the vulnerability of the nape, I’ll ignore the breasts

as they are functional, unremarkable, in the way

everything is: all the fat, the skin, the nodules

the bumps and sags. What about my belly

Button? Surrounded by scars, surgery, more,

let the red flesh speak itself, I won’t bore

you with facts about the uterus, half-made,

the children not thought of or feared, denied.

My knees, elephantine in crease and bone,

we will pass without comment. Leave my feet alone.

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Am I the woman, artificially still, arranged as if in sleep,

or death? Am I the dog, nestled beside her, its jaw tense,

dreaming, ready to snarl or bite? Am I the paint, deep

and patchy, ridged  brushstrokes blowing from edge

to edge? Or am I the canvas, flat, transparent, and square?

Am I the navy of her dress, her pale buttery skin, the grayish-

pink of the dog’s vulnerable belly? Am I the paint brush, the hair

Of rabbit, badger, or horse? Am I the shadow beneath the weight

of her arm, casually shielding her eyes, or is her pose a defense

against the artist’s gaze? I’m the suggestion of a wall, the blank

bedsheet, the too white bed, the dog’s mottled fur, the sense

the world is one indecipherable scene and art makes it think.

What, exactly, is it the subject of this painting? That which we see:

woman, dog, paint? Or the space between the painting and me?

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