Monday, June 29, 2015

When Eaten By Sharks

When eaten by sharks, try to stay calm.
If possible, write down the genus and species;
call your old professor if you think she can help.

Don't automatically assume that being eaten by sharks is pure disaster.
Imagine that smug know-it-all relation of yours. 
Imagine his face when you greet his latest pronouncement by leaning out from rows of enormous teeth,
waving at him from between shreds of seal, 
laughing at him from your unassailable new address.

When eaten by sharks, try to remember which shark took what portion.
By doing this, you may be able to reassemble a prototype,
from which a full replacement may be constructed.

Most of all, try to acclimate yourself as soon as possible.
Inside these perpetually swimming creatures, travel is yours.
If limbs remain usable, hit the inside of the shark's belly with an open hand;
the resulting bass beat will astonish nearby boaters.
"Listen," they will say to each other, "that's Morse code."

Send letters, long, short, long, describing being eaten by sharks.
Query editors. Self-publish. Above all, work quickly.
________

 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Diary Of A Long-Haired Girl


“In you, I see the heroines of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
You, unhappy lady, were
never saved by anybody.”
Marina Tsvetaeva

I had long hair then. Jules had just made clear her indifference,
her wild desire for me to leave, and so I did, on the Greyhound.
The Soviets launched Laika the dog-
we sent rhesus monkey Sam into space;
I took pills from a baggie John pressed into my palm to stop me crying,
and I swung ahead without moving, dreaming of pissing on the whole Earth.

In Oregon, I met a guy. He said he liked Gordon Lightfoot,
"You've Been Talking In Your Sleep." I had never heard it.
He told me about himself, and I wondered, how do you know
I don't have a bomb in my boho bag?
How do you know I don't go around blowing up buses,
bulldozers, abortion clinics, banks?

When a woman broke my heart, sometimes I used to let guys fall for me.
It assuaged the hurt, kept me looking pretty
like a cut stem in a glass of sugar water that will die anyway, but more slowly.
It was riskless--I wouldn't love them;
I was just a hive of honey left out for the ants, a crust on the counter,
a sweet '56 left to rust and become art.

I cut my hair last spring. I gave up on love in 2009.
Look at my yard, I can't bear to clear the trash trees.
John put a shotgun in his mouth years ago, and I don't get high anymore.
I wonder if Laika slept at all,
I wonder if she dreamed of the alleys and garbage cans of Moscow?
I wonder what made me think of that guy on the bus through Oregon?

"I heard you softly whisper..."
I have given myself body and soul to half a dozen women and one man.
I live alone. The moon rises and sets.
Sometimes, in the morning, she is still there in the sky,
pale, beautiful, and if I spoke in my sleep, if I confessed anything,
she would never betray me, not from such a distance,
though I die in orbit, howling.
_______
For Play it Again, Toads 18. Image at top by Margaret Bednar. I chose Kerry's challenge.
  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Finishing School

Susie brought a pineapple
or perhaps a hand grenade--
Bernice barks and continually tries
to spit in the lemonade.

Linda likes to play 
with matches
and to sprinkle her gruel 
with sand and ashes.

It's not that we want to disappoint--
oh mother, teacher, lofty god;
but Susie is violent, Linda is mad,
and I am feral, mute, and odd.
_____

60 words on the nose for Mama Zen's Words Count at Real Toads. I avoided using "thou" and "ye". You're welcome.

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Woman Of The Year

Sylvia Hawthorne-MacNaughton opened a can of whoop ass,
but it must have been expired, or something, because
nothing happened.

There she was, in the girls' bathroom, quiet as a church,
still as a mountain spring at midnight,
and boy, did she feel stupid.

She went on to be given a swirly by a pimple-faced girl with stick arms.
She went on to become a lexicographer.
She went on a long trip to Tibet, having lost her faith in the order of things.

Who is Sylvia, what is she, the peace movement's fairest darling?
The number one non-violent nun of the year,
the fruit that fell from the fuck-up tree?

All her life, Sylvia Hawthorne-MacNaughton resents that moment,
when the can of whoop ass let her down.
Seven presidents and prime ministers attend her funeral at age 92,

Droning on and on about what a beacon she was, and blah-de-la.
She would have gladly traded it all to have stuffed stick girl head-first
into the trash basket, when she was fifteen,

With her own plan for her life, before God hijacked it
and turned her into Woman Of The Year, holier than Jesus, nicer than Santa Claus.
________
 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

In Autumn

In Autumn, when my love, my unparticular love
with a dozen faces was leaving--as she is always leaving--
in Autumn, when my heart is forever about to fall--but never falls--
I bought the scent of the season of endings, like an acolyte believing.

Blue, blue, songs are like tattoos, as the lady said.
In Autumn I coccoon myself wrapped in pages where I hope to find
the Neruda or the Dickinson that will assuage this feeling
that seeps like leaf-smoke through my dreams, my grief, my mothy mind.

Now, it is rain-green June, and the vines climb outside my window
as if they saw God above them, or hungry devils below.
My heart is easier when the light is longer, though solitude is still solitude;
darkness waits as it always waits, though I love to fool myself just now, just so.

And my Knight in his armor, plucked from a rank of defenders
off the shelf at Target? He is still here, stoic and ready, aromatic and constant.
It is always Autumn inside him, a high wind residing unseen behind his pose.
Together we make two seasons, skeletal, but telling each other we are verdant,

Each filling the indifferent air with our manufactured ode;
me ever the lady and pregnant, hefting that bale, hauling that load.
______

Karin Gustafson over at Real Toads, urges us to write an ode to the quotidian. I can't imagine many things more quotidian than a can of air freshener. She suggested looking around at one's desk, and my eyes landed on my dear and treasured Woodside Library can of Glade scent. Leather & oak, it says on the side. So, I put my hair up in a bun so tight it makes my eyes cross, donned my glasses, and began shushing people so that i could write this poem.

The line about songs being like tattoos is from the Joni Mitchell song "Blue", written by her.

Fun fact to know and tell: women have a keener sense of smell than men. It's science!

 
 
 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pictures of Heartbreak, Poems in the Spokes of a Wheel

Here is how I imagined my heart:
blood compromised, made thin and blue by work schedules,
thoughtless words,
kindnesses forgotten,
mad-making obstacle dreams and stale air
arriving at the right atrium like someone stumbling in out of the snow;

Received like a guest, served coffee and cookies,
surrounded by the biological greenery outside the atrium,
this blood eventually slipping through the delicate leaflets 
of the tricuspid valve into the guest room quiet of the right ventricle.

Shall I go on? Isn't it obvious, the druggy dream of the pulmonary artery,
the bloom of new love in the left atrium,
the free fall through the mitral valve into the left ventricle
with its clocks and chimes, and finally the aorta into the unknown?
This was my concept, my imagining.

Reality was this:
An endless rain, the filth of the floodwaters bringing
boards, bodies, houses, livestock and death on a black surge,
an ink to begin my poetry with.
Within my chest, the wheel, the weird carnival,

All I had ever consumed or breathed gathered in ceremony,
children being born and let go but never let go,
the shout above the wind, the wonderful stupidity of the church tower
or widow's walk in a lightning storm,
the stanzas, the strophes, the angeldust afterbirth of all I needed to say.

Go ahead, tell the one whose love you need the most
that you are dropping out of med school,
that you are bisexual,
that you have knocked over a bank and shot the President;
they may forgive you, or at least pretend to.

Finally, tell them you are a poet and watch them walk away.
Feel the flood, the fever and fire--
then, dear heart, start writing.
_______

for Fireblossom Friday at Real Toads

 

 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

MIDWEST-4-2313

The woman who wouldn't stop talking
caused the telephone to kill itself.
For weeks after that, the operator stalked the talking woman,
fantasizing about pushing her in front of a train or a bus,
and the disturbing glee she would feel--
the drug rush of wonderful silence.

Day after day, the operator imagined scenes of accident,
murder,
the stupid woman strangled with her own tongue.

However, a repairman began paying attention to the operator.
He brought her movie tickets and hard candies;
he admired her to no end, and rarely spoke.
After months of quiet dinners and good manners at the cinema,
he tried something. She let him.

In the intimacy of afterwards, she began to confide in him.
She told him that ivy was her favorite plant, crows her favorite bird.
Further, she confessed her hatred of the talking woman to him,
and how she had been following her and planning cold-blooded murder.
He said nothing, and she loved him for it.

Unfortunately, the repairman never came by for her again.
Her number disappeared from every directory in the city,
and moving men came to take her bed away to the lunatic asylum.
With no place to sleep, and no man to confide in, she began to pace,
muttering to herself all night. 

Desperate and cracking, she appeared late one evening at the talking woman's door.
"May I use the phone?"
The woman only gaped at her, finally saying simply, "It's dead,"
but that should have been obvious, given the repair truck at the curb,
parked there for so long that ivy had begun to wind itself possessively around the axles.
______

Dialed up for Magpie #274

Book Review: "Whipping Girl"

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of FemininityWhipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The recent news coverage of Caitlyn Jenner's transition seemed to rile up a certain portion of people, who harumphed and ranted and became generally apoplectic about it. Do you suppose the same degree of reaction would have happened over a born female who transitioned to male? I doubt it, and that's where Julia Serano's central theme comes in. She argues that what is often termed transphobia is actually trans-misogyny, just an extension of the society-wide overvaluing of what is seen as masculine, and the undervaluing of what is seen as feminine.

She makes other fascinating points as well, going into the issue of "gatekeepers", the medical and psychiatric professionals, nearly all of them cissexuals, who have held the key to who can transition and who can't, favoring those who will present as attractive, feminine, heterosexual women--thereby not upsetting the oppositional sexist norm--and turning away those who don't fit this model, as not being "true" transsexuals. This is not to mention the enormous cost of it all, which further reduces the number of people who can actually transition, pretty much guaranteeing that most people never meet an actual transsexual person. To vilify or dismiss a member of any group, it is enormously helpful to be able to remain separate from them. To know someone is to demystify them, making it much less likely that one will continue to dehumanize them.

Serano also goes into the splintering of various feminist and "queer" groups. Who is woman enough to be a feminist? Who is subversive enough to be genderqueer? Who gets entree to each given group, who is excluded, and doesn't that just set up a different gender binary? One thing that would have made me laugh if it were not so sad, is her depiction of feminists who speak of trans women in dismissive and even blatantly insulting terms. Now who's entitled?

Some of the book is a bit dry, in the way of The Week magazine's "boring but important" side bar. Other sections are immensely readable. Serano knows her stuff. Anyone interested in a clear-eyed and intelligent book about sexual politics and the "scapegoating of femininity" need look no further.



View all my reviews




Julia Serano
“In a world where masculinity is respected and femininity is regularly dismissed, it takes an enormous amount of strength and confidence for any person, whether female- or male-bodied, to embrace their feminine self.”
Julia Serano, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

Saturday, June 13, 2015

4th of July

There were fireworks, but it might have been gunfire.
I'll stand here against the wall with an apple on my head,
just to see if anybody splits it.

Downstairs is the Chinese restaurant where silent waitresses
bring us loaded plates and little cups for tea.
You're Greek and I'm Irish, so naturally the Lucky Dragon is our balancing point.

Moving into the open-window flat upstairs was probably overkill,
but we are desperate like that, all we need is a V-8 '32 Ford and two fedoras.
Bonnie didn't really smoke cigars; reality is just a template we can fuck with.

The grifters and junkies have taken over the park down the street;
they pimp out their girlfriends and sit on the edge of the fountain all day
watching for marks. It used to be nice here. Sort of. Better than now.

With my head on your shoulder, I tell you about the war movie I saw
when I lived over there. Everybody cheered when a Jap plane went down.
Street vendors sold the most delicious warm bread, and the buses allowed chickens.

Maybe it wasn't gunfire. Maybe we're really in love.
Maybe you're not lazier than shit and maybe I'm straight after all.
Here, have an apple. Trust me, it's good for you.

I don't know it now, but I will kick this jones.
You I'll never see again after Ohio four years from now,
and the Lucky Dragon? I'll have left my 20s there. If you hock them, save the ticket.
_____

For the Real Toads mini-challenge: Marilyn Chin.

 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Doggerel In Dog Years

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
to do some emotional eating
because her heart may be famous but it isn't the same as
one loved face, and besides, fame is fleeting.

When she got there, the cupboard was bare,
as was her hope chest, her basement and her attic
because translations are poems whose language is frayed
and the local station only plays jingles and static.

Swing low, sweet Fido,
and give a girl a kiss when she needs one
because the ghosts don't care when she puts it all out there,
still she knows a friend in need when she sees one.

Four and twenty Milk Bones baked into a pie
and a pint of mint chocolate chip by silver spoon
cannot assuage the way a girl feels sometimes
but we can dream of running beneath a sweeter faster moon

through the kind of night where our love is coming home
under expansive easy stars and southern skies.
______

because I was missing someone.

image at top by Edward Gorey.  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

I Am Joe's Mutated Descendant

(Another in the popular "I Am Joe's..." series of articles in which Joe's spleen--or whatever--speaks to us in a friendly, confidential way.)

Hi. I am Joe's mutated descendant! You see, eons ago, Joe wandered down into a creepy, dank, lightless cave, and despite Mrs. Joe's strenuous objections, he decided to live there. Yes, it actually was the first "man cave." 

Over millions of years, Joe and his descendants adapted to this unforgiving subterranean world. By the time I came along, it was a whole new ballgame! With no light to see by, eyes became superfluous and disappeared. Living in a world of total darkness, albinism replaced pigmentation. And Mrs. Joe finally got something she wanted...sex with the lights off!

However, I got bored living inside an underground cave, and decided to come out and live on the surface. With no pigment, I looked like Mr. Clean! I knew I would need a job in order to survive, so I bought a pair of sunglasses and learned to play piano and sing.  Stevie Wonder termed my music "disturbing." All the same, I'm the king of white blues! 

I even got married. I have no idea of she's pretty or ugly; it doesn't matter! We have two beautiful children and even though my wife refuses to feed them the lichen and small invertebrates I was raised on, we're a happy family! For Christmas she gave me SPF 5,000 sun block in an industrial drum. How thoughtful is she? 

So there you have it. I am Joe's mutated sightless albino descendant. Musician. Family man. Regular dude.

If you found this article informative, come back next month for "I Am Joe's Vestigial Tail." Also, don't miss Joe's childhood memoir "How Many Fucking Bats Are In Here, Anyway?" , available from Carlsbad Press.  
_____



for Corey's "Cavern Of My Thoughts" challenge at Real Toads. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Violets

My violets
through shelter and shyness made,
not tall, not showy,
content with my bower's border's shade,

And yet
though they never deign confess it,
they live for sun
and hope, like me, that none will guess it.
_____

My regular readers may find this poem to be an odd one from the fiery Blossom, but I was terribly shy growing up and that shyness still is there, coming out unbidden when the stars align.
 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Evolution

Others have come out of the sea, you know;
Venus and I decided enough was enough,
and who knows what all those fish and turtles and whatnot were doing,
how much of their little calling cards were mixing with the water.

You'd leave too, if you had an ounce of sense.

So anyway, a seaside town was kind of inevitable;
all there is is sailors, with their endless uniforms to be kept clean,
expecting you to wait for them, staring out of the window like a dork.
Not me, sister.

The moon pulls the tides,
the waves wash the beach--
and all the while the sirens sing
out of reach, out of reach.

I don't do requests. It's "As Time Goes By" or nothing.
Venus and I share a place in town, behind the take-out restaurant.
She walks around naked all afternoon,
then gets dressed at dusk, revving up her bike and taking off.

Me, I lock myself up in the darkroom with my pictures of people, blooms and bugs.

Sometimes I'm asked whether I miss the ocean,
but it hasn't gone anywhere; I'm not in it, that's all,
and I doubt it has ever missed me, not the way it should.
I'll call my book "Wet Foot, Dry Foot" in honor of my migratory nature.

Could you love a girl like me, do you think?
Check out these legs, I'm not a mermaid,
but when I close my eyes sometimes the world seems to sway,
as if it were made of palm trees and breeze.

The moon pulls the tides,
the waves make their soothing susurrant sound--
bold star bright, shy star behind
white on blue in the night, like clouds.
______

Fabulous photograph by Cloudia Charters and used with permission.

 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Apple Heart

A wounded deer leaps the highest.
 
I'll never tell you what I really wanted.
I'd rather chamber that thought and give it head, and if there are
hookers in Heaven, why then I'll have a job.
 
Keep mystifying doctors, dear,
with your apple heart--
red on the outside,
bloodless on the inside,
 
a sucker bet I lost but lived to tell.
_____
 
a 55 for Kerry at Real Toads.
 
 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Frog Funeral

In the greenhouse, I gave myself to somebody,
saying things I never thought I'd say,
despite the hardness of the wooden table and the potting soil in my hair.

I can't remember why I thought it was a good idea, though,
or why I thought that was the place to consummate our love,
or even who it was, because

the shovel was handy and knocked all that right out of my head.

Not long ago, a week maybe--time is fuzzy for me now--
we had tadpoles in the puddles the flood left behind.
As the water dried up, things got dicey, so I decided to try to save them.

Looking into my bucket, the yard man said, "You've only got sticks in there, Maggie."
He was right, and it was only the moss on one side of each of them
that made them seem green and in need of me.

I did manage to save one tadpole, though.

An apron pocket makes a fine frog house,
and though I walked around wet to the skin on that side,
I felt good about saving a life, a remarkable life besides.

I told Mr. John about my frog, and even though something
in the back of my head told me it was a mistake, I took it out,
just to show him. I screamed when he did what he did,

and we stood there for the longest time, both spitting mad.

Later, I took pansies from the side garden
and arranged them in a circle around the small hole I'd dug.
My skirt got muddy and something started coming back to me.

Some of the pansies were purple, others yellow;
looking at them put me in mind of my room, the mirror there,
my bed, and the door I always insisted be locked

against the arc of the sun, like a bucket swung too weakly, and too late.
________

for Susie's challenge at Real Toads.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

My Haiku

because you all seem to want me to write one. heartless heartless mob.

If a haiku came to me,
the safe lady wearing waves of soft sweaters
and funky book-lady glasses,

I would place it tenderly in traffic
in front of a steamroller.
My hateful heart would expand like an old furnace
and I would say, "Die, you horrid little thing.
Become one with everything, the pavement in particular."

Having murdered the haiku, I would sleep better,
though the cherry blossoms around my bed would turn brown,
then black, with bitterness.
I would dream there in the soot, beneath the stacks my own inferno.
Eat your hearts out, monks.

Here is the woman I secretly burn for, packing her things
chipper as a bluebird,
hugging me one-handed, a book of haiku in the other.
So long, she says, ticket in hand.
Minneapolis might as well be the moon; I hope it snows all summer.

moonlight on water
blackbird on cherry blossoms
soft fruit in stone bowl

If a haiku came to me,
I would tan its little hide, give its dinner to the dog,
and then later, turn the key in the lock to its solitary cell,
bringing the best of all that I have managed to save,
saying I'm sorry, I'm sorry,
I know just how you feel.
_________