Category Archives: Uncategorized

from the lake: a new series

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Since it’s where I’ll be for the next couple weeks, I have decided to try a new series of poems: observations from the lake.  The first is a letter poem, written to Carolee as I sat watching the children drift out to the middle of the bay on a raft. It doesn’t feel completely finished, but it’s a draft, and that is progress…

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Dear Carolee:

Here at the lake where grass and leaves rise
out of the water without any more purpose
than the empty snail shells dotting the beach
it occurs to me I have done little with my thirties.

Thirties—as though the decade was a pair of dice,
a hand of cards, a six-pack of cold long necks
sweating on a picnic table in the sun.
Ten years floating between luck and vice.

The crow cawing madly to its invisible mate agrees.
What?
……….What?

…………………..(Have you done with your one wild and precious life?)

I read between the lines….listen between the notes.
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When the second bird answers—
another country heard from—
I can’t tell if she is agreeing
on the state of my empty-shell years:
Yes!
What?
Yes!
What?
or, from one mother roosting,
bored on her nest, to another
trying to make me feel better.

the parable of the anvil and garter

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Today’s assignment for Summer Poetry Boot Camp is to write a poem from an image. One of my favorite artists working today is Carrie Ann Baade. I visited her latest collection, Tales of  Passion and Woe, looking for inspiration and, naturally, was inspired by the very first painting I looked at! Even the painting’s title, The Parable of the Anvil and Garter, is inspiring, don’t you think?

The problem I’ve been having with poems lately is their tendancy to morph into stories, or narrative. But not just any narrative…they are all taking root in magical realism. Which is fine, actually one of my favorite forms, but I’m having trouble telling tales. I suppose I just have to take what comes.

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The Parable of the Anvil and Garter

After a painting by Carrie Ann Baade

I waited all night by the window for you,
hero, you and your white steed,
but you never arrived.
I would have mounted even a black horse
had you ridden up on purity’s dark seed–
any horse in a storm, brute muscle and sweat
saving me from lightning, hail, electricity gone wrong.

Meanwhile, the dishes piled up, dinner scorched
in the womb of the oven missing its controls
and the children straggled in with a rusty anvil
recovered from the neighbor’s garbage.

Without the steady hoof beat of rescue
to march by, flying seems the only option.

Outside, in an absurd reversal of strength,
a single raven flees a host of sparrows
giant predator diving and swerving
to avoid the sting of lesser beaks.

Leaving the house in blue garter and bustier
proves much easier than explaining why I am astride
a gleaming metal weight, why the very burden meant to drag
me down is allowing me to soar above the mossy rooftop.

Every parable has a moral. Draw conclusions at your own risk.

zombie love–it’s all the rage

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Gah! This is my new favorite word. It expresses everything from frustration to utter meltdown. This latest poem for Carolee and Jill’s Summer Boot Camp has given me trouble from the start. The start, this being Monday, was a line from another poem–a borrowed line. The borrowed line itself * wound up not making it into the poem, but still, the poem begged to be written. This poem is also a response to Carolee’s latest which is a response to mine, which is a response to hers. Gah!

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Even as I fiddled with it just now, I imagined tearing this poem apart at my writing group. My poet friends will help, I thought! And boy do I hope so. Still, I am in boot camp, and writing poems is what I do. So here it is…

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* The borrowed line was “It was a bright inviting, freely formed…” from Medbh McGuckian’s “Painting by Moonlight”

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Consider Your Daughters: A Zombie Fable
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I am considering them, silly woman! I would much rather their minds be engaged in the deadly arts than clouded with dreams of marriage and fortune, as your own so clearly is!”

p.- Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

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It was a bright evening, fully formed,
and the tip of the crescent moon snagged my sleeve.
When the moon, love-orb, reaches out for you
what can you do but surrender to its gold bidding.

I chained myself to the zombie on the lawn—
(the undead being all the rage in suburbia)
the best way, I imagined, to save what is almost extinct.
Time, I imagined, to harness a will of my own.

We strolled the neighborhood, a shocking trio:
zombie, refugee, lamp torn from the sky,
searching for love in suburbia’s illuminated windows.

On the maniacally manicured lawn next door, Zombie dropped
an ear, thinking the man sleeping with his weed trimmer
might like hearing what his pretty wife whispers each night.

From the home where hearts break like dishes, I slip
a little black dress from the clothesline. Relic from evenings
when the couple inside stepped out together, the A-line has hung
at half-mast since wife danced off husband’s floor for good.

Tangled in the trees, the moon slipped from my shoulder
disengaging slick as a hook from a fish’s mouth,
taking my shirt with it on its ascent. Ever the gentleman,
Zombie tore the skin from his chest, warmed me
with what used to be his heart. This could be love.

I wrap him in my black linen
pull the dress low to cover the chain binding our legs.
We are a secret team, the lives we save not our own.

who knew you could learn so much from an unmown lawn?

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It’s slip ‘n slide time here in suburbia.  While watching the kids make knee dents in the soggy grass (and have a blast doing it), I thought about Carolee’s recent series of poems about her home/house/road.  And I realized, as per usual, she and I live parallel, but different lives, because I, too, have sad clover.  The poem came and I wrote it.  And now the dynamic duo has a new project: call and response poems.  From Phillips Road to Delmar Place and back again.  Huzzah!

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You Think Your Clover Are Sad? …A response to Carolee’s poem about sad clover

I don’t mean to steal your idea
but the white clover here at 34 Delmar Place
is feeling neglected, too, multiplying
like white blood cells gone mad,
lumbering in from the edges
(where a picket fence ought to stand)
toward the front steps—small zombies.

Bless my clusters of undead,
scattered across the ragged grass.
I rest among them, press my ear to the ground
to hear what they are trying to tell me
until I remember—zombies only moan

and moaning, no matter the tenor or tremble
is not an answer, but a prelude. This haphazard formation
(unmown lawn) is an alphabet, suburban hieroglyphics.
To decipher their morbid message
read my future like tea leaves
I need a boost, a way to climb high in the maple tree.

It would help to have someone, Amelia Earhart, maybe
to lift me up above this wild landscape
fly across the unknown for a clearer view.

back to our regularly scheduled poetry

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It has been way too long since I wrote a poem.  Even longer since I posted to my blog, poor thing.  With summer coming on, and with it summer vacation (ie: kids home all day every day!), Carolee and I have enrolled in Poetry Boot Camp.  Well, we run the place, …wait, what’s that? A whining 5-year-old?  Ah, the sounds of summer.

Anyway, I pledge a poem a day all summer long.  Well, except for Friday which is edit & submit day.  If I don’t, please come to my house and use any means necessary to elicit a poem.

First poem, inspired by the wordle over at Big Tent Poetry!  Yay!  A poem!  And what an interesting list of words: resent, praise, hungry, milk, dull, cough, dangerous, part, stars, dark and comfort. I’ve been working with some revisionary myth-making lately, and Red Riding Hood seems to keep popping her hooded-head in…

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Little Red Riding Hood Discusses Her Costume

It wasn’t the warmth of Grandmother’s bosom
that sent me alone into the forest,
but the stars’ dark comfort.

This is the part of the story they keep from children:

Not how I threw caution to the wind
…..how I put my trust in a hungry foe
……….how the rattle of a sly cough
could sound so much like a song I’d heard before.

But how I grew to resent my own dull milk
…..how I was not a foolish girl, but a lonely woman seeking praise
……….how I left home and hearth for the handsome woodcutter
carried a basket filled with oysters and wine, truffles dug by hand,

the cape and hood being nothing more than a clever disguise.

Urban Legend

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Eggshells patter on the window
yolk nails itself to the skillet
begs for your forgiveness.

This is the hour of your decay
slick yellow sunshine like a miscarriage
crowning a morning already hot

with what might have been
were it not for last night’s hacksaw moon
the man with the chipped nails

and whiskey tongue. He always finds you
when you run. Take off your shoes
leap with frog-grace, nails not making a sound

on the cracked sidewalk. That path is its
own cement, parading past clapboard and gardens
tripping all the girls trying to find the keys to home.

Was it you who muttered in a frosted panic
spit slipping from your young tongue (no whiskey
for you) This is all fiction. My house is made of candy.

There is a pair of red stockings in the footlocker
at the back of the garage. If you knew how to drive
you could pull the car out, slip your legs into the fire.

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This poem was written using the wordle prompt at Read Write Poem this week.  It was one of those poems that practically wrote itself.

At the Onset of Hibernation, the Bees Begin to Speak

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She holds the honeycomb in her hands
weeps for the bees
their (mis)fortune pours
like watered honey from all her hollows.

……………To have your home torn from its moorings (joy)
……………talons at the foundation–
……………evolution’s sweet buzz
……………………..to begin again.

 

She sews papery wings to her shoulder blades
hovers beneath the eaves
awkward angel

………………….bleeding on the gardener’s bald head.
………..Who will rule the family now?

………………………..What value in a stinger dulled
………………………..by smoke–cobweb of ache sticky, invisible
………………………..the thin air it swings by ……….stinking of burn.

As the second hand sweeps
its apex—again, again—she rips
hives from rafters
gray ghosts…………..nursemaids bloated bellies
whole kingdoms without their queens.

She holds nothing in her hands
weeps for the beauty.

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After having written nothing for many days, I was inspired by this painting by Carrie Ann Baade. Let’s hope this is a trend in the right direction.

At night, the dead: Read. Write. Poem.’s Virtual Book Tour Stops By…

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* Originally published here as part of Read. Write. Poem.’s Virtual Book Tour, this review can also be found in Poet’s Quarterly.

 

I am the second stop on the Read. Write. Poem. Virtual Book Tour. As such, please enjoy this break from my regularly scheduled vacation!  And, please, if after reading this review, you would like to purchase your very own copy of Lisa Ciccarello’s At night, the dead, please visit the Blood Pudding Press Etsy Shop!

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You lock the door. You lock the window. You dream of the dead.

 

Most of us fear the dead. We fear their reach from beyond, their spectral presence in the dark, looming over us while we sleep, the awful things they might do. After reading Lisa Ciccarello’s prize winning chapbook, At night, the dead, published by Blood Pudding Press, it becomes clear that, though the dead are most certainly here, they are not here to do us harm. Rather, they love us, the dead whose love is just a little series of letters. They would like to be remembered, and maybe to have a voice.

 

We are supposed to house the dead in our mouths, but we let them stay in our throats when we sing.

 

The dead, it seems, seek a voice. In the dual role of poet and medium, Ciccarello chooses not only to house the dead in her mouth, but to sing:

I am the dead I am the dead
I am the dead. The song I know.

The mouth is the entryway, the tunnel through which the dead find their voice. Ciccarello’s haunting lyrics–surreal, pensive, often mysterious– linger in our psyche, long after they have provided the release the dead are seeking.

 

Just as mortals, having seen a ghost, will question their own vision, so readers of At night, the dead may question what is real and what is Ciccarello’s fantastic imagination.   The dead put their fingers in your mouth, the narrator asserts. Despite the next line, You are dreaming, you will soon question whether you, the reader, are awake or asleep, whether there are fingers in your mouth or not. Ciccarello’s stream of consciousness prose poems lull you into a sort of waking sleep-walk. In time, we (readers) take on a spectral form, hovering over each poem, studying it as the dead study the living when:

you are asleep & inside the dream the dead rise up & their bodies are gone but their love has a form & they come to love you but it isn’t a dream…

 

Like the dead, we become ghosts, floating through each piece, accepting it’s improbability for ethereal truth.

 

I want to keep telling you about the dead, the narrator says. They write the same word over and over again. Ciccarello does not write the same word over and over again, though there is a ghostly echo to the repeating clues she gives us in each of these sixteen poems.

 

Indeed, taken as a whole, the collection is a tightly woven tapestry of encounters with the dead, stitched together by recurring threads: salt on widow sills, luminous coins, burned paper, house and home. Comprised mostly of prose poems, each piece links almost imperceptibly to the next, most often through these cleverly repeated images.

 

Coupled with Ciccarello’s skill at crafting poems that read like small prayers or incantations, such repetition serves not to keep the dead at bay, but to welcome them, honor and invite them into the house they remember and give them

Everything they ever wanted: the window view, soap that floats, someone pressing down hard. Lips made out of paper. A smile that shines (just a flame at his mouth & so what).

 

We want to remember what was so close to our faces, the narrator tells us. So, too, the dead/ remember;/ yea & it is not enough. As Ciccarello’s haunting narrative continues in its melodic refrain, such surreal reasoning begins to make sense. Our home is full of beautiful boy & come on girl. The dead “have a home in the ground, but they forget.” Is it possible the dead are us? You and I, questing readers?

 

Without doubt, the dead are a metaphor for something. Just what is elusive, so we must continue to read and look for clues. In providing such mysterious little gems, Ciccarello—poet, medium, mouth-piece for the dead–does not disappoint. The sheer lyricism of her language can make a clue out of a seemingly irrelevant detail. Take for instance, this gorgeous morsel of truth:

Here is how I control my heart: I string each thought sparkling behind the next. In the patient necklace each will be touched.

 

Overall, At night, the dead is a haunting collection, though not in the traditional sense of ghosts and fear. Instead, it is a series of surreal linked vignettes, brief but memorable encounters with the elusive dead (who may or may not be you and I), ferrying a message that may or may not come clear as the final poem exhales its last syllable.

 

Do not be surprised, when, after you have finished that last poem, you find yourself going about your own days and nights trying to discover your own dead and what they are asking for. Do not be afraid when the salt is gone the dead touch your mouth.

time for something new

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And What Is Sexy About an Explosion You Weren’t Expecting?

 

Until the eruption of AD 79, the people of Pompeii did not know Mount Vesuvius was a volcano.
- “Pompeii: A Lost City”, Sally Odgers

 

Inch by inch
blue veins explore
your surface.
Imagine the kitten
beneath the old tom.
It is like this with love
ugly love rears
ugly legs splayed
all over someplace
they shouldn’t be.
Shouldn’t be, this love.
Picture nubile–
can you see the vowels
exploding like hot lava
from a volcano
the villagers didn’t even know
was lurking
just beneath the surface
while they ate their pea-
cock roasted with live
birds inside? The fluttering
started one young woman choking.
She writes you from her ash bed
deep below the road you walk today.