Saturday, August 31, 1985

VOTIVE OFFERINGS

Votive offerings
     —from a photo by Jean Mohr
1. I grew up with the habit of leaving the window open.
By the time he arrived, my hands and cheeks were numb.
I kept back to the shadows, not wanting to be seen.
How could I explain this? That there was something
so private about the way he walked alongside his bicycle,
as if there were a secret they both shared.
I think of horses in the rain
with water drizzling down damp forelocks,
leaving pockmarks in the dry dust inside the stable.
The clatter of boots, the purring of cogs.
The wind rubs the lace curtain like silk velvet.
Mixed with snow, the mud made a chocolate slurry
of the photographic image of winter.
What interested me most was the way the eyes appeared first
on exposed white paper in the developing tray,
under the darkroom red light.
Sometimes, I just went in there to look at them and stare.

I forgot what happened next.
It was 1946. I remember,
because there were dark uniforms everywhere.
When we walked, the frozen mud beneath our feet
cracked like distant gunshots.

2. He pushed his bicycle across cobblestones;
the clatter of boots and the purr from the spokes of his cycle
ricocheted from stone slate to plaster walls.
Leaves under the tree gathered cups of snow.
His hobnail boots announced him like a lone horse.
The road winds to a field where a girl with loaves of soggy bread
waits as a rail thin cat weaves its damp fur between her legs.
The forgotten are remembered – pressed between glass,
on silvered paper.

3. Will she still be waiting? The fields will be wet.
Wire spokes ticking off time like a clock.
Late. Late. Walk the bike through town.
Don't attract attention.
Dark clouds. More snow in the air.
How far can one ride to snow on a bicycle?
Tracks draw less attention than two sets of prints in the snow.

4. You there! Always behind that curtain.
What are you looking at? Stealing pictures again?
Don't you think I know about you?
Tomorrow, you'll notice when I don't come by
but that is tomorrow, not today.

5. I see the hood of his long jacket thrown back
as he holds something small in his hand.
I see the warm breath hanging about his face like a cloud.
I see the glistening street through the spokes of his cycle
and the reflection sharply in focus with the muddy spray of water
flips up on the back of the tire.
In the thin snow, faint circular tracks from other riders.

6. Clutter clatter of boots, purring of cogs.
The wool of her scarf, like wet sheep.
A windblown curtain.
In wet fields, by granite slabs,
the forgotten are remembered.
Photographs, silver – a metallic weight
around the eyes, under glass.
Votive offerings.

date?  8/1985?  Possibly 1987.
Added 11/16

Tuesday, August 20, 1985

MERWIN'S INLET

MERWIN'S INLET

      I want to find the inlet
      where rocks rub thighs
      with the shore.

In the mango forest, small red flowers
the color of chickenblood
splatter against damp limed walls
& pulse against the shadowed green.
White veranda, gardenias, bleached shells
in black volcanic soil.
I check papayas for ripeness,
avoid stepping on the toad in the shower
& watch out for banana spiders.
As I dig the earth, my breath
says roshi roshi roshi.
Geckos chuckle in white-limed rooms
& swallow moths whole.
Last night I dreamed of lizards
eating the bark from trees.
Below the clearing, the sounds of the creek
are swallowed by the jungle.
Density & decay
the progression of desire.

Haiku, Maui 1985?
the experience was from 5/26/83; did I have another draft? I sometimes took poems that needed work to Napa for revision.

1991 Poet Magazine
1990 Poetry USA
1989 Chaminade Literary Review
1988 Women's Voices
1987 Electrum

Tuesday, August 13, 1985

CHICKEN SOUP

draft

    —for Ruth Stone

1. With my hands full of the dilemma unborn chicks
ready, but too weak to escape their smooth white prisons,
I have trouble undoing the henhouse gate—
itís like convoluted love mounting in the afternoon hammock
where the intensity of sex was equal the heat of the argument
and blinding orgasms forestalled the inevitable equation
leaving me to count days and eggs with an exhausted passion.

Seeking solace in the henhouse,
Iím confronted with the argument head-on.
Details become significant: minute pinfeathers,
like venial sins, fringe the broody hen's eyelids.
She croons; the chicks gather up courage from under her wings
to answer the four hatchlings I attempt to rescue.

With the precision of a surgeon, I carefully tweeze
a piece of shell from the membrane of a half-born chick,
a bright ruby wells up over wet yellow feathers.
I remember how Binty stood on her colt's umbilical cord
to stop the bleeding. The belabored desire of my breasts and belly
swell and point accusingly at the parched earth, wanting
to masturbate with death in the chickencoop.

I mid-wife the second embryo: a miracle—
a neck, longer than what I think is possible
uncoils snakelike, from the opened shell.
With trembling haunches and sealed eyelids,
the chick blindly slides from the shell into my hand.

A pale necklace of pinfeathers ring the tiny winglets.
I move the chick closer to the brood;
its loud call doesn't rouse the maternal instinct of the hen;
she distractedly pecks at it, and tramples it
in her hasty mothering to protect the others.
Poultry yard facts are not news,
but cruelly catches me by surprise anyway.

2. In restaurants, heat lamps to keep the chicken warm
reminded me too much of Mary Bianchi's incubator:
a fortress of blue doors and windows.
Easter: I crawled through fields of yellow chicks
blooming furiously at the speed of light under 30-watt bulbs
to find just the right one. Under the miracle of chickens,
unnamed possibility opened up like infinity.
I was so angry when my grandmother simply said No,
and the dream quietly closed in on itself;
a small child covered in sawdust
fiercely clutching a downy chick to her breast.

From the poultry yard we learned uneasy truths—
suicidal stampedes in pens with lethal corners,
pecking order, what blood-smell was capable of rousing.
We taught the survivors how to drink,
clipped beaks and wings. We learned euphemisms,
practiced what we learned in the school yard.

I took a squeamish clinical interest
in deveining drumsticks during Sunday dinners.
When things got tough, I retreated to the sanctity of illness.
Feeding me chicken soup, Grandma always explained,
You've got to boil it until the bone-jelly comes out.
Was it really the bones of the chicken
that healed us when we were sick?

3. As I struggle to save the final chicks,
you say to me, I believe in letting nature take its course.
The dog loves the ones that don't hatch out.
So, I place the tiny ember back in its nest
The wind to catch this spark will not blow.

Long shadows crawl over yellow madrone leaves
toward the empty hammock supplicated by the evening breeze.
I fishtail down the valley; my rage and headlights flirt and neck
with the center line of the long highway toward home:
how many accidents are born in the aftermath of lover's quarrels?
This time we were lucky (or, unlucky, as it seems).

4. Your postcard arrives: Another chick hatched out;
it made me think of you. We shouldn't make a go of it.
I think of how cold bone-jelly quivered like a wild trout
in my grandmother's capable hands.
You didn't see how the chickís blood rusted
like a stigmata on my palms and thighs
during the hot summer heat.

1985?
rev. 8/13/ 87 rev. 2/ 93  still not there...
Humboldt County
& Napa
another version was published in Kamel Klaxon 1985
the first draft may have been written in 1984.

BANTU RHYTHMS: MOONDUST


 BANTU RHYTHMS: MOONDUST

How deep
did the astronaut's feet
sink into moondust?

Someone's father said
Never plant potatoes
when the price is up.


8/13/1985
Napa
published in the Kamel Klaxon


Tuesday, August 6, 1985

SIXTH OF AUGUST

SIXTH OF AUGUST

The personality of the dead woman in the storage room escapes
from boxes of silk scarves, photographs, letters
cellulose toys, yellow mother of pearl buttons and cloth scraps.
Inside her white plastic purse;
a checkbook, unclaimed raffle tickets,
a tiny snapshot of a girl who still sends her love;
an envelope dated 1937,
some eight-cent stamps and a life insurance policy.

On this 40th anniversary of Light,
I pull stamps of Einstein and Eisenhower apart.
Glued on top of a glib Eisenhauer grinning seven times
a haunted Einstein broods in purple; the color of mourning.
Beneath them, postage stamps of Apollo on the moon,
black-wreathed earth against the sun;
the birth of Man in space.

When I was three, the linoleum to cover the stairs
was put in the storage room to change it from green to red,
my uncle told me. And so it did.
I admired the miracles that happened in darkness.
In that same darkness, copper pennies
dropped into the piggybank turned into steel.
Dressed in khaki-green, my uncle tossed me into the air
and the known world spun past my forehead.
He held a suitcase of darkness in his hand.

Now, I've gone and brought the dead woman's things into light.
A photograph of her husband holding a silver-plated trophy
by the tall grey horse at Longacre track:
He stares at me with such frankness, that with his passing
I feel the loss of an intimate stranger.
The bent and tarnished trophy rests in thick dust.

When I wear the clothing of the dead,
they see glimpses of light again.
The poet's shirt gives me strange dreams
but I forget the words by morning.

Rotted with age, the boxes of yarn
in this half-light makes tufts like the manes
of cloth horses I ride in my dreams
where the landscape grows wilder with each visit.

August 6, 1985
rev. 1986

1987 San Francisco Bay Guardian, 2nd Place
         Thread Winding the Loom, CPITS anthology
         The Paper
 1995 Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age, ( version 2, below)
 see my post,  Atomic Ghost