Monthly Archives: May 2019

The Relief of Rain

These sounds, recorded from the next hill over from the one I live on, are what I’ve been hearing for the past month or so. They are the harbingers of the rainy season, which started tonight. I can see lightning flashing from the glass walls to the left and in front of my bed, hear the thunder rolling around the lake, smell the petrichor in the air, feel the slight spray through the screen of the one sliding glass door I can’t stand to close. Those of us who live here year round love the rainy season. The relief from both the dry heat and the crowds. Tonight I will breathe easy in the fresh air.

A few years ago, Forgottenman was here for the start of the rainy season and THIS is what he had to say about it.

Manual for a Sales Position

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Manual for a Sales Position

Follow commands verbatim. Be quiet, graceful, prompt!
He fired a predecessor who shuffled, tripped and stomped.
Only idiots are bashful. You should look him in the eye.
Do not pad expense accounts. Do not cheat or lie.
Do not applaud suggestions merely on a whim
unless they are suggestions that were made by him.
You are the very first product that you have to sell,
so follow these few rules and I think you will do well.

 

The prompts today are verbatim, prompt, bashful and applaud.

The Art Lesson

Version 2

 

The Art Lesson

I look at Carolyn.
The teacher hovers over her bright shoulder.
We are sisters, bright and dark.
I stuff a bird’s nest into the hollow of the soft stone I have carved.
My mother will not like it.
She will only recognize the beauty
of the smooth hand
Carolyn has carved from alabaster,

That night, I stuff a snarl of Carolyn’s hair into
soft dung from the horse pasture.
I shape the Mimi spirit from the dung
and place it under the register in our room to dry.
When the cold snap hits,
the room takes on a feculent odor
and she wonders what is causing it.

For three days the Mimi spirit fills the room.
I reach under the register
and its outside surface crumbles in my hand.
I scrape its powder into a small pile.
The figure that is left I put in my pocket.
It is hard-baked.
The hand that held it smells like dead grass.
Some of the powder I sprinkle in a fine line
on the top of the frame around her vanity mirror.
The rest I save in my handkerchief.

The Mimi spirit I take back to class
to put in the nest.

My stone is a stone––
Hollowed,
grey.
with natural holes pockmarking it.
When no one is looking, I cut my finger with an Exacto knife
and collect my blood.
I unball my handkerchief.
I sprinkle the powder into my blood
to make a paste.
I take a fine brush from the cupboard,
paint the Mimi spirit.

They are all in front of me.
Carolyn. Andrew.
The teacher is in front of me.
No one notices.
I hear her laugh.
I pull a loose thread from my skirt
and wind it tight around my finger
until it turns white.

I take moss I’ve gathered from the oak trees
and I make hair.
I take the ankh-shaped clay tool
and scrape a hollow in the stomach of the Mimi doll.
I go to stand beside my sister,
taking the very small sharp paper-cutting scissors.
They are all watching her,
but no one watches the part of her closest to me.
She laughs, creating the diversion I need.
I quickly cut the very small piece
from inside a fold of her full skirt.
Later, she will blame it on moths.
I have told her about cotton-eating moths,
and she is a sister who always believes me.

I go back to my table at the back.
Still, not one has noticed me.
I trim material away from the part of the pattern I seek.
I cut out the very small figure of a child.
I roll the material I have cut away from around the child
into a tight wad
that I stuff into the new womb of the Mimi doll.
I roll the child into a ball
that I chew and chew
before swallowing.

I put the Mimi doll back into the nest in the stone.
Tomorrow I will pack it in a box.
Tomorrow I will wrap it in paper and ribbon.
Tomorrow I will give it as a gift to my mother.
Carolyn will give my mother the hand
and she will put it on her dresser
to display her bracelets and rings.
My stone will lie in its box
in my mother’s bottom drawer.

Next week I will steal into my mother’s room.
I will put the box under my sister’s bed for three nights.
I’ve already dug the hole beneath the willow tree—
in the soft soil where my father used to dig and dig.

Years from now, my mother will wonder where that box went.
Carolyn will have gone away before this, but not me.
I’ll say, “I don’t know, maybe Carolyn took it.”
My mother will slide her gold rings from the fingers
of the hand my sister carved for her.
She will love to stroke the cool hand.
But Carolyn will just keep going and never come back.

This is a poem I have written and rewritten over the past thirty years but which I’ve never published. It’s a dark poem and perhaps that is why I’ve never published it. I can’t remember what prompted it.  Certainly, nothing from my own life, but I recently found a folder of very old poems and decided to try to rework some of them. “The Art Lesson” is one of them. 

for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.

The Wager

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The Wager

When I was a mere teenager,
my dad made a little wager.
Could I manage to exist
by guile and craft and will and fist

without allowance or assistance?
It was not at his insistence,
and in no way was I miffed
at his challenge aimed at thrift.

I packed a bag and caught a lift.
For one year I would simply drift.
Quietly would I abscond 
and win my keep as vagabond.

I’d leave a life humdrum and canned
to live a life less gray and bland.
And thus I started my vacation
around our great and varied nation.

In California, I mowed lawns,
in Texas, worked at shucking prawns.
Combined wheat in South Dakota.
Then made off for Minnesota.

Washing pots and dishing curry,
worked my way down to Missouri.
In Tennessee I met with luck
and crossed the whole state in a truck,

but by D.C. and Baltimore,
grunt labor had become a bore,
so when I finally reached the ocean,
suddenly I had the notion

to make a call to dad from son
telling him his son had won.
The call I made was not in vain,
for next day I was on a plane.

Tattered, back-sore, sunburned, chapped,
I showed my dad the miles I’d mapped.
He slapped my back and said, “Well, son,
you’ve done what I wished I had done

before I did each of those things
that doing what one ‘should’ do brings.”
He slapped a check into my hand
and promised college, job or land.

I would be sent to school or hired—
whatever now I most desired.
I told my dad I’d let him know
but for just now I had to go.

I hit the bank and cashed his check,
bought new clothes and washed my neck.
Grabbed my passport, kissed my mom,
let her feed me, dropped the bomb.

Hugged my dad, then counted coup
and hopped a plane for Katmandu.
I hadn’t traveled my last mile,
but from now on, I’d go in style!

 

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The prompt words today are drift, humdrum, abscond and wager.

The Willow Cutters

The Willow Cutters.

They gather in circles as the day ends.
Men sit in one circle, closer to the lake.
Women, still standing, cluster laughing around a ribald tale.
They’ve been cutting old willow, then burning it for weeks to clear the mud flats.
Now new willow, red-veined with opalescent skin, springs up from the graves of the old.
The teeth of slender leaves cup up to catch the far-off whirr of rain bugs in the hills.
Every night louder, their repetitious whirr is as annoying
as the temperature, which  grows hotter every day.

The birds all seek their evening perches—
night heron on the fence post in the water,
blackbirds in orderly evening strings,
swallows in frenzied swooping snarls.
A young girl lies on her back in the short cool grass
that in the past few weeks has sprung from the cracked mud.
With her baby in arms, she rolls over to face the red sun and in her journey,
sees the ones from her pueblo who burn off last year’s growth.

Sees also the gringa who cuts the tender willow.
She is an interloper who watches birds, and as she watches,
is watched—the bright colors of her clothes drawing eyes.
She is the one for whom being a foreigner isn’t enough—
an ibis among herons, a cuckoo among blackbirds,
Now and then, all flock here.

As mother with child  stands to go,
the willow cutter, too, straightens her back
and trudges heavy, arms filled with willow,
toward her car far up the beach.
As  sun like a cauldron  steams into the hill,
horses stream smoothly back to claim their turf,
and the other willow cutters circle longer, telling stories, moving slow.
Children run races with the night as sure as new willows
grow stubbornly from the ground of parents
uprooted, but victorious.

This is a poem written the year I moved to Lake Chapala, eighteen  years ago.  Every day for two years, I walked on land that had formerly been lake. There were acres of willow that I later learned townspeople were hired to clear before Semana Santa, when hordes of tourists from Guadalajara always descended.  I was there to cut willow to make lamps. When the lake came up to its former banks a few years later, all of those willows, that grew back yearly, were destroyed.  Only their bones now stick up when the lake recedes a bit again every year.  They make perfect roosting places for birds. I rarely walk on the lakeside anymore. The lake has remained high enough so all of my former walking places are under water.  Instead, I stay home and write poems and post blogs. As usual, click on any photo to enlarge all.