Tag Archives: dverse poets pub

Unmoved

A room. A window. Outside the window, an entire world that I have not moved through for so many years. Some of the world comes to me, it is true, and I am not so reclusive that I do not let it in. Marietta brought her newest baby just yesterday, and I held it as though I have held a baby every day of my life in spite of the fact that I have not held a baby since that first baby slipped away from me, into the arms of another woman I have never known the name of. That baby was ripped more violently from my arms than it was from my body hours before. I was not given a choice. No one knew. The baby vanished and then I vanished, off to another country. Off. . . .a cough. I spin around and look behind me. It is a new intruder. After so many years alone, two people entering my world. Perhaps if I’d kept the door unlocked all these years, more people would have come other than the boy who brings my groceries and the other woman with the many layers of skirts who brings me new medicine when I have need of it.

I do not know this new person. It is a young man who carries a machete in his hand. He is very tall. Very very tall for a Mexican, so perhaps he is a Bedouin or some other Arab from a tall tribe, plopped down in America in the way many of us have been positioned here by fate, by circumstance or by force. His skin is that beautiful golden coffee color of someone naturally dark who has also been in the sun for long periods of time or for a long lifetime.

“Disculpe, senora,” he says, as he moves into the room. When I speak to him in English, he switches to English. He has seen my tall palm with the fruit and the seeding husks hanging dangerously loose. He can scale this tree and cut them for me. It needs to be done, senora, and if I have no money to pay, he will do it for no more fee than my friendship. And if I have no friendship to offer, then he will do it for the good grace it will bring him in the universe and perhaps an easier ingress into heaven.

It is an omen, I think, and I surprise myself when I give him permission to trim the tree. He cannot know how much he looks like a young man in my past and he cannot know how uncharacteristic it is for me to allow anyone at all into my life, my room, my trust. Now I have an obligation to this man I know nothing about. He may be dangerous. Certainly, he carries a weapon. The branch of the pomegranate tree taps taps on my window, as though a strong breeze has come up in this still day. It is the fingers of the afternoon reminding me. Warning me. But then I see that it is the movement of the young man as he brushes past the tree that has set it in motion.

A large turquoise dragonfly rests on the branch that has stopped moving and that now sits isolated. Another dragonfly approaches it and seems to attach itself in an arch and they go flying away together in this impossible configuration—a broken circle. How two creatures can move as one is not something I have ever learned, not since the one person who was a part of me for so many months was pulled from my arms still weak from childbirth. If they’d waited, I would have been strong enough, I tell myself. I have been telling myself for most of my life.

After they took from me what was mine, we took a drive to a large place with many chairs. Many chairs and many people, then a corridor. Then I was on an airline and in spite of my terror, I fell asleep. I was a thirteen year old girl, accustomed to doing what I was told to do. I woke up in America, where I was driven to the beautiful house of my aunt. It was here I lived for ten more years. Here that they expected to give me a new life to encourage me to forget my old life, but as I sit for all these years in my isolation, it is the old life that I remember and remember and remember.

 

for dVerse Poets Pub.

Interruption

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Interruption

The dogs made their usual frenzied protest at his leaving. “This time he’s not coming back,” I told them just before opening the gate for them, even though I knew that all I had to do, really, was to think it. They were his dogs, but they were psychically attuned to my thoughts.

Their “tracking”  brays grew fainter but more frenzied as they vanished behind hill after hill, and finally, when far away—an interrupted cry as a shot rang out.  Then the yelping of one dog. Or was it two?

Was it fear or mourning for a master already forgiven that brought about the brief caesura that followed the gunshot and preceded the wailing––that trio of sounds that have reverberated, in sequence, down through my life since then.

 

For the DVerse Poet’s Pub, we are to write a flash fiction prose piece of no more than 144 words and to incorporate this line from a Robert Frost poem, “When far away an interrupted cry.” 

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.

In Retirement: (for dVerse Poets Pub Talk)

 

In Retirement

I lie in bed, flat on my back, head raised by pillows,
computer raised to eye level
by a wadded comforter over bent knees.
I listen to raised voices in the village down below,
the staccato of an inadequately mufflered car revving up,
a hammer falling on wood, birds in the coco  palms.
A pianissimo chorus of dogs spread
over the surrounding hills swells to a frenzied crescendo,
then falls silent but will swell again.

I have dropped obligations
like clothes shed for a lover.
My Saturday morning pool aerobics and zumba,
I slipped out of years ago.
Group luncheons hang from doorknobs and chair backs.
Committee meetings lie sloppily abandoned in the hall.

I have retired from the running of the world
to run my own small universe on paper.
Saturday morning is my brainstorm session
with “Me,” “Myself” and “I.”
“I” suggested feeding the dogs,
but they are quiet now, so
“Me” suggested we let them lie.
“Myself” laid out some words to dry
in the heat of the fire of our communal
inspiration, laying them smoothly on the page,
rumpling up others in her fist to send them sailing
to join the crumpled singles event invitations in the corner.

This slow Saturday morning dressing of pages
and stripping them bare
is a sort of ceremony celebrating seizing time
and making it my own.
Pages  fill up with passion, angst, anger,
irritation, joy, laughter, camaraderie.
There is more than one word for each.

Imagine such control over your world–
not having to live the world of any other.
If you could have any life you wish?
Imagine a Saturday morning  building it.

For dVerse Poets Pub Talk

My Shoes

My Shoes

My shoes go out without me. They do it all the time,
and do the things I never do. They jog. They hike. They climb.
When I wake up I find them strewn throughout the house—
one flip flop on the counter. High heels beneath my blouse
that’s flung across the table where I don’t remember putting it.
I bet they’ve been out dancing—two-stepping and high-footing it.

When my cowboy boots go riding, I’d like to go along.
I’m pretty sure, however, they think things would go wrong.
Perhaps the horse would throw me or I’d wind up getting lost.
I’m sorry that I bought them, considering the cost!
Other people are the boss of all their clothes and shoes,
but when my shoes and I face off, I am the one to lose.

I could take to going barefoot. This would work while at the beach.
Then when all my shoes are out far beyond my reach,
into the surf I’ll wade and then wander out again,
trapping sand between my toes everywhere I’ve been.
So when my shoes get home at night, they’ll be completely clueless

that I’ve left them out as well by venturing out shoeless!

 

We were asked to write about an ordinary objects For dVerse Poet’s Pub.

The Smell of Curry

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The Smell of Curry

Would that sentiment were only
positive and never lonely––
but all emotions of the world
in sentiment are tightly curled.
Every memory we cherish
is doubly edged with “live” and “perish.”
In every city, country, land––
bad and good go hand in hand.

The blend of cardamom and lentil
always makes me sentimental.
Odors of turmeric and its ilk,
garam masala and coco milk.
Curry spices being roasted,
degree of peppers being boasted,
chickpeas, carrots, potatoes, rice––
stirring in each thing that’s nice.

What do I think of when I smell
and taste that it is going well?
Bombay and wedding saris thin
sliding down my youthful skin.
Visions of a midnight ride
to cages with young girls inside
sold by their parents and then resold
nightly for a bit of gold.

Traffic, sitar music, fingers
scooping curry––all this lingers.
The beauty of that winsome song
that showed me where the world’s gone wrong.
His action, swift, unthinking, curt
of small coins cast into the dirt
to deflect those who beg and bleat,
surrounding us in every street.

Palaces and then the clash
of children in a world of trash,
the refuse of this giant city
the world they lived in—what a pity.
Back when traveling was new,
experiences were so few
that India changed my life forever.
So, will I forget it?  Never.

Since it was a journey that changed my life forever–both the physical journey through the streets of Bombay as well as that journey of the senses I go though every time I cook or taste a curry, I’m rerunning this poem written two years ago for the dVerse Poets’ Pub prompt of “Journeys.”