BLACK SHOES

Why were there none that fit?
She could have worn running shoes
with the pink prom dress–very avant garde
but she did so want to impress–
not the poet she was going with
because he was just a friend–
but the other girls.  Girls?
Women in a warren of rooms,
gowned and veiled.
They were remote and polite,
crowded together in those rooms
surrounded by shoes.

She was annoyed when one of their fathers
followed her into the street
and tried to kiss her.
She pushed him away
and walked fast, back to the rooms
where she tried to find the right shoes–
Chinese shoes, ballet slippers,
garden clogs, highheeled pumps–
There was nothing in the rooms
but the quiet women
and piles and racks of shoes,
black shoes, every size but hers.

 

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COMPARING “STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING” BY ROBERT FROST TO “THE REPENTANT MAGDALENE” BY GEORGE LATOUR

. . .all artworks are comparable. . . .
~Henry John Pratt

In each, the central figure is alone,
unless, of course, one counts the “little horse”
as one might arguably do.  One might also argue that God is
present in the LaTour, although God is not
specifically represented symbolically.
Indeed, if one believes that it is the case that God is
present, it follows that God is also
present to Frost’s speaker.

Frost’s last line, repeated, is a momento mori,
as is the Magdalene’s gaze into the mirror
while she sits with her fingers on the skull
and on her own face. In both the painting and the poem,
the theme of the contemplation of death
is enhanced by darkness:
the Magdalene lit only by the single candle,
the woods only by the dim light remaining on a winter evening
after the sun has set, which in the North is not much.

The LaTour does not present us with the possibility
of moving more deeply into the scene:  the Magdalene
sits still, amazed, frozen in one moment,
surrounded by darkness;  the painted background
is a close, flat, brown wall. Frost, however, beckons us
beyond, into a darkness that we, with him,
can see between the falling snowflakes.
Like the speaker, we are tempted to go further in.

 

ALL THEY WANT TO DO

is touch.  Their bodies remember
sitting back to back outside the hut,
grinding maize or pounding taro.
They waited in the forest, close,
breathing together, waiting for quarry.
They remember stepping across
the ditch between their thatched houses
to gossip, to argue or embrace.

Once they spoke while hanging laundry
or mending nets or minding babies
or scything grain or boiling sap
or making shoes or spinning thread
or pounding nails or setting rivets.
Separated
by settlement or war, they yearned across oceans
or prairies  and sent their yearning
in long quivers of ink.  Their fingers
traced the letters: Oh my dear,
my heart, how long. . .Now
disembodied
they send their words,
flickering images to tornaway tribes.
Now the air carries in bits
their sketchy sentences, their loneliness,
tears that no communication
without skin or breath can mend.

 

The words “separated” and “disembodied” are supposed to be way over in the right margin, but I can’t get it formatted that way.  Sorry.

CRANKY

CRANKY

Step on a hairball first thing
and nobody ever hangs up the towels.
Nothing is right: the tea pot
dribbles, mouse poop
in the toaster.

Two chin hairs.
Dirty glasses
and why does the yellow cat
scatter litter?

If they aren’t pokey,
they’re tailgating
and why do they idle
at the ends of their driveways
with their cars full of kids
too lazy to stand for the bus?

The pencil sharpener chews one side
and that damned dog keeps barking
one two three
one two three
one two three

Freezer burn,
leaky molasses
and the piano’s out of tune.

Somebody forgot
to buy milk
and it wasn’t me.

What’s with the ATM
and the guy with coupons
in the Express lane?
Can’t anybody count?

There’s nothing to read around here
but dusty thrillers
and old Flying magazines
and now even the moon
is crowded out with clouds.

 

CLEANING HOUSE

She’s silly,  I’m silly, we’re all silly
–David Weinstock

1.
What’s the use?

There was an old woman called Nothing-at-all,
Who lived in a dwelling exceedingly small;
A man stretched his mouth to its utmost extent,
And down at one gulp house and old woman went.

I know of a woman who has spent ten years designing her dream house:  8000 square feet for two people.  Six bathrooms, three dressing rooms with handmade cherry cabinets, a heated attic floor.  She called the contractor once at midnight, worried that the soffit was not the right color against the imported English roof.  He told her to have a glass of wine and call him in the morning.  Her friends think she will die when the house is finished because then she will have nothing to do.

2.
What time is it?

There was an old woman and nothing she had,
And so this old woman was said to be mad.
She’d nothing to eat, she’d nothing to wear,
She’d nothing to lose, she’d nothing to fear,
She’d nothing to ask, and nothing to give,
And when she did die, she’d nothing to leave.

A man in our town just returned from a trip to Tanzania, where he spent some time in a Masai village.  He told about watching a woman there sweeping  leaves from her red clay dooryard with a little broom made of twigs.  She was wearing many earrings, one made from a film canister.  “That’s where,” he told us, “she keeps her snuff.”


(Cleaning out my stash of weird “poems” I came upon this.  Whatever it is.)

HAPPY

Let’s stop reading about God.
We will never understand Him.
~Hafiz

Come up from those depths
where Prince Axel’s wonder-fish
opens its mouth to illuminate the way;
where the long-nosed chimera
with its venomous spine swims, searching.

Climb out of that claustrophobic vessel,
heavy iron bubble.
Time to leave the blacksmokers,
abandon the tube worms and Pompeii worms,
wriggle away from the hot chemosynthetic womb,
the rapturous, smothering dark.

Instead, snorkel along the surface,
flicker in clear aqua light
with porpoises and flying fish,
clownfish, look-down fish, angels,
the corals in their colors.
Tumble with the humpback,
skim through the right whale’s heartshaped blow.

Try to live
if only for a little,
above that cauldron of cold,
all slippery buttery clay and globigerina ooze,*
scavenge and iron wreck.

With the gentle manatees
cruise the warm estuaries,
vibrissaed noses like floating coconuts
all in the shallows
of thick wet green.

* also radiolarian ooze and pteropod ooze.  The “slippery buttery” description comes from “The Abyss” by Prentice K. Stout  in a Rhode Island Sea Grant Fact Sheet.

WINTER IN VERMONT

 

WINTER IN VERMONT

Snowshoes on the porch,
Dripping eaves and icicles–
Snowtime in Vermont.

Freezing feet and hands,
Backaches from the shoveling,
Cold time in Vermont.

Three a.m. snowplows that wake up the doggies
And cause them to bark until dawn,
Roof rakes  the break in the twenty-inch blizzard
While gutters snap off in the endless

Sticky falling snow,
Gravel, salt and frozen pipes.
Winter in Vermont.

Oh, to hell with
Winter in Vermont.