IT’S MARCH IN VERMONT

The Muse must be in Miami,
drinking sweet tough  coffee in a Cuban café,
laughing when a rat scurries across the  sidewalk,
listening to the brown-legged mothers scold.

She must be spending afternoons walking
where the água meets the blanca,
watching one porpoise cruising,
one small airplane dragging its ad,
one plump woman airing her tits in the sun.

Evenings she goes to the Italian Restaurant
where three waiters in tight black pants
attend to her.
They offer soft ripe cheeses and red wine,
lightly brush her shoulder when they pass,
tell her the tiramisu was made just for her.
When they bring the bill, they touch
her sunburned hand, sigh when she rises to go.
They promise her
they’ll count the moments till she comes again.

ELLEN LAFORGE/GROLIER POETRY PRIZE RUNNER UP, 2007

 

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QUESTIONS CONCERNING BALLGOWNS SEEN IN A NEW YORK DEPARTMENT STORE

Why would a grown woman dress like the Black Knight
in armor and a feathered helm,
squeaking, clomping through a ballroom
as if it were a battlefield?
Or why a black-scaled mermaid–
fishbody and no feet?
How can a mermaid dance?
Slithering, flopping across the deck,
ungracefully hauling along.

Encumbrance, is that what we want?
We have enough, it would seem,
what with dishes and calendars,
lovers and babies and all.

Burkas and veils,  feet broken and bound,
all this stuff of oppression we deplore, and yet
we let them dress us–to dance!–
in mummy wrappings
as if we were dead,
or metallic foil
like salmon
ready for the grill–
Is that what we are?

Our lives are so tight,
squeezed between certainty
and what we think we shall be.
Too many dirty sidewalks, hall carpets,
too many dirty kitchen floors
to tread our ordinary days.

Let us dance, at least, in long scarves,
Isadora-style,
soft hangings of silk and foam,
or in our skins alone.
Let us be loosed, if only in fantasy–
no bones or stays–
our bare feet free
to tripple along the world’s moonlit,
flowerstrewn unpaved floors.

 

(Written in 2001, after a trip to the City.)

 

PRAYER FOR MICE

 

 

Their little bones litter the world;
their flesh fills the bellies of foxes and owls.
They are Nature’s Fast Food.
My cats eat them on the cellar steps.
My dog digs their nests from the tall grass.
They are a pestilence:  they leave
droppings in the drawers,
seeds hidden in the mitten basket,
shredded insulation in the basement,
their musky stench wherever they go.
We lie awake and hear them scrabbling in the dark.

Killing these people is hard.
They have hands like my own in miniature,
so fragile a baby could pinch one away.
Their eyes, shining up from the depths of a birdseed bag
plead But we were hungry, and you have so much.
They speak to one another between the walls
so high that we cannot hear.
They make their livings from the leavings of our lives.

I am setting another trap tonight.
O please let there be a Master Mouse,
a gargantuan Platonic Mouse scampering through the ether,
a joyful and Forgiving Mouse,
its emanations sprouting up like mushrooms from mycelium,
so numerous they don’t mind their little deaths.
In the presence of such a Mouse I too shall scamper,
squeak out my delight in the general delicacy of things.

 

RAPTURE OF THE DEEP

A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned,
but we do be afraid of the sea,
and we do only be drowned now and again.
~John M. Synge

I, on the other hand,
am afraid of the sky.
It’s so far away, so full
of things I can’t comprehend:
storm clouds, stars, swift
falcons with pointed wings.
And it is possible to drown
up there, lungs filled
with cold unbreathable air.

L’ivresse des grandes profondeurs
Cousteau called the one,
the deadly calm,
ecstasy of danger.
But I fear the other above all things:
Rapture of the Height–
giddiness of falling,
arms spread wide,  the freedom
of a long descent to bedrock,
the aboriginal clay.

 

EQUINOX

Blow out the candle and see
the darkness decrease:
red berries on the yew
outside the window, growing
as the sun rises,
the yellow grape vine
framing the frosted flowers,
gray dogwood crimson, white and green.

Blow out the candle
and the darkness decreases:
what you don’t know,
the smallness of your self,
the wideness of the world,
all the colors of this morning,
the brilliant point
of the morning star,
the lamps in other windows.
Outside your tiny circle
the darkness decreases.
Step outside: so many now,
standing on our doorsteps,
waiting for sunrise, waiting.

(An autumn poem, but given the world right now, here it is.)

 

It was published in Passager, 2006

Page 57, Line 5: SEASON FLESH SIDE OF FISH WITH SALT AND PEPPER

Here’s a found poem I put together from a recent Facebook thing.  People grabbed the nearest book (no cheating), turned to page 57, line 5, and posted it as their status.

 

Their proposal is based on on a radical
redefinition of the four food groups as
fruits, grains, vegetables, and
legumes, consisting of beans,
peanut butter, and soybeans.
Forsooth, our customers could now eat
in safety.   Infirmity doth still
neglect all office whereto our health is bound.

The “fruit” of the labor
of honeybees is produced inside
a remarkable structure that is the product
of perfect social cooperation.
That night they spent hours at a time
out on the dance floor,
Raul lifting out of the languor of his ways,
eyebrows raised high, a cigarette
dangling from his mouth, and Lydia
shaking her hips and laughing, her pretty
face jubilant, as she and Raul danced,
in love, basking in the remaining
glories of their youth.

We ate often at Basel’s, a favorite Greek restaurant,
and loved going to the movies at the Lincoln.
The next few hours passed in a whirl of activity:
I then hurried to my tree,
gathered up the hemlock boughs on my bed,
rushed back and threw them over the carcass.
I feel that I have a heart,
and that there is a great deal of good in me.

Paul was at Pop’s.
Thor’s boys, Lem and Stem,
were stupid, all right,
but Danny didn’t think they got
their stupidity from their drowther mother.
She blew out the match, and gazed at me
in a sort of wondering way.
And the heatwave kept coming.

But elements with 5 and 8 neutrons
and protons are extremely unstable
and hence cannot act as a “bridge”
to create elements that have a greater number
of protons and neutrons.  The statuette
was discovered during the final days
of the 1990 season at Ashkelon, within
a pottery vessel shaped like a miniature
religious shrine.  They must know
that this is not a mere pretext,
but a grievous affliction and so they will learn
that there is no evading the will of God.

 

LLAMAS

They spit, my mother said.
I was three and longed to see
that, so I spit first, and it spat.

He hums, my neighbor said,
so the day I found him loose
I shook a can of seed
to lure him home.
He followed, and he hummed.
Now he is dead.

My mother is dead, now,
and that llama at the zoo.
What is said sometimes comes true.