Tuesday, July 28, 2015

#175: Three Poems by Diane Kirsten Martin

A Study in Chiaroscuro

Sometimes what feels good is the most dangerous.
Remember uncle sun staring down your d├ęcolletage.
Think the daintiest little bright mushrooms.
Whose fault is it if you won’t listen, if you
indulge too easily the heart’s clamor?

Inside a small screen, brown Bakelite exterior,
a cathode ray soul screams at each scuffle
closer to the goal line. Beyond, schoolmates
in penny loafers and knee socks shuffle down leafy
sidewalks, pressing loose leaf binders to the chest.

From the pellucid moment of this autumn morning,
you still can’t change the channel. You want to turn
blind eyes to that escapade. And to the airport angel
with her well-worn harp—could you afford to give
her absolution, say, an E-for-effort blessing?

If there were a God, do you think He would be
the red-shouldered hawk sheltering the fledgling,
or the fierce raptor seizing the gopher, greedy and slow,
clambering to its burrow? Shouldn’t the gopher be
warned by the shadow of the wings overhead?


Monday, July 20, 2015

#174: "Tourist's Attraction" by Jessica Garratt

~This poem was originally published in Western Humanities Review (2012).

Tourist’s Attraction

“‘But what is it all about? People loose and at the same time caught. Caught and loose. All these people and you don’t know what joins them up.’”
                              –Frankie, from Carson McCullers’s The Member of the Wedding

Living by myself in this house
which others have called home and then
not called home, each for their own
good reasons, reminds me to wonder
if what I have is a tourist’s
attraction to love. I’m reminded
how hard a tourist falls
when she feels herself set a little apart,
when she feels that old ache
in the eye, to see clear through
the signage that drew her
in the first place. To see through
is her mania – to see down
to the sacred bones of a sacred site
and through the bones
of the others who traveled there
(even those who traveled with her)
and clutter the air with their bright
t-shirts, their voices flashing
with a present tense
so annoyingly unshadowed
it won’t survive the glib back-glance
of Tuesday. Can you blame her
for wanting to dig down
to a bedrock Now? But I do. I
blame her. Looking through
has something of a look away
in its heart. An old desire of the young
to strip things down – dear
things, some – to an essence, bared like teeth
of the no longer living.
I’m thinking
of Machu Picchu there, if you want
to know.  The skulls, the sacrificed
virgins’ bones, the unmoved sacred stones…
It’s on my mind because this morning I stood
out on the porch of this house in Georgia
where I’m living temporarily, and where
Carson McCullers (now dead) once lived
as a child, less (but still) temporarily,
and I set up a card table – a pretty good copy
of the card table my grandmother put out in the den
for Gin Rummy with my sister and I
when we were kids – and I sat there
on the porch with the deck of cards
I bought earlier this summer in Peru
for Rummy with my sister
on trains and in the airport,
but today (and all week) I’ve played Solitaire
in Georgia’s late-summer, late-morning
heat, and on each card I slapped down,
a new dull snapshot shone
of Machu Picchu, blue sky
an ageless tapestry behind it. White spackle
of clouds. In a few, tourists
who must each, in that moment,
have felt the unyielding ground
supporting their feet, the reliable arch
of the view as it poured in like concrete
to meet the clarity of their eyes,
and not known another perspective
made them small, then guarded
by a two of spades, a jack of clubs, a diamond,
some hearts. It’s September now and still
nothing’s lined up, not once,
on the Solitaire front, so I go on
with the contented mania
of a slot machinist, more at home
with disequilibrium anyway.

Monday, July 13, 2015

#173: "The Boyfriend" by Sheri Joseph

~This story was originally published in The Kenyon Review (2003).
The Boyfriend
The cockatoo came in wheezing.  Its owner, a tall young woman with tired eyes, scooped the bird from a plastic cat carrier and placed it on the table before the vet.  “He doesn’t act right,” she said.  “Since yesterday.  Won’t eat or anything.”
              The vet, Dr. Wendy Howard, slim, freckled, and boyish, set her hands on her hips.  “Not feeling too good, huh?” she said to the bird, in the expressively sympathetic voice most people reserved for mopey children.   
            Cassandra, the technician, waited at Wendy’s left shoulder like a pink-smocked soldier at ease, ready in case she were needed.  Though trained in numerous technical tasks befitting her title, her primary job, as it turned out, was to restrain the animals for the vet’s examination.  This one, an umbrella cockatoo—a common variety the size of a small chicken—appeared too lethargic to need restraint.  Otherwise she would have stepped to the table without being beckoned and taken hold, one thumb notched into the crevice beneath the cockatoo’s nutcracker beak and the other hand pinning the wings, leaving the sternum untouched so as not to interfere with breathing.  In a year of handling exotics, she had learned to accomplish restraint so that Wendy almost never had to speak a word of instruction, whatever manner of bird, mammal, or reptile awaited her on the table.    
            She watched now as Wendy slid the towel from the bottom of the bird’s carrier and frowned at the droppings.  The owner yawned, pressing at the sockets of her eyes, where the skin was deeply tanned and printed with the remains of yesterday’s mascara.  She was maybe thirty, attractive, though she had the sordid, much-handled look of a child’s favorite Barbie.  Her ponytail, long and striped with peroxide, looked less like a hairstyle than a convenient handle for dragging her around.  Cassandra imagined she must have survived something, escaped and settled into a solitary life with this pet. 
            “His name’s Oscar,” the owner added, while Wendy set her fingertips along both sides of the bird’s jaw, as if to critically admire a beauty.  The bird shifted its gray feet on the table and settled back to torpor.  Its eyes, like the woman’s, opened only by half. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

#172: Two Poems by Bobbi Lurie


~This poem was previously published in Nimrod (2002).


This afternoon I went to the jar, sank my finger in the honey. 
No one saw me so I let the sweetness linger on my tongue. 

At night I paint black around my eyes.
I wash it off at morning.

When everyones asleep, I draw on scraps of paper 
Ive collected, the backs of labels, edges torn from newspapers.
This is my secret.

Coming back from the highway with my brothers,
I dropped my spade, went to lean against the shed,
Heard Fathers voice coming from within.
He was laughing with Abdullah who says hell buy me

For three bags of wheat
When Fathers done with me.
When he does Ill slash my body with petrol, 
Strike the match like Laida did.

I watched those two fools empty a giant vat of honey
Into another vat, saw them pull out long tubes 
They scraped with their hands, licked with their tongues. 
Beneath the amber honey, I saw guns.

Father caught me looking, jumped off his chair, 
His hands were claws dripping towards me, 
Shoving me hard against the wall, grabbing me there. 
Whore!! he screamed then spit on me.
I couldnt move. I couldnt speak. 
I covered my face.

Back in the tent 
Mother was making lentils, 
Hunched over the fire.

I pulled the spoon from her hand, stirred the pot 
As if I were her daughter.


Today, walking with my brothers, I saw Bashir.
He was leaning against a wall, one leg missing.
I knew, still a shock went through me 
Seeing the dirty rags tied around his stump, the blood dried,
What looked like pus. 
And how he stood as if he had a leg.
Strange how we never speak 
But I walk through him with my eyes, 
Enter his hidden rooms. 
He was speaking with Khangal about the enemy
But his soft eyes were blazing holes in me,
Forcing me to see the sky and trees with deeper color.
Khangal saw me looking, threw his spade hard against my leg,
The pain was so intense. I bled and bled,
Putting pressure on the wound with just my hand,
My burkha drenched in blood,
He pulled me up by my hair.

I burned in the part of me which was not hurt.


Tonight Father had guests. I heard them say 
They liked the bread.
I baked it 
While Mother took a nap. 
She did not say
I baked it. She turned her back to me.


I feel sickness inside me all the time.
I enter the back rooms with my father, 
Creep out like a rat trapped in its maze,
Seek escape in the next cage where Mother stands
Brewing the food, keeping us snared in this affliction called life.

And I think of our martyrs dying for freedom. 
I would like to die for freedom.

But I am a woman
And I do not believe in the paradise Father speaks about
While he beats me with his stick.


But everyday I keep collecting my scraps of paper.
And when everyones asleep, 
I draw Bashir, his stump, my father with his guns,
My mother hunched over the fire, stirring lentils.
I draw them all out of me.
I open myself to the darkness.
I wait for night to speak.