Category Archives: Uncategorized

I Loved the Black Cat

I’m not one who likes to complain about the rain, but when my raincoats don’t dry over night (yes, raincoats) and it’s cold and dark, I can’t help but wish for fairer skies. And sometimes when people let us down our beloved animals sustain us. Note the quote I included and I hope you enjoy the poem.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”               Louisa May Alcott 

I Loved the Black Cat                                                                      Deborah Slicer

Who stayed in the woodshed with me

During sudden summer thunderstorms late at night.

 

I miss the man who stayed in our house

Afraid, but I think I did not love him

 

So much as I loved that cat.

Darkness came undone at seams of lightning.

Black cat sat. Still.

 

You know how wind leaps on top a bull pine’s back, rides it nearly to the

ground?

 

Well, cat just flared his leather nose a little,

Paws Buddha-tucked.

Watched on.

 

When thunder cracked its thirty knuckles, helved its three free fists, when

rain spat sideways at us—

 

Cat snuffed—Pfuss—

So what?

 

Some storms were so sudden and spectacularly

Terrible, I’d run half-dressed to the woodshed from our house,

 

Where I’d find my black cat

staring down my terrible,

When the man inside the house could not.

 

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Little Red

Does the prettification of our oldest stories ever frustrate you? This is not an example of that, this Little Red is making her own choices. That is not to say being awake and fully conscious makes life easy.

Little Red                                                 Terry Blackhawk

Imagine her not hooded or coy.

No inadvertent blush

to stamp her victim forever.

But let us take her

as she was in the story

having chosen the path of needles

over the path of pins.

Not a child, no father ahead

or mother behind

to frame her journey with admonition

or reward. None of this

prettification, simpering

rose petal baskets or little feet,

but a child-woman on the verge

of learning her own utility,

how to resist, be strong.

Needles, not pins.

Wit will be her weapon,

and flesh—so when she lies

naked next to the wolf, even there

bawdiness will save her

and she will tell him

she needs to dump a load.

How can he argue with the body’s truth?

What to do but wait and say go?

Imagine the darkness, the orchard

outside Grandmother’s cabin

fruit trees clouding above her

as she slips free of his bonds,

escapes into the apple-cool night,

and leaves him lying there, slathering,

stupid and confused, pulling

the rope he tied her to finding it limp

in his hands.

Swear Words

I’ve been wanting to resort to swear words all week. Here are two good poems to help you deal with whatever is frustrating and they are great as mood setters for any upcoming time with family.

Swear Words                                          Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Even now I laugh when I see the look on my mother’s face
when I swear in Tagalog. I have no idea what these phrases
really mean, but they’ve been spattered on me since I was still
a fat, bawling baby—and scattered onto my head when I’ve toppled

juice glasses on white carpet or come home past curfew.
Sometimes even the length of my skirt or driving her through
a red light produces ones with a bit of a gasp, a wet sigh
of disapproval. Now I catch myself saying them out loud

when I knock my knee against the coffee table,
slice a bit of my knuckle with paper. When I asked her,
she told me one phrase meant ‘God,’ so of course I feel guilty.
Another is ‘crazy female lost piglet,’ which doesn’t even

make sense when I think of the times I’ve heard her use that,
and still others, she claims, are untranslatable. But the one
I love best is Diablo—devil—pronounced: Jah-blew! She uses it
as if to tell me, “I give up! You do what you want but don’t

come running to me,” after I tell her I bounced a check
or messed up a romance with a boy she finally approved of.
Diablo! Diablo! Here comes a little red devil, tiny pitchfork
in hand, running past the terra-cotta flower pots

in my mother’s sun room Diablo! Diablo! And still another from behind
the kitchen curtains, a bit damp from the day’s splashes of the sink.
Today when they meet, they dance a silly jig on the countertop, knock
over the canister of flour, leave little footprints all over the place.

Hell Pig                                       Aimee Nezhukumatathil

 

To keep me from staying out late at night,

my mother warned of the Hell Pig. Black and full

 

of hot drool, eyes the color of a lung—it’d follow me

home if I stayed past my curfew. How to tell my friends

 

to press Pause in the middle of a video, say their good-byes

while I shuffled up the stairs and into my father’s waiting

 

blue car? How to explain this to my dates, whisper

why we could not finish this dance? It’s not like the pig

 

had any special powers or could take a tiny bite

from my leg—only assurances that it was simply

 

scandal to be followed home. When my date and I

pull into my driveway and dim the lights, we take

 

care to make all the small noises that get made

in times like these even smaller: squeaks in the seats,

 

a slow spin of the radio dial, the silver click of my belt.

Too late. A single black hair flickers awake the ear

 

of the dark animal waiting for me at the end of the walk.

My fumbling of keys and various straps a wild dance

 

to the door—the pig grunting in tune to each hurried step, each

of his wet breaths puffing into tiny clouds, a small storm brewing.

 

Writing Prompts:

Do you have a favorite swear word(s)? Are there swear words particular to your family?

Write about someone trying to hide scandalous behavior from someone else.

Write about curfews a person, a town, or region that has a curfew.

Write about something that lurks in the shadow. If you like anthropomorphize it.

Write about someone who would dance if you got into trouble.

Write about preparing to spend time with family.

Waiting to be Rescued

It’s hurricane season, something taken very seriously in the south and elsewhere. This poem and the quote offered don’t resolve the many problems that arise when your world is changed irrevocably, but words can be a comfort when your thoughts and feelings are linked to another fellow being. Be safe and brave out there. May you receive the help you need.

“Nature repairs her ravages – but not all. The uptorn trees are not rooted again; the parted hills are left scarred: if there is a new growth, the trees are not the same as the old, and the hills underneath their green vesture bear the marks of the past rending. To the eyes that have dwelt on the past, there is no thorough repair.”       George Eliot

 

Waiting to be Rescued                                                                     Maxine Kumin

 

There are two kinds of looting,

the police chief explained.

When they break into convenience stores

for milk, juice, sanitary products,

we look the other way.

 

When they hijack liquor, guns,

ammunition, we have to go in

and get them even though

we’ve got no place to put them.

 

Hoard what you’ve got,

huddle in the shade by day,

pull anything that’s loose

over you at night, and wait

to be plucked by helicopter,

 

saved by pleasure craft,

coast guard skiff,

air mattress, kiddie pool,

upside down cardboard box

that once held grapefruit juice

 

or toilet paper, and remember

what Neruda said: poetry

should be useful and usable

like metal and cereal.

Five days without shelter,

take whatever’s useful.

Why We Must Struggle

Do we really know why bad things happen or why life is sometimes difficult? I surely don’t and I always look for things to ease up. Often it is my attitude or perspective that needs the greatest adjustment.

Why We Must Struggle                Kay Ryan

If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longest or name
what change costs us,
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble,
how loss activates
a latent double, how
we can feed
as upon nectar
upon need?

The Arrival of the Bee Box

Can we celebrate Sylvia Plath’s short legacy enough? How many of us started reading her in high school and have never forgotten her brave life?  She and her husband did order bees and make other moves toward self sufficiency before he left her and before she died. In this poem you may find the scope of her pain and some hope for a future. I include a quote as well from The Bell Jar which came out shortly before her death.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the inrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people, I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”                                             Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

The Arrival of the Bee Box                                                  Sylvia Plath

I ordered this, clean wood box

Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.

I would say it was the coffin of a midget

Or a square baby

Were there not such a din in it.

 

The box is locked, it is dangerous.

I have to live with it overnight

And I can’t keep away from it.

There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.

There is only a little grid, no exit.

 

I put my eye to the grid.

It is dark, dark,

With the swarmy feeling of African hands

Minute and shrunk for export,

Black on black, angrily clambering.

 

How can I let them out?

It is the noise that appalls me most of all,

The unintelligible syllables.

It is like a Roman mob,

Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

 

I lay my ear to furious Latin.

I am not a Caesar.

I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.

They can be sent back.

They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

 

I wonder how hungry they are.

I wonder if they would forget me

If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.

There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,

And the petticoats of the cherry.

 

They might ignore me immediately

In my moon suit and funeral veil.

I am no source of honey

So why should they turn on me?

Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

 

The box is only temporary.

 

*Laburnum is an European tree with poisonous seed pods.

Muck-Clump

Maturity, belonging and being needed and useful are themes in this poem. Who is the underdog and who is the over dog in your relationships? So much can happen in a few minutes over breakfast. The poem is funny as well.

Muck-Clump                                                                         Mark Halliday

 

My wife was being too busy around the kitchen one morning

I think to give herself the sense of being on top of things

and when I poured a bowl of Shredded Wheat Spoonfuls for Devon

my wife bustled over and said “Oh Devon likes to have more cereal

than that”

so she poured more Spoonfuls on top of the considerable number I

had poured.

This griped me because now it was as if I hadn’t really given Devon

her breakfast

because it might as well have been my wife who did it all

which would imply that I wasn’t really making a contribution,

as if I were just a log of driftwood on the sand of time

while everyone else built the boats and caught the fish

and made the whole human drama fare forward against the void.

 

So I watched Devon pour a lot of milk on her Shredded Spoonfuls

and I figured she would hardly eat half of them

and when she went out to the school bus there would be

this awful soggy mass of decomposing cereal left behind

which would resemble the way I sometimes see myself

so I figured then I could show the bowl to my wife

and I’d say ”Do you think Devon got enough cereal?”

and the moment of sarcasm would be exquisite.

While Devon ate Spoonfuls I tied her shoes—I did accomplish that—

and I imagined how I would say with measured irony

that would sting slightly but also come across as witty—

Do you think Devon got enough cereal?”—I would say it

and then more vigorously dump the sodden milky muck-clump into the trash.

It would be a moment in which I would be quite noticeably

on top of things… Then the bus came

and Devon hoisted her backpack and hurried outside, calling Goodbye,

 

and I saw with astonishment that her cereal bowl was empty.

How was I going to deal with this? It wouldn’t be fair

to be angry at Devon for her unreasonable appetite; but

I could possibly complain about my wife’s failure to provide

a more balanced breakfast for our daughter—but I sensed

that his challenge would backfire because my wife is the one

who really does think about nutrition and besides there were, actually

some strawberries on Devon’s placemat.

So I decided to rise above the entire episode, to be large minded,

to wash a few dishes nonchalantly and read the newspaper

and make an insightful remark about something in the news.

Awareness of the larger world, after all, is

a central part of being mature, which is

something I want to believe I am—

when you see some old chunk of driftwood on the beach

you might say “That looks so calm, so peaceful”

or you might say “That is so dry and dead”

but you don’t say “That is really mature.”

 

“Birthing” and “The Menstrual Lodge”

There are two poems today. Spring is here bringing the annual seasonal time of new birth. The power of birth is undeniable and available to all of us in its many faces. The first poem celebrates the poetic possibilities of fresh emergence while the second poem is much darker.

Birthing                                                                                              Mary Tallmountain

On the dark side I slip

 

like silk through night and chaos

wind splinters my hair

peacocks stalking

wild and sensuous as jewels

I see earth through their eyes

past bursting patterns

milestones

flashing at utmost speed

 

O I hear the light

 

The Menstrual Lodge                                                                       Ursula K. Le Guin

Accepting the heavy destiny of power,
I went to the small house when the time came.
I ate no meat, looked no one in the eye,
and scratched my fleabites with a stick:
to touch myself would close the circle
that must be open so a man can enter.
After five days I came home,
having washed myself and all I touched and wore
in Bear Creek, washed away the sign,
the color, and the smell of power.

It was no use. Nothing,
no ritual or servitude or shame,
unmade my power, or your fear.

You waited in the thickets in the winter rain
as I went alone from the small house.
You beat my head and face and raped me
and went to boast. When my womb swelled,
your friends made a small circle with you:
We all fucked that one.
Who knows who’s the father?

By Bear Creek I gave birth, in Bear Creek
I drowned it. Who knows who’s the mother?
Its father was your fear of me.

I am the dirt beneath your feet.
What are you frightened of? Go fight your wars,
be great in club and lodge and politics.
When you find out what power is, come back.

I am the dirt, and the raincloud, and the rain.
The walls of my house are the steps I walk
from the day of birth around the work I work,
from giving birth to day of death.
The roof of my house is thunder,
the doorway is the wind.
I keep this house, this great house.

When will you come in?

 

Going Home: New Orleans

If you can feel the heat and humidity you can begin to slow down. Add street performers, music, cajun food, chicory flavored coffee, beignets and powdered sugar. Slow your speech and ambitions. Think about seeing some fantastic art. Walk the streets and feel this poem come to life.

Going Home: New Orleans                                                                Sheryl St. Germain

for my grandmother, Theresa Frank

 

Some slow evenings when the light hangs late and stubborn in the sky,

gives itself up to darkness slowly and deliberately, slow cloud after slow cloud,

slowness enters me like something familiar,

and it feels like going home.

 

It’s all there in the disappearing light:

all the evenings of slow sky and slow loving, slow boats on sluggish bayous;

the thick-middled trees with the slow-sounding names—oak, mimosa, pecan, magnolia;

the slow tree sap that sticks in your hair when you lie with the trees;

and the maple syrup and pancakes and grits, the butter melting

slowly into and down the sides like sweat between breasts of sloe-eyed strippers;

and the slow-throated blues that floats over the city like fog;

and the weeping, the willows, the cut onions, the cayenne, the slow-cooking beans with marrow-thick gravy;

and all the mint juleps drunk so slowly on all the slow southern porches,

the bourbon and sugar and mint going down warm and brown, syrup and slow;

and all the ice cubes melting in all the iced teas,

all the slow-faced people sitting in all the slowly rocking rockers;

and the crabs and the shrimp and crawfish, the hard shells

slowly and deliberately and lovingly removed, the delicate flesh

slowly sucked out of heads and legs and tails;

and the slow lips that eat and drink and love and speak

that slow luxurious language, savoring each word like a long-missed lover;

and the slow-moving nuns, the black habits dragging the swollen ground;

and the slow river that cradles it all, and the chicory coffee

that cuts through it all, slow-boiled and black as dirt;

and the slow dreams and the slow-healing wounds and the slow smoke of it all

slipping out, ballooning into the sky—slow, deliberate, and magnificent.

Prayer

Here are two poems by Ginger Andrews. Andrews is a born again Christian who owns a cleaning business and works with and lives near extended family members. There is often a bit of humor in her pieces as well as an acknowledgement of the grace imbedded in everyday life.

 

Prayer                                                             Ginger Andrews

God bless the chick in Alaska
who took in my sister’s ex,
an abusive alcoholic hunk.
Bless all borderline brainless ex-cheerleaders
with long blonde hair, boobs,
and waists no bigger around than a coke bottle
who’ve broken up somebody else’s home.
Forgive my thrill
should they put on seventy-five pounds,
develop stretch marks, spider veins,
and suffer through endless days of deep depression.

Bless those who remarry on the rebound.
Bless me and all my sisters;
the ball and chain baggage we carried into our second marriages.
Bless my broken brother and his live-in.
Grant him SSI. Consider
how the deeper the wounds in my family,
the funnier we’ve become.
Bless those who’ve learned to laugh at what’s longed for.
Keep us from becoming hilarious.
Bless our children.
Bless all our ex’s,
and bless the fat chick in Alaska.

 

Down on my knees                                        Ginger Andrews

Down on my knees
cleaning out my refrigerator
and thinking about writing a religious poem
that somehow combines feeling sorry for myself
with ordinary praise, when my nephew stumbles in for coffee
to wash down what looks like a hangover
and get rid of what he calls hot dog water breath.
I wasn’t going to bake the cake

now cooling on the counter, but I found a dozen eggs tipped
sideways in their carton behind a leftover Thanksgiving Jell-O dish.
There’s something therapeutic about baking a devil’s food cake,
whipping up that buttercream frosting,
knowing your sisters will drop by and say Lord yes
they’d love just a little piece.

Everybody suffers, wants to run away,
is broke after Christmas, stayed up too late
to make it to church Sunday morning. Everybody should

drink coffee with their nephews,
eat chocolate cake with their sisters, be thankful
and happy enough under a warm and unexpected January sun.