Reading Aloud

Thumbnails of a few of the images selected for the UM Library Talent Show 2014.

Thumbnails of a few of the images selected for the UM Library Talent Show 2014.

Our Library System had a talent show. I try, as much as I can, to be supportive of bonding activities at work. I interpreted this as such an event. My first thought was, let’s talk with Alex and do a martial arts demo (ie. Asian weapons). My second thought was, that would mean finding something vaguely familiar of both of us (working from different martial arts traditions), not to mention practice and time I don’t have. SOoooo, that’s out. What’s easy and fast? I have this poetry blog, you see, and I can read. OK, that’s what I’ll do.

What I did NOT know was that they were going to videotape the performances, with multiple cameras on booms, lights, music, the whole shebang. OH MY! Reading is easy. Reading for people I work with is different than reading for other poets, or my friends. Being camera ready is WAY different! So, caught by surprise, but here I am.

FYI notes. All the poems read in this video are on this blog. They are also all sonnets. In the performance, there was a series of photos projected on one of the screens behind me. All of the photos were selected to thematically connect to one of the poems to be read, and were my own photographs. You can find all of them here.

Patrica Anderson @ The Library Talent Circus

Poem for My Brother

The bad-boy bully
led the bunch of bikes
and gangbangers
bouncing over
bumps and bends,
gutters and ruts;
grinding the grass.

The bad-boy bully
led them bouncing
over the chubby baby,
over the baby’s belly
in the mud puddle
where he’d fallen,
where he lay wailing.

The bad-boy bully
led them laughing —
laughing! — with a sneer,
like the muddy babe
was dirt. Laughing,
wheeling wild, and
begging for broken.

The bastard bully.

Memories of Aunt Dixie’s Brownies

Billows of tan dust flow along the bottom edge
of the windows. I look out as if we are in
a submersible, as if it is uncertain,
as if we are churning over the top edges
of a cloudy sea. Barely rolling hills appear
to be just slow moving far away waves. The car
rolls from side to side as much as it moves forward
those times when the fat wheels find a groove or gulley
in the gravel. I’d learned to leave my body loose,
also rocking side to side, kind of letting go.

What does it mean, when what’s most vivid in visits
to Aunt Dixie and Uncle Ray’s farmhouse is the
getting there part, not the being there part? The car
slowed as we near the farmhouse, white, of course. Farmhouses
were all white in those days, with porches, front and back.
She’d come out to greet us, in her apron. We kids
would run around the yard, grownups in the kitchen,
gabbing and cooking. Back then, it just seemed friendly,
but now I wonder if visits were more often
after my granddad died? Or maybe not. Who knows?

Aunt Dixie’s smile quirked a bit to one side (the right),
her nose a bit narrow, curly hair as dark as
her brownies. I never noticed how much she looked
like my granddad (who was bald); how much my mother
looked like her. They all seemed unique, unchangeable.
That was 40-some years ago. My ideas
of what’s ‘unchangeable’ have changed somewhat. But not
the brownies — they haven’t changed much at all. I still
make the same recipe Aunt Dixie made, passed on
to my mother, passed on to me, then my daughter.

Memories of a Storm

Storm Clouds, 5/29 16:34 - d

Our minds an intricate web of trials,
cascades of triggers launching memories.

The shade of green that was an aching fog
is today the top of a parked sedan.

Lavender is for a tall, plain woman
I never actually met, but dreamed of.

Patchouli brings back the dorm dining hall,
standing in line for orange Jello, and milk.

Sautéed onions? My mother’s happy smile
the first time she served them as vegetables

for dinner, big scoops & mounds on our plates.
Tonight, a warning shot of lightning, bright,

and then rumbling; the winds knotted and fierce;
the sudden downpour drenching passersby,

arms braced before their eyes, tshirts plastered
against thin ribs as they curse, stagger, scream.

Flashback. A night with rain like this, drenching,
suffocatingly thick, and I can’t wait

to be out in it, like a dog off leash
darting. Standing under the roof’s downspout,

quickly sodden as if I was swimming
through air turned into water, water turned

into a perfect sweetness. I feel safe,
laying flat, grassheads bobbing overhead,

trees around the periphery, and skies
rippling with bright erratic threads twining

into one another, a golden net
tossed across a black sky, cutting through clouds

so sharply that when the sky clears, the stars
themselves remember being trapped, captured,

for the space of a breath, or even less,
and then the stars forget again, puzzled.

Memories of Plums

Japanese Paper: Plum Blossoms


Stamens whisker-long,
tender as velveted paws,


So many ripe, falling,
the ground slippery with stones,
the sweet scent of rot.


Leaves gnarled with bugbites,
rimmed at the edges with gold,
crisp cascade to earth.


The small old tree bent
black and grey against the snow.
Brittle, the twigs snapped.

Memories of Midnight

Faint, high-pitched mewling whimpers. And again.
Rattles, and rustling. In thin pajamas
and bare feet, I crouched by the bannister,

wondering: cat? crying? television?
Rumbling. A man’s voice. No man was downstairs,
just the babysitter, so it must be

the TV, right? I waited, chilled. Voices.
A door opened, and closed, and then silence.
I waited, listening even harder.

Memories of Fatigue

Pic of the day - Inexpressible Joy

I always made her tea. Earl Grey, but not
too hot. Dunked thirty-two times, but quickly,
counting one one-thousand, two one-thousand.

In the large Redwood mug (the outside brown
as tree bark, the inside robin’s-egg blue).
Two heaping spoons of sugar. With cold milk.

She was always so tired when she came home,
she went straight to bed, laying on her side
with a book, a cup of tea, and then napped.

I must have watched her sleep a thousand times.
Now I wonder if that is what my son
will remember about me, decades on.