Monthly Archives: July 2011

De Motu Cordis

UM HSL: Anatomy Exhibit

As you can see, here are two hearts. Note
that each heart in its native state
is solid, self-interested; a singular muscle

dense and active, with an innate knowledge
of rhythm’s importance, what it is

that repeats and circles in the body
or mind, spirit, soul, life. It is a muscle
whose purpose and action is to declare

how life itself depends on
bearing in memory the echo

of the moment before. Systolic, diastolic.
The drawing together, the drawing
apart. The beat and shadow beat.

But there is no shadow
heart — simply the real heart,

muscled and quartered as the earth
is quartered; the heart divided
and beating itself; each pulse

driving blood into the roots
and branches of the tree of life. In this way,

the heart comes to signify life,
just as a circle contains and defines
the concept which it represents.

Ah, but the heart is no Venn diagram. Observe
as these hearts move together and begin to overlap.

Where the hearts touch, they open
and clear. Light enters
at that intersection — diffusing,

flooding through the rest of the flesh
until the whole of each heart has become

translucent, glowing like a child’s hand
cupped over a flashlight. You see this
in both hearts joining at that new ventricle.

Now, as they beat, blood and light
move between the two freely

and they can no longer
be separated
safely.

—–

This poem was originally written decades ago. I remember dedicating it to a friend for his wedding, and I haven’t talked to them in at least 15 years. I think of this as my Boolean logic poem.

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Way to Cajun Country

i.
My mom played Cajun music at home, especially her Uncle PeeWee’s album. Grandma Flo complained PeeWee couldn’t carry a tune in a bushelbasket, so how did he end up being the one with a band? We mostly played the tunes when Grandma wasn’t visiting. I learned Cajun dances, picked up a few curious Cajun phrases (not from Grandma, but from her husband, the only person allowed to tease her in Cajun), but I never went to Cajun country, even when the family visited Louisiana while I was in college.

ii.
When I was a kid, Grandma Flo used to say, “Only the dirty people speak French!” I grew up in a college town where folk who spoke French were the local aristocracy, so this baffled me. It did explain why my mom practiced flashcard French in the kitchen with my Dad, and why flashcard French was used to keep secrets from us kids. That’s when I decided to learn French.

iii.
I didn’t just learn French. I immersed myself, kept my diary in French, wrote sonnets, dreamed in French, even sometimes forgot how to say things in English. But it was the wrong French, which upset my grandmother as much as that I was learning French, despite her. She spit out rapidfire obscure phrases to show me how little French I knew. I later found out these were quotes from the Old Testament. Shortly before her death in the mid-80s, she forgave me — an unexpected package showed up one day with a fat black-bound book, La Bible.

iv.
For my daughter’s high school graduation, my mom, sister and I took her on a trip to New Orleans. We had the time of our lives — places, color, food. Mom glowed. I’ve never seen her happier, showing us her favorite places, teaching us how to pronounce pralines.
During the obligatory beignet breakfast at Café du Monde, my mom wasn’t making sense. She wouldn’t leave without beignets, but we skipped the third helping to get her in a cab and over to Tulane, where I spent the day in the hospital, holding her hand and stroking her arm, because she could neither speak nor understand what was said. Mini-stroke.

A few hours later, she seemed fine, and the vacation continued, but scans showed this probably wasn’t the first or last of the mini-strokes.

It was the last trip with my Mom. But my son graduates from high school next year.…

CREDITS

“The Pee Wee Special.” PeeWee Broussard. The Acadian Two Step. 1952.
“Eagan’s Jukebox.” Max Avery Lichtenstein. Far From Heaven. 2002.

Lost

Montebello: Bird Beak

A fractured honeybee, the dragonfly,
no, a bird with wings like jewels shimmering
like sparklers, no, like oil lightly coating,
the iridescence nothing like fireworks,
the slow shift of color blurred by the speed
of wings, hyped up on red sugar, a blaze
of heat carmelizing, half flicker, half
slow-fast-fast, slow-fast-fast … hot and cold both,
now I’m craving the caramel but press for
limes (the spurt, sparkle, sizzle), bright shadow,
green and purple, dark-skinned, like the ripe plum
with three stickers on it (as if I don’t
know a plum when I see one, I scent one,
taste one, except that new cross-bred pluots
have confused that matter and genetic
modification means you never know),
no one does, really, like now, when it’s me,
when I don’t know, because I can’t
recall, my brain so befuddled and blurred
I can’t tell you what I’m thinking about
except there was once a bird, once outside
my living room window, in the tree’s shade,
but I never saw it, only my son
saw it, fast as meteors, something else
I’ve never seen, while everyone around
exclaims about streaks of light and color,
speed, bright, white, and I spin and spin around,
“Where? What? Where? What?” over and over and …