Category Archives: Forms

Of Numbers, Names, and Weeping Things

Over and over and over again.
Cycles and circles, creatures and crawling.
The howling that haunts the space between throat
and skin (“let me in” / “let me out”), shouting
its name. Of course it has a name, because

all things have names. That’s what we do, humans,
ever since Adam. We name things. All things.
More and more things. Names that emerge, whispers,
climbing on bones of names that came before.
Names that slide slickly down the hunger tube

as if they can satisfy. Names so still
we don’t know they hold shivering inside.
Names roaring like wind in the ears of those
falling, too far and too fast to survive.
Names like little boxes to live inside

but can never redecorate. That’s what
poetry is for. Stripping the purple
from the crocus, plucking the gold. Swallow
the minuscule piece of poison that’s left.
It’s all dose dependent. It’s all context.

The winged things that called to me as a child,
singing on the sidewalk in front of home,
as if they were weeping, as if they were
so tired of weeping, as if grief lifted
their feathers, separating and spreading,

as if grief was joy and beauty and love
twisted in time. As if only nameless
beings could open the boxes, break them,
remake them. Do numbers need names to be
friends at ease with each other, to become

blue and yellow, pink and turquoise, to take
up space and shape and form and to delight
each other? They tip like balance, a scale,
float like bubbles or petals, quietly
amused. Numbers sing weightless in the air.

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Placeholder Sonnet

This is not a proper reply to your letter,
or the stunning revelation which followed next.
This is just a note to say, I am so impressed
with your fierceness over wings and rings. It’s better

to be angry than numb or afraid, I’m thinking.
That pigeon / swallow / sparrow / mourning dove sinking
into its nest hacked the system meant to control

its choice of loves. Oh, brava, brave bird, so clever
and creative. Who would think to take weapons hexed
against you, hide there from your enemies to vex
them? To preen and breed and feed, to tether pleasure

to that ironic consent thus implied, deny
the wound that was intended? This comforts, consoles,
and inspires such secondhand pride in their shy sigh.


Form is a modified (12 syllable line) Alternating Sonnet

Postscript 1

Stories seem as tall as the lake is deep,
say the news reports. They’re looking again
for Nessie, this time with genetic sweeps.
I recall wading in mud, silt. Back then,
as if warm waters held whispers of sweet,
of gentleness, tenderness — invisible
seaweed stroked my ankle, cool in the heat,
while silt filmed my foot, and (immiscible)
floated away on the currents, settled,
then rose over and over in journeys
expected, erratic, like one petal
falling after rain. Some stories (Nessie’s?)
grow with each telling, while others scatter,
dissolve, as if washed away, or shattered.

Of Midnight and Morning

Midnight blurred my welcome-home photo of the bosomy blooms —
nippled at the stem, freckled at the throat, and tongued with stamens.

Your midnight wanderings shade to my too-bright morning, the chill
breeze over my face, the dog curled on my belly. And so day

opens like the window, to Facebook, Twitter, your good wishes,
your new poem. A deck of cards was in one of the packages

which arrived during my travels — the sweet Jane Austen, sealed with
the Ace of Spades, and epigraphed with “You pierce my soul. I am

half agony, half hope … I have loved none but you.” Stupid quote.
It’s from Persuasion, her last novel, but so childish. We can

argue about it later. Or agree. Or whatever. Now
is now. It’s time. It’s time, and it’s been time, and it continues

to be time. Time stretches out opportunity like waking.
Yesterday, the loud-mouthed butch in the back of the bus

hollered, “I just want to get a hotel!” and then, “I think I’m
having second thoughts.” Her non-idea, so random, so sharp

and pointedly personal … well. The bus took notice. Today,
I swap footies with neon sunglasses for knee-highs of bold

red-faced spider-monkeys with bananas, and run for the bus.
Which I miss, of course. I wait with red poppies, blue irises,

thin-fingered pink honeysuckles. I wait with the words in which
you take delight. The words that melt in my mouth buzz against lips;

sputter, spark, and melt against the tongue — vapor, vellum, velvet,
vivid, voluptuous, vulva. The alphabet makes me swoon.

What Else Could I Say?

Sure, I think. Then, sure, I say, having known that “sure”
was what I would say from the moment I saw your

invitation with my name in it. I shivered

with the same kind of frisson I felt last weekend

when I stood on an open balcony, looked down
dizzily from the 18th floor. I did not know

that someone else was also looking down, also
shivering, but I stepped back then, sure of that edge
in that moment not belonging to me. And now,
I’m on terra firma, well, rather, on the bus,

reading what you have written with my name in it,

remembering when I hid your name in a poem,

years ago. No one found it. Now, disembarking
from the bus, I walk past a riot of flowers —

lilacs, phlox, azaleas — all shades of plump purples,

the yellow dandelions teething on my fingers.

My shadow stretches out long & lean by my door.
The plan for tonight is to unpack my bags; sort

all the mail that came while I was traveling —
piles and piles of it (9 packets, 9 magazines
only one of which I’d ordered, 12 envelopes,
and 38 streamers advertising Whole Foods);
and shower, because the travel is stuck to me

like bad dreams in the morning, because a quiet

moment can be a very good thing, and because

clean is a comfort, at times. The shower comes first,
before dinner, before sleep, but after hugging
the kid hello. I change into something simple —

a pair of sweats named “Rouge” but labelled “Love,”

a tshirt with a mermaid looking out to sea.

The Z Sonnets (A Cajun Crown)

Original version links:
Zest
Zing
Zipper
Zodiac
Zombie
Zydeco

Eh voilá, l’assemblage complète!

THE Z SONNETS (A CAJUN CROWN)

* Zest

The whole Cajun branch of the clan had spunk.
Zesty? “Yes, you better believe it, chère.”
(That’s what my grandma called me, in a funk,
when she wanted me to listen and care
about the old Cajun stories, but not
too much, because that was her job, not mine.)
She’d nod solemnly, pursed mouth, and then rock
back in the green and white lawnchair, sip wine,
shaded by our Iowa hackberry.
This was before indoor air, before shade
became redundant in summer, when we
carved our lives around weather, lemonade
and lime pie, water with a twist of rind,
storms that just twist, and old gals still sharp-eyed.

* Zing

Storms that just twist, and old gals still sharp-eyed,
but we’re going to twist away, blow their minds.
Let them pop! We’ll Lindy Hop side by side,
step and slide, glide and grind, until we find
the bang-a-rang zing-tone ringing out loud,
the glue that got Colinda in trouble
with mama, ‘cuz dancing tight’s not allowed.
No bad boys, bad girls? Just stick close, double
trouble, we’ll find a way. I’m shifting gears
from Blue Moon to Atomic Turquoise. Sway
with me, I say, whirl. Mama isn’t here
now. You know what she’d say. Dance anyway.
Whisper in my ear. I’ll whisper in yours.
So many ways for two to fit through doors.

* Zipper

So many ways for two to fit through doors,
but simplest is to hook arms together,
the way cotton bolls can stick to the bur,
the way zipper hooks catch on each other.
My grandma picked cotton. My mama, too,
summers, when she was little. My grandma
cooked for nuns; sewed zippers in cashmere wool,
blue satin, wine red jacquard, black broadcloth.
The broadcloth was for her, but the others
were for fancy folk. She saved up the scraps
to make dress-up clothes for my dolls, covers
and coats, wide brim hats and ballgowns with straps,
snaps, & ties instead of zippers. Make do,
do what needs doing. Those things she knew.

* Zodiac

Do what needs doing — those things she knew.
She knew not to talk when the stars were out.
To set the table, make salads, and do
the dishes, but nothing else. Never shout.
The alligator lay down with the goat,
and the goat cried. The pelican flies off
without hearing. Nuzzling, then spurned, the shoat
wanders into a trap. Cottonmouth scoffs
loudly, hisses with rage. Mosquitos whine,
the possum hides in a bucket buzzing
with flies. Swamp music and vines carve a sign,
a sky littered with critters, just busting
out full of danger and awe. The goat cried,
keeping quiet such a long time, dry-eyed.

* Zombie

Keeping quiet such a long time, dry-eyed
and wet-boned, gone all limp and loose and lost.
There’s the little cave they keep you in, tied
to bricks so you won’t float away, arms crossed
over your chest. Is that to hold your heart
in your body? Does it really matter?
Some day, you’ll get out — a black arts jump start
for all the bits and pieces in tatters,
or do you even need that? It feels like
the nightmares that surround you don’t let go,
and bad dreams alone could raise you lifelike,
guide you along an astral tether, so,
right back to where we began, in a park,
with a shimmy and a shiver in the dark.

* Zydeco

With a shimmy & a shiver in the dark,
let’s dance a two-step while the squeezebox curves
in the light, ripples with movement, with sparks
that bounce & sizzle. Sweaty dancers swerve,
missing other dancers, tent posts, and chairs.
This is music made out of leftovers —
hay rakes & spoons, washboards & croons, old cares
& new wounds, cut & cut down like covers
& quilts. Nonc Pee-Wee had a Cajun band,
but grandma grumped he sang more like a frog;
said, “Only dirty people speak French!,” and
lost her cool when grandpa muttered, “Coon dog,”
(except the word he actually used stunk).
The whole Cajun branch of the clan had spunk.

Zydeco Sonnet

With a shimmy & a shiver in the dark,
let’s dance a two-step while the squeezebox curves
in the light, ripples with movement, with sparks
that bounce & sizzle. Sweaty dancers swerve,
missing other dancers, tent posts, and chairs.
This is music made out of leftovers —
hay rakes & spoons, washboards & croons, old cares
& new wounds, cut & cut down like covers
& quilts. Nonc Pee-Wee had a Cajun band,
but grandma grumped he sang more like a frog;
said, “Only dirty people speak French!,” and
lost her cool when grandpa muttered, “Coon dog,”
(except the word he actually used stunk).
The whole Cajun branch of the clan had spunk.