bao: (nostalgia)
[personal profile] bao
Hornworm: Summer Reverie

Here in caterpillar country
I learned how to survive
by pretending to be a dragon.
See me put on that look
of slow and fierce surprise
when I lift my bulbous head
and glare at an intruder.
Nobody seems to guess
how gentle I really am,
content most of the time
simply to disappear
by melting into the scenery.
Smooth and fatty and long,
with seven white stripes
painted on either side
and a sharp little horn for a tail,
I lie stretched out on a leaf,
pale green on my bed of green,
munching, munching.

--Stanley Kunitz, from The Collected Poems.

Bathrooms

The condo I just bought has two. Some houses
had three. What to do with them all? Use one?
Turn the others into extra closets?
Reserve one for guests? There are none
I'd invite. I talk too much to too
many people all day. On conference
weekends I have to talk Sundays too,
and when I close my door, I want silence.

Back home we were seven. Our bathroom the only
room we could lock in a house without keys.
We'd sit, read, dream, alone, not lonely,
until testy banging disturbed our peace.
Then we'd sigh, flush, put down our text,
and turn our sanctuary over to the next.

--Elisabeth Kuhn, from Average C-Cup.

Sunday Morning, Late August

She's never sat at a steamy café near Pont Neuf
and fed a lover a perfect tarte tatin,
never slept naked in a rented room
on Place de la Madeleine, shutters open to the rain.
Already, a thousand times before this morning,
she's wished to be someplace else if only
a little further down the beach.

In this small town on the Cape, even clouds
drag away their important business.
Flimsy chairs face seaward, as if in wait
for something glorious, drastic.
An ocean away from Boulevard St. Germain,
the water shimmers like unspooled foil.
Some other life lies elsewhere:

hers, unclaimed.
But why, now, as her husband crosses the yard
and with customary gestures plucks—
oh, how banal—a common daisy,
does her blood, running its old familiar route,
deliver such bounty to her heart?

--Deborah Cummins, Beyond the Reach.

Ex-boyfriends in Heaven

Ex-boyfriends never go to hell,
no matter how many times
you suggest it. No, they ascend straight
to heaven, where they speak French,
wear matching socks, and always,
always arrive on time, with a full
tank of gas and a bottle of wine.
They never curse your cat
or your mother, never call you up
drunk doing Arnold Schwarzenegger
impressions, never say Hey Rita
if your name is Tammy,
never say Hey Tammy
if your name is Joan.
They're better trained than dogs
and they smell better, too, better
than Twinkies or camellias, better
than anything on earth. Once
in a while, they take a holiday,
drive their Porsches down
through the clouds
in one long line and ring
the doorbell in your dreams,
offering tender apologies, tender
chicken cutlets, tender love.
But before you take one sack
of groceries, before your lips
graze a clean-shaven jaw,
before you let one polished
Oxford loafer through your door,
remember that as soon as they cross
the threshold, the truth will slip
in behind them: ex-boyfriends only
exist this way in heaven, or
whatever you want to call it,
their new lives without you.

--Gwen Hart, Lost and Found.

After

The eaves sag on the house,
the dog grays,
its eyes film over,
there are lumps on its legs.
It doesn't get you up in the morning.

Even your daughter's love
for you, her Daddy, goes.
You die and she looks at her mother
for the first time.

You leave and your clothes
hang untouched for a year.
On a hanger, a suitcoat with a shirt under it,
a tie folded in at the neck.
Your wife leans against it, crying.

Now your son wears it,
feels comfortable, he says.
He's seen your bankbook, knows
how much money you left.

Your wife raises her face
to another man, wants more from him
than he can ever give.
There's no end to her yearning.
Touching, touching, that's all she wants.

--Lucille Broderson, from Beware.

Lucky

Off to the market to buy a lottery ticket,
I consider the possibilities of luck: good luck.
bad luck, beginner's luck, hard luck, the luck
of the draw, and I realize I am lucky, in fact,
to be here at all, on this benignly lit street
on a night in October, as luck would have it,
and I know that it's not just the luck of
the Irish, but any man's, to walk the streets
of his town, beneath the shapely moon,
and ponder the dumb luck that brought him here,
against all odds, into the vast lottery of minnow
and ovum, and to know he has once again lucked out,
this very night, spent as it has been without
accident or incident, a small testimonial
to the quietudes that are still possible,
the only half-felt wish for some grand stroke
of luck that will change everything, that will
change, really, nothing at all, our lives being,
in some sense, beyond the vicissitudes
of luck and yearning, the night being lovely,
the day finite, many of those we know whose luck
has already run out, and we not yet among them,
thank the beneficence of Lady Luck, our stars
just now flickering into flame
as the night lucks in.

--Michael Blumenthal, from Against Romance.

Newsphoto: Basra,
Collateral Damage


Our armies do not come into your cities and lands
as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.

—General F.S. Maude, commander of the British
                  colonial forces in Iraq, 1914

Apparently the little girl is dead.
In Basra, bombed to rubble by the Yanks,
her stricken father cradles her small head.

Her right foot dangles, ghastly, by a thread.
Cluster bombs & F-16s & tanks.
That is to say the little girl is dead

whose fingers curl (small hand brushed with blood)
as if to clutch his larger hand. He drinks
her—sobbing—in, & cradles her small head,

& rocks her in his arms, the final bed
but one in which she'll lie. The father clings,
as if his broken daughter were not dead,

her face, as if in sleep, becalmed, but red,
bloodied, bruised. At bottom left, the ranks
of those still dying die beneath her head.

Legions of the Lords of Plunder: the dread
angel of empire offers you thanks!
Look, if you dare! See? The child is dead.
Her stricken father cradles her small head.

--Steve Kowit, from The Sun literary journal.

Vegan

My daughter hauls her sacks of beans
and vegetables in from the car and begins to chop.
My father, who has had enough caffeine,
makes himself a manhattan-on-the-rocks.

It's Sunday, his night for sausage and eggs,
hers for stir-fried lentils, rice, and kale.
Watching her cook eases his fatigue
and loneliness. Later, she'll trim his toenails.

He no longer has an appetite
for anything beyond this evening ritual.
But he'll fry himself an egg tonight
and eat dinner with his granddaughter. For a widower,

there is no greater comfort in the world
than his girls and his girls' girls.

--Sue Ellen Thompson, from The Golden Hour.

Nineteen-Thirty-Eight

I remember the way my mother
answered when people asked
where she'd gone to school:

South Side High, 1938,
adding the year in the same breath
though I knew

she never graduated,
yanked out
when her father lost his job.

Now it was her turn
to make herself
useful, he told her.

Hadn't he put
food on the table
all her life and all her little sister's?

How necessary
to tell a lie like hers, to answer
South Side High, 1938, and smile

without betraying
the blaze in her chest, her envy
for the questioner who likely met

her own husband at some university.
But wasn't my mother the lucky one,
my grandfather was fond of telling her

even into my childhood, sometimes
in front of my friends, lucky
to have got my father, a college man

who sat beside her at a ballgame
in 1939? Just look at her
who didn't finish high school!


Didn't I tell her then it wouldn't matter?

--Andrea Hollander Budy, from Woman in the Painting.
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