What is this?! Hurricanes batter the Southeast from Houston to Key West while fires and smoke engulf the Northwest from Seattle to North Dakota. Did we do something wrong? Fortunately local poets are still engaging our finest transitional season with wide-ranging insights. This collection includes poems about autumn, can openers, Italy, Michigan, Tarzan and ducks. It also includes poems about poetry and (as always) love. Enjoy!
Doug Wilhide is the poet laureate of Linden Hills and poetry editor of the Southwest Journal
Tarzan In High Heels
Tarzan in high heels
Appeared to me one morning
Without a word of warning,
And he had this to say:
“Try it and see how it feels.
Dude, you are too uptight.
You are – dare I say it – too white.
Pretend you’re funny – or gay.”
Startled and slightly scared,
And totally unprepared,
I did my best to respond to his crazy views:
“Most guys will not go out the door
Until they put on something more
Than a pair of women’s shoes.”
I weed between the sugar water
and a hummingbird’s fierce desire.
A mere breath of feathers,
he sweeps in great pendulum arcs,
each time, hovering
for a still second, before my face.
he pelts me with curses,
flashing wicked iridescence.
I withdraw, no match
for his massive irritation.
Ode to Oxo
Oh, to open a jar of pickles!
I search for you, handy helper of mine.
There you are in a drawer not de-cluttered.
You twist and turn and make me feel able:
My strength in this everlasting age.
Oh, to thinly slice a carrot!
My fingers fear a slippery knife.
Now I hold you, sweet mandolin,
Sliding and gliding cukes and zucchinis
Each slice a sweet sound of vegetables played.
Oh, to blend, stir, and mix a cake batter!
You are the bowl that really matters
A handle, a lip, and a firm bottom grip.
Gentle whisk, spatula and cake tester
You hold a special place in my cupboard.
Oh, to take a salad for a spin!
You sit near my sink awaiting
Water to wash spring greens.
You’ve released me from that dreaded chore
What ever did I do before you came in to my kitchen?
Oh, to open a drawer of desire!
No longer junk but a collection of tools.
My fingers feel faint and caress —
Can opener, corkscrew, tongs, and more.
You’ve thought of me and what I need
Your simple grip really has a hold on me.
The Symphony of Ordinary Movement
James P. Lenfestey
Reach for a glass in the cupboard.
Twist the faucet.
Work the knife on the plate
against thin-skinned tomatoes.
The swivel of soup spoons.
The tongue playing across the silk
of the upper lip.
Feet crossed one over the other
in an X of relaxation.
Nod of the head into yes, into no.
Sway of the neck into way and no way.
Cock of the ear listening, not listening.
Drum of fingertips, snare of one nail
snapped against another.
The smooth edge of plates.
The circular swirl of washing and drying.
Place the glass back in the cupboard.
More with Less
be done with less
to avoid, one hopes,
an overwritten mess.
Much like packing
a small suitcase
when we decide
to fly someplace
cheaply. A case
that must fit
beneath the seat
where once we sought
to keep our feet.
This case will not
that we think
we need to bring
we make do with less…
like fewer socks
and one less dress.
Autumn stalks the edge
Home plate…the bat cracks…fly ball!
Pulling dead grass out of my hair
Thinking that people always say
And leave room for miracles.
They just might happen.
come pass by
fly on my finger
and give me a kiss
I wanted to put some earth
in my journey —
get down to the soil,
dig up the loam,
and till it some —
plow and plant a little
in the earth of my life
to see what grows —
I wanted to sow a new
seed in the turf —
to see if a better person
could walk this earth.
The one time I went to Michigan, it was Detroit
and I could see Canada from my hotel window.
I drove along the shore until the road turned
and Canada stepped into my rearview mirror,
where she and I saw the big-porched houses,
saggy and dilapidated and bedraggled and other
fourth grade spelling bee words that mean
growing closer to gravity, listening to its
whispers saying, “down. down. down.”
Now when I think of Michigan I think of you and
how you left Detroit,
crowded so many places in your rearview mirror
that Detroit could not fit.
I do not think of the gravity Canada and I met
when we thought about sitting on big porches
like the one where I met you years later.
No, I think of the gravity that clawed “down” into
your skull until you gravitated toward the south
and the mountains and the big porches
where I sat on rocking chairs
and waited for you
to come home.
Morning Swim in Lake Michigan
It is a cliche to talk about sunlight on the water
as a million diamonds
between here and the horizon
sparkling, dancing, instantly vanishing.
But — now — throw your body into the lake
and be fully, instantly, aware
of the cold:
thin almost as air,
an uncaring world that envelops you…
and suddenly diamonds on the water
look feel taste even sound and smell,
absolutely new, absolutely true.
Cliches have their place,
too familiar to matter,
but with their own kind of reality, condensed,
like coal under pressure.
I can tell you — in that moment —
in the big lake —
I saw silver, light-flashing diamonds
all around me,
signaling the sun
and staking their claim:
no horizon is ever the same.
Melissa S. Anderson
Standing in line at the hotel registration desk,
I watch a man on the muted television over the bar,
gesturing at a map.
This being North Carolina,
he is focused on the mid-Atlantic region.
I think he is reassuring us
that the states here are stable,
still fitting together in their puzzle-pieces way.
He’s more concerned, though,
about Pennsylvania and New York,
which, it seems, might be loose in their sockets
and in danger of slipping out of place.
Florida and Georgia are apparently
also showing signs of drift.
I hope that my Minnesota is still securely snuggled up
against Wisconsin and the rest.
I wouldn’t want the pilot on the flight home
to have to figure out where it had popped to.
I’m writing about the map, instead of you,
because I can’t arrange into words
that you have stepped into my life.
sleep habits of two loring park ducks
at rest beneath a low-limbed tree
heads tucked into paunches
it looks like
two speckled bellies
have bills of their own
he wears his cap
shiny and proud
loses no sleep
to movement while
she dresses down
enjoys nonstop repartee
or is she sleep-eating?
as they pass between
her hard, flat lips.
A poet who lived in Pawtucket
Was totally tempted to chuck it.
“I put in the time,
But I can’t find the rhyme.
There’s nothing that sounds like Nantucket.”