Archive for May, 2013
Miss Hortense, in the garden, come to straighten
the trellis stakes for the grapes, searched instead
for weevils deep in the weeds. They were tiny
and scary, like emissaries from a distant moon,
and far too daunting for this damsel and
this daughter of a pastor. Weevils weave desire
into the fabric of our thoughts. Every child knows that.
They climbed among her petticoats much like
they would crawl under leaves to escape the heat—
much like Ganymede, the boy lover, not the moon,
who brought wine to her bower, then crept away and disappeared
into the wind. The sun was hot and still.
Miss Hortense, a menace to the sentence,
rose and roared, apprentice to a May day.
The catcalls persist, though the performance is over.
The stage is bare.
How can there be moonlight without the moon?
How can there be mountains without the night sky?
What are place-names for, without the place to name them?
The water that lies so deep in the ocean,
this calm that rests, but does not wait,
how can it be still and still be me?
Why does its spirit remain in place,
even though I try to flee?
Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash the elephant…?
—Barbara Ras, Washing the Elephant
True. But it’s always the eyes in the distance
that reveal the elegance of the elephant’s
little kitten, Susan. Of course, for you and Kitty,
this glance behind the scenes is breathtaking.
All bets are off: time itself might be
a tiny kitten batting a ball of string
on a surface of infinite circles.
For the elephants, though,
it could be either Pakistan or India—
or the Midtown Tunnel on the night
the circus walks into the Big Apple.
The noise is always deafening, and the smell, well…
elephants defecating inside that long tunnel!
Even the clowns seem to frown at the seepage.
You’d think your average elephant, washed,
caparisoned, pampered beyond belief,
would have enough sense to use a kitty litter.
It’s Dr. Seuss more candidly as an elephant, Susan.
O, the elegance! O, the parade! O, the odor!
Hold your nose and enter where
the, ‘Children of all Ages’ sign used to be.
They should wear pants when they dance, Kitty.
They should be diapered and reserved, Susan,
rectitude itself, not this display of sewage.
O, the stench of the internal elephant!
How marginal it is! How hungry they are!
How a bouquet of words and a bottle of wine
can sit next to that quart of chords—the pig’s debut,
so to speak—and remain so nimble, they couldn’t see
or hear until that son of a sow was grown— the other side of the poem, you know, the mother tongue
in not so silken seeds is sown. ‘The Pigs’ indeed!
They’re muddy, but they’re cleaner than you think.
Not fastidious, mind you, and most defiantly—
most defiantly—not pink. Pigs hate the color pink.
Reminds them of a roller skating emporium—
and of course, it stinks, you know, something you
wouldn’t think to speak of, or even dream…
because that rhyme with ‘rink’ is not allowed,
not on this side of the poem.
Too sing-song for a duet, lads…
like pigs in a bouquet, a sobriquet too rare
to be removed from the grill just yet. For ‘The Pigs’
likes them well done, don’t you know. He likes them a lot.
We have been playing the ‘Name Game’ all term. Write a final poem. I will read the best to next year’s students, so make it your valedictory. Make it magic.
Cleopatra is Crazyville
So what if the Queen of Sheba is playing the Name Game with that foxy new chick, Cleopatra?
Everybody knows Sheba is the smartest kid in middle school, so she should win, right?
Wrong. Cleopatra is Crazyville.
Sheba doesn’t know what she’s up against.
One move and Sir Basel Ganglia is vanquished.
I come to bury Caesar, not to name him.
And Neema Neema, science diva, despite the Queen’s clever use of ‘first name, last name,’ gets blown away with one word: nematodes.
And that’s just for starters.
Cleo’s using hurricane names, acronyms, Thomas Pynchon novels—Thomas Pynchon novels in middle school!—a character named Katje who quits the game, quits it cold!—
This is a knock down.
This is Frazer and Ali in furs, a thriller in chinchilla.
No, it’s over.
Cleopatra is the winner!
Sheba is up against the ropes.
Cleo, hands held high: Is that the fame that launched a thousand clips?
Thrill, drill, spill. What a kill.
This Cleopatra is Crazyville.
Welcome to Excellence in English, new students.
You’ll learn what you will.
—Basel Protaglia. Forest Park Middle School.
To Learn to Climb a Tree
All you who are faint of heart in America,
it is time to learn to climb a tree.
We will rename ourselves in the forest.
We will find peace there. We will learn to sing.
The name game will become one with nature.
It will be our nature. Self and non-self will become
a part of the empty sky. As heaven ends.
As our fairy tale ends. Take your pick.
We can no longer live alone, for our name
is the same. Say yours now. Mine is Neema.
—Neema Mullin. Forest Park Middle School.
I named him Solomon.
I named him Solomon, after the story in Bible.
It was a new story to me. One of strange hope,
an odd captivity, something which all children should see.
My American name was to be Beverly,
Mr. Madden, you knew that, didn’t you?
Thank you for letting me stay free…
Some day when I am married and I have a real child,
perhaps I will ‘make him magic’, as you do.
I will live in Africa. As a queen. For my people.
I will have a hundred children, a thousand.
It has been a wonderful year in America.
—Bathsheba. Forest Park Middle School.
I only wished to see him walk
the length of sand in the moonlight,
eyes and hair dense in smiling disarray.
He only wanted a walk to breathe the salt sea air.
Seagulls reeled in a pageant of harmless flight,
out for hotdogs and salted pretzels.
But their shriek became hungry and monstrous,
like a sword in the sand, a line promoted first
to sound, then to music, a process of geometry
that surely must be holy,
for how else could we bear it?
How else could we let it have its way with us?
All lines should stretch to infinity.
A fantasy can only be an abrupt God.
That all is lost in a sentence, all that you must know, sticky feet, mouse.
There’s ice cream in the fridge; it’s 2 AM; perhaps a mouse will eat it.