Who is that speaking out of my mouth?
Am I the person she talks to on the way?
Consider the orange tree in the courtyard:
its specific number of ripe oranges,
those that are apparent, those
that are hidden among leaves.
Tomorrow the number will change;
show me the orange that is concerned.
Am I insensitive
to the I of the orange tree?
Weren’t we all at Sinai?
waiting for Moses to descend
with the commandments
Once while getting canned goods
from the pantry
in the back basement
past the maid’s lightless toilet
I eavesdropped on Blanche crying to herself
in the shower
she didn’t give me my money, she didn’t give me my money…
her high-pitched singsong –
I sensed the darkness
in the bare metal and porcelain room
behind the cast-off curtain
through the drizzle
the thin sound
well enough alone.
The Magician’s Wife
Smiling her lipsticky smile, the magician’s wife climbs
into the beautiful red magic box & rubs,
for luck, its fancy curlicues. Slowly, gestures grand,
the magician saws her in half – he’d like to visit
Benares again in spring. Almost always,
the magician’s wife discovers her halves reconnected,
though not flush. The imperfect seam under lacy
costumes, but at night she lies awake feeling the air
blow in – her liver, dry cracked mud. To please
the public, again and again, the magician’s wife allows
the magician to saw her in half . She too would like to
visit Benares. She no longer cares about spring.
In memory of Saundra 1935-2012
I wake up, face to face with a vapor, a voice:
a caramel apple with a blade hidden
inside, teeth crunching on metal, the mouth slit open, also the tongue.
The way the blade would slide
in and in leaving a thin
flap of skin,
more likely it was a needle,
think handing over
your arm to the doctor who catches it mid-swing,
think flesh suddenly rosy, protection in the long run, taking
your medicine like a man
a snowball teetering at the top of Seven Pines
the way the sled zips past one tree then another,
the trunks in the wind spread
like capes, flying squirrels with dark triangles for mouths,
I couldn’t admit I didn’t know how to steer
water pours into the walls from the old box gutters
that tip up like pitchers, bubbles the plaster
chocolate boiling over,
Here’s your money, and a little patshka on the tuchas for good measure
Everybody loved Pop: the white hair brushed into waves,
silk thread unraveling from a spool, a linen handkerchief, monogrammed
the belt: brown leather, the buckle –
all the girls as they stepped up
the contractor’s off buying,
Truth steams up my room with itself.
I go to my other country where everybody lives in trees.
The knife drops into the deep
end of the pool, where its shadow
becomes a coiling
snake seen sideways, a species
from a dimly remembered
House of Reptiles.
The swimmers rise,
a series of water-spewing fountains,
compose themselves as family again
in the grass. Their babble creates melody,
theme and variations cacophonous
in a contemporary carnal way.
Laughing, they plunge back in,
roil the water
into endless shadows, the knife,
forgotten, glints below.
The Juice Extractor
I dreaded the burst of skin, the wet flesh
expelled in shreds, the obedient trickle
of juice into a blue pitcher. “Candy syrup!”
she’d announce, handing each of us a glass.
Fresh-squeezed juice betrayed with cod-liver oil
and molasses – why do its dregs persist
when more serious torments are forgotten?
We didn’t rebel, didn’t pour glue into
the bulky arm though we talked about it,
didn’t smash the iron cap with our father’s hammer,
didn’t hide the strainer in the woodpile
where we’d disappeared the rectal thermometer.
Each day on the countertop it stood,
the enemy general primed for our surrender.
I would be grateful
if I could recognize
through this insistent maze
of vines, your call,
invent another pretext,
never gaze at another sweet Madeleine,
if you who create
aimed your ferocious beak
toward my small meander
and taught the loudmouth bird pecking
in me, flight.
Creating La Presa
I have always wanted to be an editor of a poetry journal ; perhaps to be in the position of all those who over the years have rejected and accepted my poems. I would be a discriminating editor, insightful, creative, helpful to the journal and to those who submitted and an addition to our field. I’m not sure I’ve even begun to achieve that, but the first year has been lots of fun, work and the opportunities to meet many writers both on the page and in person, and we plan to continue as long as possible.
When my friends in Guanajuato, Mexico asked me to join them in starting a publishing house, I had my chance. Create a journal? they said. Sure, go ahead. So La Presa found a home in Embajadors Press. (www.embajadoraspress.com)
It wasn’t long before we had our mission: to offer a place for writers in the northern part of this hemisphere to present their work, see it on the page alongside the work of writers from neighboring countries with different cultures. We would accept work in the language of the writer’s choice – which so far is Spanish and English. Eventually we’d like to include French, . Native American and First Nation languages as well as the languages of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. This was political action my way!
And this year we were able to expand our staff to include two fine Mexican poets: Amaranta Caballero Prado became the Associate Editor, and the bilingual poet Eduardo Padilla, our translator.
This year we published three issues: poetry and prose: innovative, narrative, formal , confessional, and nonce poems and memoir, short stories and essays in Spanish and English, including but not limited to translations. On our covers, we have presented art by Canadian and Mexican artists and a marvelous now deceased and well-remembered Mexican potter; in January 2018 our cover will be an image of a three-part sculpture by an American. For our covers, too, in future, we will also be looking for art by indigenous and outsider artists.