Category Archives: Poetry

Bourbon

The universe began as a grain so dense

its burden was precisely the blossom

of existence. Bourbon begins as at least 51%

corn. The mash is gathered, ground, & slurried

to sourness, consumed by yeast & funneled

into copper pots that rely on nothing but fire

to yield clear liquor then calmed by years

in barrels of new burnt oak. No one

has sinned so fully to escape forgiveness

when treated by heat, time, & circumstance.

I knew that everything worthwhile started

as something lesser when dad didn’t defend

his decision to leave. What is polished

to fullness is done so through acts of love.

George Washington

The first President of the United States owned slaves

& although he did release them upon his death

while he was alive he would take their teeth

& attempted to graft them into his gums

undergoing bold & radical surgery

even by today’s standards

 

It is doubtful that anyone willingly

had their teeth pulled

not even for old George Washington

whose discomfort can be seen in photographs yellowed & cracked

like the wooden dentures making his face pucker in pain

as if sucking on a lemon or trying chewing tobacco

 

Just as the mouths of slaves puckered around tong

& pliers, trying not to scream while they suffered

egregious indignity and barbarism, to have teeth

harvested only to see them go to waste

Bedtime Story

My father rapes me every night and I cry.

I don’t like him in my bed—until I do.

Poor child, so young, no voice, only

legs spread, open and aching, I grow to love him.

He yanks his pajama bottom strings

leaving me alone in a puddle of goo.

 

Leaving me alone in a puddle of goo,

he yanks his pajama bottom strings.

Legs spread. Open and aching. I grow to love him,

poor child, too young. No voice. Only

I don’t like him in my bed until I do.

My father rapes me every night, and I cry.

The Tramp

The first circus clown was a woman.

Painting her face came easy to her;

She had been doing it for years.

Makeup made the scars go away,

Or so she thought.

Now, she wore it like war paint.

 

The giant red nose

Held the broken one together.

Like plaster from the doctor who believed her,

Every time she said, she’d fallen off the stairs.

 

The exaggerated mouth was just lipstick

Pulled outside to hide her frown.

The one painted tear hid her real ones.

Who cried only 1 tear otherwise?

 

The raggedy-patched jacket completed her outfit,

Oversized clothes were de rigueur anyway.

As they say: Cover up your legs, cover up your face, cover up your arms.

She had been called a tramp too…

So she decided ‘that’s what I’ll be then, maybe?’

 

The clown, like a waking woman,

Is always a spectacle.

So, when she took the oversized mallet and hit herself,

The audience laughed.

Just as they always did.

At least, this time,

She did the hitting.

Surviving the Flood

I

Arkansas and Tennessee in 1927

 

The Dakotas and Nebraska in 1993

 

Grandma on the roof, muddy cane and goodbye

 

Farms becoming reservoirs of mud

 

State Farm and Allstate prepping commercials

 

Waters recede along with college plans

 

Soybeans and hope are planted again

 

Bismarck shelters and Omaha warehouses can house orphans one more day

 

 

 

II

 

 

Katrina’s howls break levees

 

Sharecropper’s grandkids become just more shit in the deluge

 

Like a stillborn refusing to die in the muck between the debris

 

Slippery balance finds a buried peace in relocation and zoning variances

 

A flyover shows death as something beautiful

 

A child finds the body of her mother and sings a lullaby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

III

 

 

Joni sings about a river she’d like to skate away on

 

Maybe the same one Huck and Jim took as they lit out

 

Currents of fear explode into a flood of rage

 

Torn roots are gathered to tear skin, break bone

 

Becoming the mortar of our walls

 

America becomes a place to escape from

 

Children in tents and cement rooms cry

 

Watering a battered nation needing to be baptized

 

Again

Anatidaephobia*

On the far side

of the lake,

they’re calculating

how to shake me

from my bench

so I’ll leave

my lunch behind.

 

Despicable – these

ducks who seem

innocent enough,

yet

who will trouble waterways

to ruffle my peace

with unrelenting eyes.

 

I admit

every staring thing

unhinges me:

the maple peering

into our living room,

the cat spying

on the patio,

the kid pounding drums

on his steering wheel

as I stroll within

the crosswalk lines.

Nothing, it seems,

respects

the grace of privacy.

Despite

psychologists’ protests,

this phobia is real –

as real as

Thinking makes it so.

 

Tomorrow

I’ll tackle

exposure therapy

and face off

each anatidae

in town.

 

 

For now,

my deep breaths

summon up a prayer

that dabblers, divers,

and buffleheads

will close their eyes

once they realize

all I have

is hummus

spread edge-to-edge

on organic celery.

 

* The irrational fear of being stared at by a duck

Photograph in which children are throwing rice at your wedding dress

Maybe they are paper airplanes, or goosenecks made from linen napkins,

clappers taken from every bell within fifty miles. I imagine that, when you

gathered your train, to get into the car, streamered with tin cans that rattled

newlywed the whole way home, grains fell from the hand-stitched fabric

with a hush.

I feed you a spoonful of rice that’s been soaking in broth. You look down

at the bowl. You say what a beautiful ceremony, and even though I wasn’t

a thought yet, (and am now one forgotten), I look down at the floor with you,

littered with a rain of white, and wait for the birds to come.

 

Ordinary Psalm With Severe Neglect

I was working day shift at the County Shelter,

102 degrees in the tattered shade of that street

and this kid, maybe 5 or 6, had been scrubbed clean,

her hair oiled for lice. Her teeth rotted brown

 

from sucking juice bottles to sleep, she was busy

climbing over the dirty couch in the day room,

though when I offered, she sat next to me,

slipped her small weight against mine. The TV

 

was tuned to Animal Planet, that episode

where Arctic caribou shudder the tundra,

travelling hundreds of miles over snow, each footstep

placed exactly in the one before, the one behind,

 

To continue reading this selection you can purchase Issue 9 http://www.qulitmag.com/shop/

27 Saras

after Wayne Holloway-Smith

 

Sara without the H (the princess is not Jewish but Arabian), Sara Kookaburra in the old gum tree, Sara who struggled to sharpen B+s into As, Sara who sees double, Sara under wraps, Sara in the brook (her natural habitat), Fire Hen Triple Gemini Sara. Skeleton crew Sara, Sara Solo, Sara Serape, Serendipity. Sara sorting which Saras to remember in the hour before bombs might drop.  Sara disguised as Someone Smarter than Sara, Sara putting the world under a microscope, Sara on Steroids, Sara dancing the blues. Sara in the adult swim lap lane, Sara Syrah. Bad Pun Sara, Save the Day Sara, Show Off Sara, Skyward-facing Sara, Revolutionary Etude Sara, Eccentric World Traveling Aunt Sara. Sara who reinvents herself as a dandelion. Que Sera Sara. Sara still.

WHAT BOTTICELLI DID NOT PORTRAY

What if Venus had risen not from the froth of the sea

but from a pool on a farm in Iowa or Minnesota

with tower silos of grain as her backdrop as visible

from the kitchen window as in the camera lens

at the very moment wind sweeps her auburn hair

to stream like a banderole from her body’s masthead

and her right knee bends inward protectively in counterpoise

to the slight tilt of her head and the jutting out

of the elbow as her hand takes rest on the slim hip,

 

To continue reading this selection you can purchase Issue 9 http://www.qulitmag.com/shop/