First issue of ‘Ekphrasis’

Ekphrasis_14Hills_2014

This Spring, I contributed a poem to a great new publication, Ekphrasis, edited by Monique Mero-Williams and produced by Fourteen Hills and Voices/Visions. I was assigned an image (“Guest” by Jennifer O’Keeffe) and asked to respond. I wrote “Hottub Exegesis”. It is a lovely journal, with nice heft in the hands, and I hope they make many more of them.

hottubexegesis

 

 

The Fetish is Everywhere

falcon

Today, a girl in a white dress missed her bus.

She ran to catch it, crowded though it was

—I am not one, well, I haven’t, her thighs.

Ay, this Lolita look is all the rage.

 

She ran to catch the crowded city bus,

I stepped aside, to let her pass me by—

Ay, this Lolita look is all the rage.

How she pounded, pounded on the gliding door.

 

I stepped aside to let her pass me by,

From the cypress came a falcon, leaden winged,

How she pounded alongside the gliding door,

I saw the bird’s black head, its heavy dash.

 

From a cypress came the falcon, leaden winged

To the median of this busy four-lane street.

I saw the bird’s black head, its heavy dash,

It ate from off its talons an impaled thing.

 

In the median of this busy four-lane street,

I watched the falcon eat around its toe,

It ate from off its talons an impaled thing,

The girl in the white dress had missed the bus.

 

I watched the falcon eat around its toe,

Her dress was also there, also the rage,

The girl in the white dress, her legs, the chase—

I can’t decide the meaning of it: “slayed”.

 

Her dress was also there, also the rage,

The falcon flew directly to the sea,

The girl in the white dress sat on the bench

And I was left, to hold the bird with me.

I step outside shaped like a rune

dolni-willendorf-lespugue

I step outside shaped like a rune, my hands up to feel for the sun’s rays and legs bent to scuttle away, to jump back inside my home if need be. If need be I can insulate myself from the weather, the endless weather, and be the same. The sane same, I can be. Today I am shaped like a rune, I’m curious and translatable, the sun touches all. I step outside and then I’m like a battery, my skin charges, two bars, three bars, four, and I’m warm. I’ll carry it away, away inside and in the car, my skin holds the sun. Bursts and waves, the sun. Radiated and clean, my skin. Caressed and beaten, throughout the day, the sun on me. Day of Radiance on the radio.

I step outside shaped like a peg, my arms at my sides, like a Donii, a woman-peg, laden with flesh and bouncing lightly. Bouncing lightly, the sun off the moon, and back onto the grass, into which I root myself. I point down and then all around, I write light to a camera. I am shaped like a peg, I’m unified and useful, the moon is enough in its changes. Just half, just a sip of moon, it’s enough, only leave me desiring.

I step outside and I roam, I’m off from the jamb-go and all the insulation of the house is packed onto my prudish body. I am off, turned on, I look through a visor made of packing tape, at the world or the new walls. Dense grasses and egret limbs overtake me. I have scared a blue heron and another condor retires. The nettles on the hill pull at my faux fur, the fibers drift up in seed pod smoke. Where there’s only a sheer backing left, the wind of all changes rustles over true skin.

My Sister Down a Green Road

sisterroad

I can see my sister walking down a green road in early spring. The ice is in its first thaw. The trees sway, remembering the breeze. The farmer’s fields beside the road are heavy with clodded loam and aching rotted twigs. Black birds flap chilled mist from their wings and swoop.

She is walking down that road, the fingers of one hand flared in the direction of the the moss. She is lumbering; her one foot turns inward with each step. Her head is foremost, propelled by an unwomanly hunch. Loose strands of hair caress her cheek and slap the collar of her jacket.

I can see her on this road, how others might see her. Her fairness encouraged by the fair wind, the heat of her and the cool of all forming their ruddy rouge, the unwanted sign. She holds back a tide with that brave hunch. Her dark eyes are stones, old and everywhere, unbefitting the sweet face.

I can see her walking down a green road, crouched from where I am, inside her pocket. Her fist is here with me, in the pocket. Her thumb is chewed and cracked – Beauty’s surprise. I study the pulse at her wrist, even, and test the clench of her fingers, odd.

The green road is a pile behind us. Past the lining of her pocket, past the sockets of my eyes.

Phone

mofone

Hank Skeels stands at the entrance to Club Throb, the hottest, keeping watch over the VIP guests as they ooze in with perfect timing. The regular guests come wide-eyed as they please and Hank can’t blame them. He bars the inelegant riff-raff, the dirty phoneless.

A step inside the club, Ben leans away from Betty’s gooey lipstick advances as they stride in. She’s already at my neck, Ben says into his phone, which is shaped like a stubby black billy club, or is it a small baseball bat. Betty’s phone is in her clutch purse, a pair of lips wrapped in pink satin, buzzing.

Enter Judy and Jim, strolling, his arm at her back. She swats it away with a glance. I’m on the phone, sweetie, she says, and he removes it. Jim can’t take his eyes off of his wife’s shape in her gown, the way her slender fingers grip the roundness of her armadillo phone, commanding an underling to get it out by tomorrow latest. He left his fork phone at home, charging.

The young actress-waitress, daughter of the club owner’s brother, Shayna holds a tray of champagne glasses and circles the room, smiling with perfect teeth in the roaming laser lights, wishing she could get back into her locker in the employee lounge to peek at her phone, a disco ball.

In the alley behind Club Throb, two men and two women are deep in an angst-ridden discussion about phones in society, a conversation that started when one of the guys Tim mocked Bill’s older model. The two friends had almost come to blows, when the woman Aisha quietly suggests that they smash their phones, right here and now, as an act of self-liberation.

Tim, Bill and Aisha do it; they crack the outer cases under their feet, spreading the remains of a red handkerchief, a blue handkerchief, and a dried flower onto the pavement. They separate the inner motherboard from its wires with their heels. Silicone and bits of glass ground into the grime of the pavement make them feel wild, accomplished, for a moment. A thread of loneliness tightens. They watch mutely as Bill struggles to light the blue curlicue cord on fire, a wet fuse of a bomb. The remaining friend, the one who couldn’t smash her phone, Aparna, jogs to catch the bus. Her hands grip tightly inside her pocket around her phone, which is a tin of mints.

The Anderson family – Mom, Dad, Penny, Michael, and baby Alex – stand in a group within the main crowd of guests by the podium, waiting patiently, each holding green pear phones. Penny and Michael are embarrassed to be seen with their parents, who are underdressed. This place is packed, Penny whispers. Michael holds his phone like a platter to his chin, in loudspeaker mode, and says, I think they’re about to get started. Mom texts Dad about Penny’s weight problem. Dad tells her not to worry, in so many words. Baby Alex is in Mom’s arms, her phone covered in slobber.

The beautiful and normal-looking people have all gathered by 10pm, when Hank Skeels hears his boss speak into the phone in his ear, Close the doors, it’s starting.

A cascade of synth bells falls over the eager audience. The dais is positively cinematic, mouths Judy into her armadillo. A large platform, its floor painted in thick black and white stripes and covered to extravagance by a mound of dark red roses. A black velvet cloth has been draped over a glass case that sits atop the flower mound.

That is it, the thing we’ve all been invited to see.

The percolating silence is deafening, maddening, here’s everyone’s attention. They set their phones in camera mode, fingers hovering over the button.

Hank Skeels takes the stage, hands clasped together in front of him, and looks over the crowd. They think he might speak but he does not.

Taking her cue from the silence, the model, Po, emerges from the employee lounge. She is naked, her body painted entirely silver, up to her hairlines. Her nails and lips are a lush red. Shayna, standing in the hallway, gasps when she sees her.

Po enters the main area. Her gait is slow. Slow-motion bullet of a woman. I am a juggernaut, she thinks to herself. Slow, but lacking any inertia.

Po ascends the dais on black and white steps. She turns to face the audience, orienting herself to the street outside, the city beyond, as the boss has instructed her to do in his superstition. She bows to them.

Everyone bows back, even Mom and Dad, though it is not their custom.

Po takes three steps backwards to stand beside the covered case. She lifts her silver arm and places her hand on the black velvet. In a slash, she whips the cloth away. The lights swirl and land on the case upon the dais.

It is a new phone.

Its body is chrome silver and gleaming with a dark radiance, like mercury, molten in the lights. It is wider at the base, then narrows into a soft point. A bullet.

Loud clicks of photographs being taken.

The light of individual phones pulled from above the heads of the crowd, down to the chest, dispersed in messages, reaching out to the other side of earth.

Hank Skeels stares at the bullet, motionless. I believe you’re in love, Hank.

Alien Prayer Flag

man_walk_sh

 

I.

 

 

For those who’ve heard a loved one gone

To visit that city and take the drive that got them lost

Visit here

 

 

The city has a name, but it’s different for everyone

I pronounce it in this way:

Ning like ning – that’s easy

Bo like bwuoh – that presents a challenge

You may know it in another way entirely.

 

 

Ah, the billion nameless hungry faces

And one lonely greasy girl steps forward

“Stay here while I fetch you a drink of water”

“Make yourself comfortable”

Drink it fast,

The cup won’t last long…

Faster, I mean it!

“This is the city of the thinnest paper.”

 

Once there, she’ll ask you to please

Not to disrupt the ritual

With your visible, drippy sobs

 

 

Eat any food that is offered to you and you’ll enjoy this

First contact, congratulations, explorer!

In this moment you are a superhero – God Grief – that’s it

Serious, staid and steadfast over all things human, in the famed city

 

 

 

 

 

 

II.

 

 

A shortening. A quickening.

Hot throat and all the internal vomits

The effect of speed on the inner ear and the return…to…stationary.

 

 

The ocular lens-clock tightens

Makes any music inappropriate

As sense bandwidth is strictly rationed

By burlap monks with spiny fingers, dirty nails

 

 

They crave silence and nobody minds skin irritation

They work on narrowing, calibrating a beam of laser light

However an occasional peek at cartoons is forgivable,

Especially since the one who is dead cannot be reached via laser

 

 

These negotiations continue

While flash is as small as starlight

 

 

“This is what it feels like” is stupidum say the monks

Torture, torch you’re, the tortured

 

 

Blank plank adrift upon furious frothy action

Then the risen smack of the real moment (y) and real place (x)

 

 

God Grief is lost in Ning (ning) Bo (bwuoh)

Stretching his hamstrings like an oblivious runner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

III.

 

 

My sister is too beautiful for most

Her goatherd tragedy spoken in smooth lines that dilate

I weep to hear her latest news

 

 

She walks around the blind city

A city of too many rabbit holes

“This is the city of the most ways to get lost”

 

She is my walking talking potential eternal sadness

The child whose smiley-face egg, once broken, shatters me

The huddled woman whom God Grief has sworn to protect

 

 

One glance into her eyes deletes the Hero’s mechanism

And sends them tumbling down a taxi-cab, flying in a light cascade

One glance spits them out into the river

 

 

(Escape is a delicious apple

A moondance Gravitron whirl of limbs

Wide, wide open to the free flow of esteem-less sex

 

 

Drink to smoke to breathe to bathe

Negating pent up penthos pours

If all are lost along the way, that’s fine)

 

 

Grief visits Beauty

The combination is deadly swollen

Each offering the other’s knife sharpener

Metal running along stone

 

 

The city towers were never so high as tonight

Each one wears a different fascinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IV.

 

 

The crowd forms

A long line on the sidewalk

It must be something good

For them to wait so long

Take a look through the shop windows –

Ah, but the sun’s glare.

 

 

One girl in line

Erupts in laughter

Throws her hand on the shoulder of the old man in front of her

And bounces bounce her bosom bounces

 

 

The old man chuckles

At the girl, heaving

At her breasts as they heave

At her buckteeth

At her breasts, at her buckteeth

At the reveal of skin

Above her pants below her shirt

Laughter belting out past

Her buckteeth and pouring

From her forged chest

 

 

And now everyone’s laughing

See, the sign on the door says:

“No More -This Is The City of Not Enough”

 

God Grief holds a Chinese churro

Dipped in soymilk

Barely tasting

Sweet, empty flavor.

Grief’s luck is strange like that…

 

 

 

 

 

 


V.

 

 

I held a shirt you wore and

All the time you wore it

 

 

A brooch was pinned to it

I removed it and put it on me

It is a heavy ceramic bust

 

 

I’ve gone through your things so many times

Look at me, I

Jingle with your many cameos

 

 

I found a hideous shell you liked

In your chest of things

Its spiky section hurt to hold

 

 

I’m starting to remember things about you that were less than friendly.

Still,

You.

 

 

The dead flesh speaks in conjugated color

Yell oh

Yel laugh

Yell ow

 

 

God Grief lost his ride along the Inner Ring highway.

Now he walks, carrying carrion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VI.

 

 

Urgency emergence in the final tally

The march away from me

My last moment to haggle:

I would die for you, who is dying

I would live for you, who is dying

 

I cannot, so

I accept the quoted price

I’ll look for firm confirmations later

When it’s still –

 

 

The dam bursts and floods a vein of ochre

Mud coating all

The thinly coated citizens

They hug and scratch and even dance.

 

 

My sister is gone

Beauty is again, ready for anything

She lifts her new hand with a whir of pistons

 

 

God Grief mumbles about a sacred cleanup

 

 

Hopeless to the last transaction,

He wanders the city of Ningbo alone

Leaves the poem

Leaves, the poem, the city