Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday in CinCity. The Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself Edition.

Sometimes the Air Surrounding Me Is Sudden with Flowers

by Ander Monson

In the busy machine of the emergency room,
I talk with a man whose face is barely face,
is mostly laceration—accident-remnant
while driving his sister's car
that he stole while drunk and drove and totaled.

He's glad he didn't kill someone, he says.

We are surrounded by: black eyes,
blood blisters, broken legs,
bruises in the shapes of circus animals,
a variety of burns.

Eight people
have something protruding from their feet—
fish hook, glass slab, syringe, syringe,
staples (22—!), bolt, real big nail, syringe.

At least there are no knives in eyes
or gunshot wounds as far as I can see.

We watch E.R. on the television above us.

They are always resuscitating someone.

The crowd cheers when this happens.

A man with a fissure in his arm
all the way down to the bone
sits next to me. This patient
is far more patient than I'd imagine,
considering the bleeding. I ask him if it hurts
and he says sure, what doesn't.

Someone says that Noah Wyle is a fine piece of ass.
I can't help but agree. This is what you do in civilization,
I have been told.

It is a week after the Fourth, and I fear that some kid
will stumble in with a stump of a thumb.
He will have deserved it, but still it's sad.
So much for that career in jazz.

I wait with my slow chest pains (I've read online
it's likely heartburn, so there is hopefully no hurry)
for my turn. It might never come,
since the injuries keep filing in.

It's as if I've never seen
the world in which I live before.

More serendipity...Newspaper article on the front page of the paper today.
Cycling accident tests couple's resolve

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Zero Holding

by Robyn Sarah

I grow to like the bare
trees and the snow, the bones and fur
of winter. Even the greyness
of the nunneries, they are so grey,
walled all around with grey stones —
and the snow piled up on ledges
of wall and sill, those grey
planes for holding snow: this is how
it will be, months now, all so still,
sunk in itself, only the cold alive,
vibrant, like a wire — and all the
busy chimneys — their ghost-breath,
a rumour of lives warmed within,
rising, rising, and blowing away.

please note: photo art by Patti Hinton

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Somewhere in the World

by Linda Pastan

Somewhere in the world
something is happening
which will make its slow way here.

A cold front will come to destroy
the camellias, or perhaps it will be
a heat wave to scorch them.

A virus will move without passport
or papers to find me as I shake
a hand or kiss a cheek.

Somewhere a small quarrel
has begun, a few overheated words
ignite a conflagration,

and the smell of smoke
is on its way;
the smell of war.

Wherever I go I knock on wood—
on tabletops or tree trunks.
I rinse my hands over and over again;

I scan the newspapers
and invent alarm codes which are not
my husband's birthdate or my own.

But somewhere something is happening
against which there is no planning, only
those two aging conspirators, Hope and Luck.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Three Perfect Days

by Linda Pastan

In the middle seat of an airplane,
between an overweight woman
whose arm takes over the armrest
and a man immersed in his computer game,

I am reading the inflight magazine
about three perfect days somewhere: Kyoto
this time, but it could be anywhere—
Madagascar or one of the Virgin Islands.

There is always the perfect hotel
where at breakfast the waiter smiles
as he serves an egg as perfectly coddled
as a Spanish Infanta.

There are walks over perfect bridges—their spans
defying physics—and visits to zoos
where rain is forbidden,
and no small child is ever bored or crying.

I would settle now for just one perfect day
anywhere at all, a day without
mosquitoes, or traffic, or newspapers
with their headlines.

A day without any kind of turbulence—
certainly not this kind, as the pilot tells us
to fasten our seatbelts, and even
the flight attendants look nervous.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday in CinCity

Our local grocery store is closed due to financial troubles and, though it sounds a bit melodramatic, I am heartbroken. Our entire neighborhood has been taken by surprise and the effect is more than the loss of a convenience. Many neighbors here don't drive so a local grocer is a necessity for them. We have two blind neighbors in Clifton. They could call ahead with their orders. At times the food was delivered or ready for pickup or an employee would walk with them through the store picking out items.

More than that for me, I would see my neighbors there and find out the scuttlebutt of the week, solve the political problems of the city, see old friends from the days when my grrrls were in grade school and on soccer teams, and talk to the firefighters from the station house next door. Sold our pickup truck to police officer Wilson, who moonlighted there, and admired Detective Meyers' grandbaby photos--his daughter worked in my unit at BigFatTeaching Hospital. We've been to a funeral of an employee there, CollegeGrrrl has been to weddings and baby showers from her stint as a cashier, she even stopped in before senior prom because they wanted to see her dress.

And, we can no longer run up to the grocery store multiple times

in a day to buy whatever it is that I forgot to get on the last trip. That has been a huge kick in the pants. If I have to drive out to Surry Square or go to that horrible Krogers on Spring Grove you can damn well bet this chickadee is not going to be forgetting anything on the grocery list. Maybe that's a good thing, but still I miss MarkieMark coming up to me in the produce section asking me what my recipe is for tonight's dinner.

Translation for Chaka Khan's verse--"pull up the big girl pants." Sounds prettier in French...

I Have Lived This Way for Years and Do Not Wish to Change

by Michael Blumenthal

I hope you'll forgive the black paint
on my windows, the smell of cat litter
in the kitchen. Guests complain sometimes
that my collection of Minoan cadavers spoils
their appetite, or that having the shower
in the living room creates too much moisture,
but I think you'll grow used to it
if we get to be friends.

Yes, it is kind of inconvenient
having the bed strapped to the ceiling,
but I've grown so accustomed to the view
of my Max Ernst carpet that I hardly think
I could sleep with gravity anymore.

Why thank you, it was a gift from my lover's husband
after our honeymoon in Cincinnati. I do think
it goes well with the orange bedroom set, the burgundy curtain.

See, you're feeling quite at home already.
Don't be shy.
Help yourself to the jellyfish, the goose down,
the chocolate-covered cotton balls.

For something a bit more thoughtful, please visit my friend, Lydia. That's a poem to keep in my pocket.

please note: photo art by Tamaleshuck on Flickr

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Still Life

by Tony Hoagland

"I'm sorry,"
the novelist apologized—
"my story has a beginning,
middle and an end." Then she commenced
her explication of

the tapestry hanging on the wall.
Usually these large, time-faded rectangles
of textile
woven in the fourteenth century
depict some martial glory; two armies
bivouacked on a plain
beneath the fluttering pennants of their lords;
knights galloping on horseback, a sky
crisscrossed by arrows.

Or sometimes, a damsel and her maids are
picking flowers in a glen
while from the left, the fiend
disguised as an old peddler
approaches on a mule—

But in this case, a construction site
is what we get—
giant yellow bulldozers
and dirty trucks
arrayed around a squared-off hole
of scraped-out, reddish dirt—

Down in the pit, the foreman
is shouting into a shoe-box sized, old-fashioned
He's telling the crane operator
to dump the thick grey porridge of wet cement
from the mixer
into a long chute
for the foundation—
It's a cool tapestry,
because you can see such detail;
the lines around the boss-man's eyes
and the half-crushed packet

of cigarettes in his front shirt pocket
that marks him as a proletariat
of another era.
A sort of young guy
considering the responsibility he has,
yet not too old
to take pleasure in the work,

and he likes this part,
where the grey oatmeal of the pour
gushes clumsily from the rough
gutter of the pipe
into the maze of
wooden troughs and molds—

As in a scene from Moby Dick,
the men, armed with poles and spades, are staged
around each trench and ditch
to herd the concrete into place
before it sets—
That's why this part is called "The Push"—

and one feels the beauty of these guys
engrossed in the alert companionship
of work
—laughing, cursing, joking in the sun—

I like this tapestry—
It's not that I know these men, or
know how to run one of these great blue
smokestack-belching tanks.
It's not that something bad is going
to happen
to teach us all a lesson. There is
no "behind" or "underneath"—

But in the background
your eye is drawn to
an iron ladder fastened to a wall,
which is strange until you see, high up
the narrow metal door it leads to,
and now I can explain

the anxiety I feel about
the time it took to get here—a shame
about the dreaminess I have indulged
throughout my life
that caused me to forget just what was happening—

Behind me in the distance
I can hear some people
who used to be my friends
saying something about the
problem of language in our time

but I don't care. For me
the story is
the feeling of the rungs, one by one,
pushing up into the arches of my feet,
the chilled bars of metal in my hands,
the dusty smell of morning
turning into afternoon,—

as I climb to see just what the world
has brought me to.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King, and thank you.

please note: photo of stairs by Stu Worrall

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Boat

by Richard Brautigan

O beautiful
was the werewolf
in his evil forest.
We took him
to the carnival
and he started
when he saw
the Ferris wheel.
green and red tears
flowed down
his furry cheeks.
He looked
like a boat
out on the dark

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

City Scene in Snow

by Jonathan Greene

After sledding in the park's deep snow,
the two sons refuse to walk home.
The weary father trudges along
pulling them home
in the sparsely trafficked streets
snow still falling.

At times the kids fall off, laughing,
not wanting the day to end.


Hushed streets except for the
rumble of the subway.

Out of the corner of his eye
the father spies Orpheus

with guitar case, descending
the dark steps, off to reclaim lost love.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Good Workers

by Gary Johnson

Let us praise good workers (you know who you are)
Who come gladly to the job and do what you can
For as long as it takes to repair the car
Or clean the house – the woman or man
Who dives in and works steadily straight through,
Not lagging and letting others carry the freight,
Who joke around but do what you need to do,
Like the home caregiver who comes daily at eight
A.m. to wash and dress the man in the wheelchair
And bring him meals and put him to bed at night
For minimum wage and stroke his pale brown hair.
He needs you. "Are you all right?" "I'm, all right,"
He says. He needs you to give him these good days,
You good worker. God's own angels sing your

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday In CinCity. The Rabbi, the Priest and the Belly Dancer Edition.

Happy Hour

by Bob Hicok

A rabbi, priest, and belly dancer walk into a bar.
Everyone turns their way, recognizing a joke
when they're in one. The belly dancer, for all the swivel
in her hips, is modest, and asks the rabbi and priest
to go to another bar, but the rabbi and priest agree
that whatever bar they enter, they'll face the expectation
of a punch line. By the time they order beers,
people have gathered as they would around a burning house.
The priest wants to explain to the crowd that he
and the rabbi take belly-dancing lessons for their health.
The rabbi only knows one joke, a knock-knock joke
about a bris that isn't funny: snip who? snip you.
The belly dancer's also a black belt. This skill
combines with her agoraphobia in a sudden burst
of wounding. Someone calls the cops. An Irish cop,
a crooked cop, and a blind cop walk into a bar.
The blind cop says to the crooked cop, ''I'm into the theory
but not the practice of roosters." Everyone laughs
except the woman in back, who writes on her napkin,
"Why do people and animals in jokes always enter bars
in threes?" Just then, a hurricane, tornado, mud slide,
and stapler walk into a bar. She strikes a line
through her question and estimates how many nights
she's spent in this bar or bars just like it.
The stick figure she draws on the napkin
has hung itself with an extension chord from a cloud.
"She has a beautiful smile," the waitress says.
When the woman looks up from gracing the stick figure
with a skirt, she sees the waitress has a halo
and says, "You have a halo." "Yes," the waitress says,
"I have a halo." "I would like a halo," the woman says.
"I know you would," the waitress says, pursing her lips
the way angels do when too tired to shrug.

please note: photo of the last call at Flanagan's Landing, an oldie, but goodie past place of employment

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday in CinCity

Saturday mornings used to include a writing workshop class at 9am. Eventually I decided to stop going due to my slowness of creative outbursts. I'm more of a poetry writing gal--I like to get down to the gist of it without all the extraneous wordage. Though truthfully, that could actually be just sheer laziness on my part. I couldn't nag my muse to create a new poem every week and I may or may not have found that exquisite and one perfect word for which I was desperately searching the past seven days between classes. In my mind that makes for a slow and unusual punishment for the rest of the group. There was one woman, though, who, no matter what I wrote would tell me, "You have too many words in this poem." Always reminded me of Amadeus. Always.

Every. Single. Time.

Now that I'm back in school my right brain is in a continual spasm. Creative writing seems like an eon ago. However, I have the pleasure of introducing you to two of my friends from writing workshop--here and here. Buzz by when you have a few minutes to browse. I think you'll like them. Maria writes about the craft of writing when she's not comparing chili recipes and remember in this town we're talking chocolate and cinnamon. Lisa is writing about the experience of being in a clinical trial for MS, but of course, that involves discussions about dog walking and being told by strangers you look like your husband's mother. You know, daily life.

And here's to you, Too Many Words Lady--

On Ludlow

Red coat beneath
red umbrella
and the sky is just starting to snow.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Home

Herbert Morris

I am wearing a pale silk lounging robe
the color of lake water glimpsed at dusk,
relic, it may be, of a life before this
of which no recollection, none whatever,
has survived, the sash once girdling the waist

confiscated the day I entered (laces,
ropes, belts: potential self-inflicted weapons),
wandering the corridors of The Home,
medallions of a previous campaign,
few but sterling, fastened to a lapel.

Outside, some trees bear the indignities
of the years of a long life—weather burn,
sun scald, leaf canker, trunk scars, root mold, rot—
with a degree of patience and composure
utterly moving, wholly to be envied.

Visitors, in winter, are few, if any.
The drive takes long, lies far; most of the maps,
whether by inadvertence or design,
have routes misplaced, or landscapes rearranged,
or roads which should lead somewhere leading nowhere,

turning back on themselves, ending in woods,
thwarted at that point a road should begin,
a chaos of unspeakable proportions,
a deliberate effort to mislead,
confuse, efface, distract, one more attempt,

part of a master plan, one rumor has it,
meant to discourage future expeditions,
holidays, Sundays, with their bleak reminders,
risky at best, of the past, of the human,
all one felt, suffered, who one was, may be.

Tea is brought at three-thirty, a young girl
with long red-gold hair, flushed cheeks, County Mayo
lacing the “Lemon? Sugar? Cream?” she speaks,
when she speaks, and pale gray-green eyes which seem
always needing not to encounter yours.

The custodian, particularly
those days snow falls, does his job, I must say,
to perfection, setting the thermostat
between seventy-six and seventy-seven,
keeping it there even after the dark falls,

when we dream (some still dream), walk in our sleep,
track the moon in the course of its ascension,
never tampering with it through the night,
those hours when need of warmth is most acute,
more so than I can bring myself to say.

From the west wing, where the kitchen lies wedged,
the stench of turnip overtakes the mornings,
the fumes of cabbage swamp the afternoons.
One knows, unfailingly, what lunch will offer,
what the dinner platter is bound to bring.

(The cabernet bouchet will not be poured
nor the wine of intimacy decanted;
no candles grace the disinfected tables.
Some small details still, darkly, pulse with light
We all wish we were something we are not)

Hard by that field where seven trees stand guard,
so touchingly heroic, bearing witness,
grackles and starlings search the brush for berries,
finding nothing, but nothing, to sustain them.
The undergrowth blooms fiercely, but with sorrow.

There are days, skies thick, choked, arrows of rain
glazing to sleet, the panes set in the dormer
starting to rattle, tugging against frames
bloated, warped, too loose to accommodate them,
I reach into a pocket of the robe,

stripped of its fringed cord for—their word—“safekeeping,”
withdrawing a small square of paper, folded
so many times, done, undone, done, refolded,
it has come by now to resemble lace,
its intricacies worked, reworked, dense, varied.

It is, or was, a letter, the hand your hand,
written in a language by now forgotten
(suffused, no doubt, with a music once crucial),
in which I was perhaps supremely fluent,
even (I say this difficultly) gifted,

a tongue from elsewhere, some great distance from here,
one neither heard nor spoken since, years, decades,
and for which I have no use any longer
in this life of a lost past, in the middle
of grounds flowering with one crop, one only,

and that profusely, year-round, year-round, one,
weather and season of no consequence,
skies choked, roads thwarted, a girl’s eyes averted,
a life eloquent with preoccupations,
teeming, quietly, with the emblematic,

turning on these if, in fact, it should turn,
mapless, sashless, bordered by thermostats
on one side, fumes of cabbage on the other,
haunted by trees which stand guard, bearing witness,
trunks scarred, limbs hacked, visions swarming with grackles.

(Desolation takes its seat at the table
beside us, bright-eyed, waiting to be fed,
raucous, intrusive, thrusting out its plate,
famished for turnip root and hearts of cabbage.
I subsist on another diet: lace.)

It is strangely comforting, afternoons,
the starlings leaner by the hour, the grackles,
desperation unmitigated, wasting,
the others dozing in the hall, the small panes
for the moment at rest, the kitchen quiet,

to hold your letter, merely hold it, no more
(some last, small wounds still, dimly, throb with life),
ink faded, paper yellowing, torn, streaked,
what words remain, words I once knew, now foreign,
tone, nuance, pitch, too late to be retrieved.

Understanding nothing of what it tells,
even less of what, once, it might have told,
its perfume lost, its music dissipated,
I turn it left, then right, over and over
let the lace burn, burn through and through, with light.

Unlike most of the cases here, committed
out of anger, from an excess of hate,
poisons, night to night, thickening the blood,
mine has been diagnosed as the reverse.
An immense calm settled on me. I loved you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Eve

We, through a serendipitous stroll in our neighborhood yesterday night, found ourselves in front of a restaurant we'd not been able to try. La Poste. It was late. We'd just left a bar with a good sounding band, but loud, and we'd started walking towards home listening to the revelries on the street and watching the young girls walking in their sky high heels.

La Poste was having quite a posh five course meal tasting and we happened to stop in at the right time after all their reservations had been seated and we could pick off the night's menu. The food was amazing. Hubby had duck breast and I had mushroom ravioli, but those words don't do justice to the food.

And so, by luck and happenstance we found ourselves in the midst of friendly faces and kind souls with a glass of champagne and chocolate mousse at midnight. It was a good night.

After Our Wedding
by Yehoshua Nobember

When you forgot the address of our hotel
in your suitcase,
the driver had to pull over
in front of the restaurant.

Men and women dining beneath the August sun
looked up from their salads
to clap for you,
a young, slender woman
in a wedding dress and tiara,
retrieving a slip of paper
from the trunk of a cab
in the middle of the street.

And since that day,
many of the guests at our wedding have divorced
or are gone,
and the restaurant has closed
to become a tattoo parlor.
And we have misplaced and found
many more papers,
but no one was clapping.

And the motion of the lives around us
has been like a great bus
slowly turning onto a crowded street.
And some of the passengers
have fallen asleep in their seats,

while others anxiously search
their jacket pockets
for the notes that might wed
their ordinary lives
to something lofty and astonishing.