Against the Dunes
Heart chatters to itself as driftwood
quickens in a circle of stones.
Wind urges the embers.
A grain of sand pushes Blake's
eternity against the fence
where a towel hung to dry
gives up its fake palm.
Don't be gloomy, we're sparks
setting forth, a text
decoded from flame,
our verb, to be
jotted in time's notebook.
The braid of what we are
falls open like scarves of desire
loosening their silk knots
in the children's bloodstream.
The sea chants its mantra of salt,
a voice breaking in the smoke
of waves repeating
themselves as stars, coming
up from Asia,
lean over us like pilgrims
striking a match to see
who sleeps against the dunes.
Boat Moored in the Dunes
I can't recall why
I set out on a journey
over the blue dales of the sea
only to put down the sweet
outlines of my oars
in a blur of sea grass.
Not that I've abandoned
the journey, but the shore
is warm, my ribs grow light
as a gull in the sun.
Lulled by the tick and squeak
of small lives sheltering
beneath my hull, I'm becoming one
with the sisterhood of grains
broadcasting my existence in the world.
Not once have the oars
looked back at the sea breaking
its heart on the shore.
I can't tell if I'm home,
or far from home.
Holding Back Spring
Tomorrow I'll move the geraniums onto the porch
but today let me sit by the cold stove and mull over winter
How snow came and went in the field
but lingered in the wall's stone shadow
Tomorrow I'll put on my blue cotton shirt
and walk in the mud, shaking my fists at the seed-eaters
but today let me remember how the power-saw rattled its teeth
let me count the steps I carried the cordwood
let me stir the ashes of the last apple log
Tomorrow I'll give thanks for Dennis' white horse
that is so happy to be loose in the paddock
it arches its tail like a rooster
and thanks that the three maple trees that shade the front porch
have survived again their diet of salt
Tomorrow I'll study what to do about the wasps
plastering the eaves above the old back door with mud
but today let me reread the letters from Audrey
who wanted to see this spring come.
Wildlife has a way of just appearing
while you're going about your business:
dusting a windowsill, say, or washing dishes
you look out and suddenly there's the young buck
that daily frequents the hosta salad bar
that lines the driveway, reducing it to stubble
or its the wild turkeys fanning out across the yard
the males occasionally blowing themselves up
like balloonsnone seem to have a plan but suddenly
one heads toward the road and then
there are 18 or so in no hurry; you hold your breath
but they are so certain they have the right of way
they don't let up even when up the hill and around
the bend comes a convoy which grinds to a halt
and then they're safely across and still unhurriedly
they wander and peck, peck and wander
until you can no longer see their brown backs
blending into the brown leaves, the brown tree trunks
and one day you look out to where
a motorist has stopped and is looking toward
your plowed garden: you walk out on your porch
with a quizzical look but the motorist drives on
so you turn and scurry to the garden where you find
the moose you've heard about but never seen
not only she but a calf as wellhave left their prints
like prehistoric vestiges, and vanished.
circling Lake Merritt in Oakland, California
and imagining Paris, France
This morning circling Lake Merritt, the birds
rouse the imagination with squawks, honks,
raspy cries. Slick cormorants line log booms
beating wings at mist, clumsy pelicans
slap at the waters sheen, everything
awake on a snake of lake-light crawling
the gnarl of tree trunksand Angelina
turns beneath her blanket on dewy grass,
turns there to kiss her lover on his cheek
as they rise there, as he calls out her name
like an urge, like a drive, like a hunger.
So in this poem name him Romero,
because you can. Imagine them instead
as they dance lakeside, Bois de Boulogne.
They dance lakeside at Bois de Boulogne
in Paris, Francedance with the same fluster
as birds circling in a raucous laurel
of wing beats, coos. But this is not Paris
but Oakland, California, and they
are homeless where sentries of city doves
preen at waters edge on the lake walls lip
along a ducky little waterway.
This could be Bastille Day, could be Paris
dressed in pomp and flair, a firecracker
sky flushed in a blush of hoopla. Lovers
are the thing there. If you are not in love,
you will be, or steal into someone elses,
too much Bordeaux too early in the day.
Too much Bordeaux too early in the day,
name them what you willhim Remy, call her
Adeline, because you can. Thats the thing
with poetry, it can pose lovers where
imagination wishes to have them
stir or waken or even dance around
in Paris. Here, part of the scenery
and art of invention, her hand in his
rests for now on her grumbling stomach
while a legion of pigeons guards the bank,
feet a polish of pink, eyes golden sequins.
garden varieties, yet necks lustrous
in a royal sheen of purple and green
but this poem is not one for the birds.
This poem is not one for the birds, but
it is for that homeless girl blanketed
in this Paris of the imagination
wearing a wide-brimmed hat and scented
lavender, not at this mans coarse and thick
hands grabbing mussels young gulls fuss over,
flurry of feathers caught in the brambles,
city doves strutting their velvet nightcoats,
pecking peanut shells she scrambles after.
She dances lakeside, Bois de Boulogne,
too much Bordeaux too early in the day
where a sweet rich napoleon calls her
with strong coffee all the muscle she needs,
someone else busy with birds in Oakland.
...it is surprising how the morning air gives one ideas!
Scenes de la Boheme
Facing the blank of the wall,
turning toward the window, distracted
by a Puccini aria blasting from a Speedpack box
at the Car-O-Van blocking the sidewalk
a neighbor is packing up a life, all the odd
whatnots, curious thingamabobs,
those whatchamacallits. No passerby veers
from the bellow of the taped tenor,
from the pell mell of the sidewalkeach stops,
has to stop, heads ticking back and forth.
Words drift this way and that
in from the fussy street, and I am distracted
as another curiosity piece enters the scene
a sea blue 52 custom Ford pickup
pulling up to the curb, a woman
in a cracked black leather jacket,
in low slung jeans and velvet high tops,
hair a slick of purple pomade, singing,
singing along in a froggy single-speaker rattle
to La Boheme.
Flightless bird beneath a storm-scratched sky,
I try to chip out my own sound
beneath this canvas of noisy spring flyway,
but I am distracted by Our Lady of Lourdes
churchbells chiming in almost midday
and something else I am getting up to do
that I forget in an instant, yet something
curiously more important now
than facing the blank of the wall
where corners web with dust.
Walking the Missouri
Yesterday at the river,
you walked down the sandbars,
the currents pulling trash
under, the banks bare
with time and washing away.
You stood against the 25 years
before that instant, the trees
scratching against the blue sky;
there, in the only cloud,
the veins of your grandfathers hands
the flow of blood scattering
and running gently.
intruded and dipped
from the cloud, its wings
tipping back and forth,
almost slowing to a stop,
mid-air, while the precision
of your eyes failed,
singing the years ahead,
a blur of current,
hidden dark beneath.
In bed kicked back in darkness
something needs to stare back:
a blot of lost light in the mirror,
Baudelaire the cat's eyes
moving across the dresser.
In bed the restless springs
retard while the cold cramps
and sweeps across the floor.
A storm could walk through on stilts,
rock in my chair,
steel my loose change.
Baudelaire's eyes could scare time
into an old calendar, wind
the years backward to stone,
inhale the darkness until
his indifference filled the room.
I'd become his iris,
hide in there while the neighbors
kicked the door into splinters.
Half way home along Barren Hill Road
three whitetails the color of tree trunks shake
out of the stand of suburban poplars, each
hesitant, cloven step toward the road deadly.
Even before I can brake, they reconsider, bound
back into the thicket between two stucco houses.
This is the autumn rut: mild days, bronze leaves,
a doe slung here or there in the gravel shoulder
by an inattentive commuter. Perhaps driven
into the path of a fast sedan by buck lust, the gender
gap of longing so profound, the girls pushed into
frozen pratfalls of unwanted love, a tan leg
pointed toward the clouds; black nose hidden
under the hedge. Timing off by maybe a week.
Later, they might have welcomed the musky
chase, given in earlier, before the backyards,
leafy swales and asphalt. Stopped in the damp,
cedar-smelling grove near the stream, welcomed
love without apology in the clearing. We all
live with the casualties of incompatibility. Even
now, some of us are hurrying home to mates
who want little from us at the end of the day:
no dinner conversation, rehash of slings and
arrows; no football scores or five-day forecasts.
No evening strolls. No slow, dreamy dances
across the beckoning, stainless driveway.
I am always grateful for the spring
I am always grateful for the spring
not that I have lived to see it
I'm too young yet for that to be a reason
but grateful that the laws of nature
can still be counted on
and that the bulbs I planted in the fall
have boldly blazed their way above the ground
grateful that gallant bloodroot has sent out its hardy standards
in advance of the more cautious iris
who is content to wait for milder days
grateful that the skunk cabbage
still has the ardent need to melt the snow
young blackbirds the cheek to flash their bright red chevrons
cowbirds the gall to watch while others
build their nests
grateful that our planet
has made its path again halfway around the sun
and that the shift in light
occasioned by earth's intersection with the plane of the ecliptic
at a declining angle of little more than twenty-three degrees
the same angle that brought us darkness in the winter months
now makes the fevered cardinal forget his former caution
and brazenly announce
his precise location at the apex of the spruce
grateful that the clear brown water of the pond has warmed just enough
to give the frogs encouragement to court
and me the pluck to pull
my parched and stiffened fingers idly through it
what does it mean
that as I sat in my brightly-lit study
a small flock of drab-colored sparrows
swooped down on the tall decorative grass
in my garden
like gleaners at sunset bent over the ground
determined to gather the sparse seeds
that the otherwise provident farmer
had left in the field for no other reason
than he did not need to burden
his well-stocked larder any further
in order to be certain that he and his family
would survive the impending winter
that showed itself low on the horizon
in the dark bands of clouds
which crept imperceptibly
over the barren landscape
like an incoming pestilence
making it unsafe to venture abroad
did the sparrows not have their own
well-tended fields they could harvest
so they wouldn't depend on the largess of my lawn
did they not wear drab out of preference
instead of necessity
so they wouldn't be noticed when they swooped down
I swore I wouldn't write about the moon
anytime soon, but tonight it's an ocular, yellow disc
suspended over black Albany hills, a caution light
warning me to slow, to notice the peripheral
while on this road trip. Warn,
warn others, its wide mouth blares.
I take heed: later in the Eugene hour of twelve,
a distant shrill steams in the high-keening
voice of a young woman more song
than wail. I raise my head from a foreign
pillow, smile in a hotel bed.
I've not heard the call of a night-train
ghosting through my own hometown
for many years not since the blackberry-buttressed
tracks were paved for bike trails.
Expecting cows in the brown pastures, I'm surprised
by llamas in several corrals,
then a mule. It is nearly the same in Smith Family
Books; expect to find the typical fare of male poets
on their shelves, and do: then looking backwards
Z to A, find Holden, Hogan, Harjo for this is a college
town but still no Stone uncovered.
Glorious, old houses of Portland!
I could live there, but I am going farther North
in a few months. In Eugene, too, the sense is
time behind itself. Thirty years earlier
Seattle had the same self-satisfied saunter.
I'm at ease in cities
while within them, until I'm back
on the road. Sun-glazed grasses
stretch broad welcomes, each blade issuing
invitations to watch them grow. This
is the secret to longevity
Stillness. Rootedness. Stop
driving, stop working, sit
in a copse of madrona, mugho and larch.
Wait for them to get bored
and walk away.
Rest stop, Grants Pass, Jays
peck fragments of tourism
near the garbage cans. They don't stir
even as cars pull in, doors slam,
or toilets flush.
is for Emigrant Lake the magpies giggle,
old biddies in klatches, three to an Oak
while Nuthatches twork and peep their hope-
fullness on the picnic benches.
What menagerie! Black and white
woodpeckers hammer industrious beaks,
while titmice chortle and squawk.
The starlings nod their silent assent
in the community grove.
In the space of five minutes or five million
light-years, four jetting stars flash and disintegrate
in the apex of an unidentified constellation.
As I blink, another star, dazzling as Venus, winks out
and is gone from its setting in the Milky Way.
Did I just witness a star die
a billion billionth of a chance?
Although the white moon still clings above,
the magpies already chide
campers to wake, bring out your dead-
weary bodies, arise from the hard ground, it's not yet your time
to melt into the earth.
Effects of The Dialogues in Tuileries' Grotto
In Winter there are words to cut
into scraps, point-to-point once attached
and now littered, now brushed, into a wastecan
beside the desk. Intricate pages unfolded,
taped to steamed windows. These snowflakes,
the best use for ambivalent dramas, Socrates
might have said. To just such a voice
have we listened, fled, rejoined; most of us
doubted the wisdom once or twice
of our dissonance, mental caterwaul, then
like Plato, into rebellion and beyond
into Summer. There are lines to hatch
and stipple, forms botanic, edges biologic
in between artistry and irony; here a phrase
brushed into life with a stroke, with hue:
altogether image yet ears have ways
of hearing remarkable visions.
How we have fooled silence;
in every work of art hides its poem.
Geri Rosenzweig is a regular contributor to
ForPoetry. We're pleased to publish new work from her collection of poems.
Click here to read more about
Jeannine Dobbs' poems have appeared in Chelsea and The Massachusetts Review, and in
anothologies such asThe Ohio Review: New & Selected (1971-2001). In addition,
Alice James Books published a collection of her poems in ThreeSome Poems.
Andrena Zawinski lives and teaches in Oakland,
CA. She is Features Editor for PoetryMagazine.com.
Her work appears widely in print and online and has been previously featured at ForPoetry.com.
"Call Her..." Won the First Prize, Friends of Sacramento Library Focus on
Writers 2005 contest.
Michael Catherwood holds
an MFA from the University of Arkansas and a BFA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
His poems have appeared in Agni, Aethlon, Black Warrior Review, Blue Violin,
Borderlands, Briar Cliff Review, Conspire, CQ, Duct Tape, Exit 13, Georgetown Review,
Graffiti Rag, Hawaii Review, Kansas Quarterly, Kimera, Laurel Review, Louisiana
Literature, Main Street Rag, Mangrove, Mankato Poetry Review, Midwest Poetry Review,
Midwest Quarterly, Morpo, Nebraska English Journal, Nebraska Review, Pennsylvania English,
Pittsburgh Quarterly, Red River Review, South Dakota Review and others. His
essays have appeared in Plainsongs and has had poems recently published in
Red Rock Review, Pierian Springs, Sycamore Review,
Deborah Fries' poems have appeared in North
American Review, Cimarron Review, Cream City Review and other print and online
journals. Her first full-length collection, Various Modes of Departure, was
selected for publication by Carolyn Forche as the winner of the 2003 Kore Press First Book
Award. After decades of living in the Midwest, she currently lives in the
Katherine Fishburn is author of The Dead Are
So Disappointing (Michigan State University Press, 2000), winner of the 2001 Florida
Review Editors' Award for poetry, and visiting poet for the 2003-2004 Hendrix-Murphy
Programs in Literature and Language (Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas), the theme of
which was "Life Writing: The Literature and Language of Biography." There she
read from her collection "The Language of Pain" and also delivered a lecture on
"The Aesthetics of Pain." Her one-woman show, an installation of paintings and
poetry entitled "The Question Concerning Technology," hung at the Creole Gallery
in Lansing, MI, during September and October 2005. Photographs of her paintings and more
details are available on her web site: http://www.artbyakacooper.com/
. In October 2003, Fishburn was the Murphy Programs Visiting Poet at Hendrix College
in Conway, Arkansas.
Eve Hanninen is a Seattle illustrator and
writer often inspired by the diverse cultures hubbing in the evergreen Pacific Northwest.
Her work has appeared in The Reality Box, Embrangled Sleep, Red Letter Press, Nisqually
Delta Review, and elsewhere. She is editor of The
Centrifugal Eye Online Poetry Journal.