Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Reading Keith Tuma's On Leave


I had reached the end of recorded history.

Fragments of faces floated on the churning goat milk seas,

acquaintances, smokers, their lips thin. Others committed suicide,

the test of fascism so acrid. No way to deny

my mentor’s complicity. Nor that of

the Captain of the Green Police

who stocked local bars with contraband.

My face purple under the flaring fluorescent light

after swilling Cognac mit sprudel

to please, I thought, my Father.

No image of self-loathing has matched

my perception then of my adolescent face

in that yellow century where the coffee was cut with chicory.

Always withdrawn, diffident, I was nonetheless

an actor with a role to play. The eiron,

Jacques or Hamlet, dismissive

of the value of multiple, passionate insights

into the nature of things, all leaden

to me, as I climbed my personal mountain.

Fellow pilgrims spoke of distant lands

and entertaining anecdotes, uttered by luminaries.

No doubt gossip helps ease quotidian boredom,

the utter flatness of the staged plateaus.

The hills of northern Minnesota can make a person giddy, she said,

the car climbing a slope and all were short of breath. We sought

the northern most clime, the aurora borealis,

windmilling through the night sky.

I’ve never really been anywhere I’ve been.

Is this the common fate of poets?

In all directions the horizontal plane swallows

the vertical axis once associated with destiny.

Drones returning from their forays

no longer find the hive. Field mice

have nested in the flooded tunnels.

Torrents had uprooted their bodies and sent

them and their swollen bellies

to their historical doom under the cellar

of the floating house, scudding across flatlands and ice floes.
 
A response to Keith Tuma’s On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes, Salt, 2011.

 
 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hands



When he reached out to receive me, I recognized

his hands as mine. Short fingers and square palms.

I had seen similar hands in a photo of a mestiza mother by Tina Modotti.

The woman cradled her brown skinned child’s bottom,

chunky quadrilaterals

as if elements

of a Mayan glyph.

Oblong breasts pillowed his face.

I’ve slept on the lawn at Tulum

and heard the drone of Ah Muzen Cab.

Fermented honey inspired the poets of Heorot

and the poets of the Talamanca and Penobscot.

In a crevice within a garden wall

in Liberia, Melipone costarricense produce

treasured miel de jicote.

Beekeeper gods sing to a honey pot, held like a bass drum, Mol Ko Chi’.

Of bearded jaguars, it is said, many ancestors display

a pencil thin mustache. Of native American square hands, she wrote

in her ethnography of California Mission Indians:

bad Indians who beat their children,

tender Indians who cried from fear,

seeking a source in caves and mountain tops.

They fled to survive, as I have, inwardly, across the river bottom.

A cloud, melanin pigmentation on the retina is also common.

 
Written in response to Bad Indians by Deborah A. Miranda, Heyday, 2013.