11.30.2010

a thousand words

When my grandmother died, I was given her writing desk. It's a small desk, dark wood, with little drawers up top and a wide one below. In the desk was an envelope containing a handful of photos. Among them was what I think is her journalist/photographer file photo, and a wonderful shot of her two daughters and my sister and me. 

Also in that desk was the photo I've pasted below. A simple snapshot of me, in the back yard at my parents' house. That's my sister's old dog Bear in the background. The photo is inscribed on the back Marian, May 1990 in my grandmother's handwriting. That means it was taken at a birthday celebration. My birthday is May 29; my cousin was born one day earlier a year later on May 28. And my grandmother's birthday is May 25. So my extended family always celebrated our three birthdays with a party on Memorial Day weekend.

May 1990 was the spring before I went to law school. I was living with my college boyfriend in Pittsburgh. My grandmother liked him; they both liked jazz. We must have gone up to my folks' house for the day or the weekend. I don't remember this photo being taken, or anything else about that particular day. Or even that shirt I am wearing. Or that haircut, either.

But I remember my grandmother. I remember celebrating our birthdays together, year after year. Everything about her is so present and real for me, down to the rooms in her apartment, the placement of her belongings in that space, the smell of her kitchen, the smell of my grandmother. Her voice. I hear her voice.

She kept this photo of me in her desk. It was a gift to me when she died. This simple snapshot. Her care and keeping of it.

11.29.2010

in the beginning

it was
your flat stomach
framed in low rise jeans, your
wallet on that chain, your swagger

your style

your voice
megaphonic angel baby
breathy lilting power
said please kiss me
girlie

guitar
sultry, your hips
forward, hair in your eyes
sullen teenage boy, pink bra strap
blazing

stomping
you owned the sidewalk and the town
"please meet my lawyah," you
told all who passed
proudly

pinball
and patti smith
flannery o'connor
foreshadowing, but for this poem,
thank you.

your joss

goldsmith
forging for you
live circuits, you within
  (sadly, easier to know me
  after)
cover you with beadboard, china
hazelnut velvet torte
jackhammer love.
lucky.

11.28.2010

fooled me

when you
walked in, dad, and said "trade me seats"
you standing, me sitting
every time, you
got me.

not fooling me

lying
perpendicular on the bed
no pillow, cold, so you
can say you're not
napping.

11.27.2010

social studies

perched astride a desk
before the class
your cock pressed up against
burnt sienna leisure suit
imploring us to memorize
the gettysburg address
you sold insurance, didn't you?

11.26.2010

the last day

passing
cloud factory

cross bridge, up schenley hill
crazy unbridled afternoon
joyful
the grass, the clouds, the weed, at night

sculpture, pillar, me, you
hard against me
changing.

11.24.2010

what i am not

genius
surrounded by admiring fans
purposeful disregard
wink and a nod
oh, you
know more
than you let on
enjoy more than you'll claim
thrive and loathe to disappoint your
minions.

what i am

daring
to speak the truth
wanting to speak your name
struggling to make sense of it all
writing
would i have imagined this, now?
surprised, pleased beyond what
i would have thought
possible.

11.22.2010

on the line

bolder
than most, braver
than brave to risk your cool,
your place, yourself, not so often
proffered.
if i had the strength of ten men
i might not be so brave
as you, whom i
admire.

vicious cycle

Staring at the red light
a tumult of storm clouds moved in
my brain, the sky
your words crashing all around
with audible violence.

Jolted by a blare, I pulled ahead
once stopped, twice, gone again
arrested.
(written by evelyn and marian) 

nomenclature

Kissing you was like
forgetting my name
stumbling across wet snow
building towers to gods.

But edifices decay and crumble
and melting snow reveals
a name before unknown, erect.

Let the games begin.
(written by evelyn and marian)

evelyn

Evelyn is a wonderful poet and a wonderful friend. I've told you about her before, and her blog, Filling A Hole. If you haven't clicked through to read her stories and poetry, you really should. She is very, very special, brave and beautiful.

Evelyn, too, has been writing cinquains this month, and in fact she's kicking my ass as she's up to 31 compared to my paltry 23. If you think I'm prolific, check her out. She is a writing machine. But, hey, it's less a competition and more about encouraging and inspiring one another to write.

So she had this brilliant idea of writing some poems together, line by line. And we tried it out last week. So far, we've written three poems this way. I'll publish all three, but here is the first:

Girls

How fun to be a muse:
posing, twirling
flouty skirt, flaunty walk
because you like to watch.

Appetite to inhale me
calories to burn,
tippy toes, moving prose
when will I learn?

Use my powers for good.

If you be good to me,
I will show you.

11.21.2010

something profound

closer
heady need for
constant reassurance
met with plangent call and response
gently
reminding me of my charms and
the strength of what we have
evidenced by
my tears.

11.19.2010

driving home

driving
from the city
from the sunset, toward vast
pearl iridescent seashell sky.
red lights
blinking, river flowing, winding
starts and stops, exhaling
turning left on
my street.

42nd street haiku

paparazzi flash
bryant park zamboni shines
jesus skull tattoo

11.18.2010

in the round

kissing you, i fell
into a dizzy abyss
please, please don't save me
soaring on bird wings
i can't recall the seasons
like a jayhawks song
luscious melodies
fast forward and rewinding
dulcet symphony
low ebbing rhythm
teetering blindly, compelled
to kiss your refrain.

could be, who knows

something's
coming, like a sondheim lyric
hurrycane sweeping in
delivering
humming
maybe
one-handed catch
something great is coming
if only to keep eyes, mind, heart
open.

11.16.2010

cinquain for mary ellen

thankful?
i am awash with gratitude
too plentiful to count
but you, for one
thank you.

santa fe

pining
wanting, loving
years go by not getting
until a window opened and
you flew
flying
wishing wanting growing, and now
your reward: soft landing
nesting, and that
ceiling.

11.15.2010

cinquain for embracing imperfection

looky
shorts at the gym
where is the brazen girl
who never wore pants? middle aged
awkward
wishing
you'd avert your eyes or see me
in half light, but you, here
in day light, you're
looking.

11.14.2010

cinquain for missing the point

joyful
rhythmic poems
reduced by mirthful words
to a jumble of syllables
too bad.

competing interests

weekend morning
fatigue
not enough sleep
all i want is
greedy love
curl up sleepy
in loving arms
drowsy morning
soaking him in
wrapping me up

two little ones
want me awake
or if not
curl up with me
greedy love
fidgeting
squirming
cold feet
mama mama
love you mama

mama's up.

11.13.2010

patterns

raging
blind confounded fury melts to
armistice, let's make love
and complete the
cycle.

when we met

although
any council i assembled
would advise against it
i find myself
falling.

11.12.2010

breaking down

building
sets, propping scenes, acting until
as anticipated
world made of words
ravels.

homecoming

In the spirit of this weekend's homecoming at Amherst College, here are my grandmother's words on the subject. Tomorrow's forecast is for high blue skies, but last year, the day was not unlike the event she describes here.
Will it be pneumonia or diphtheria or something worse? At any rate, it was worth it. And yet there was nothing about that football game to make us feel that the effort wasn't wasted. The team we were screaming ourselves hoarse for lost the game most ingloriously--or not ingloriously, but at least decidedly--and here we are swathed in blankets with our feet in hot water, wondering what ailment will beset us first.

You see, it rained. Homecoming day for the college--what would homecoming be if rain didn't come home to Meadville too? Rain--a much more frequent visitor than all the alumni together. The field was all one puddle. We were sorry for the team, but oh, so much sorrier for ourselves! We sat in pools of water on those cold cement benches, with icy water trickling off our hat-brims down our backs. For a time we were unconscious of the fact that our shoes were half-filled with water and mud, because they were so numb with cold. The rain gathered in little rivulets in the creases of our slickers and rolled down to form a lake in our laps. By looking cross-eyed, we could see that our noses were as red as cranberries. Our fingers lost all feeling sometime during the first quarter. I think it was in the second quarter that someone waxed restless and poked the point of an umbrella into my eye, but by that time all incidents of that sort were minor.

It was only a form of dogged loyalty that kept us at the field until the whistle blew for the end of the game. I know that none of us could say now how we got home after it was all over. I can remember only the comfort I felt as someone stepped violently on my foot in the rush at the exit, and brought back to it a little feeling of warmth.

And now we are looking forward to the reckoning with mingled feelings of fear and disgust.

11.11.2010

constitutional law

shaking
awaiting time to speak my truth
your prelection left me
reduced, dismissed
alone.

reflection

machine
heavy with the weight of your plan
boxcar preparedness
ghost visage in
pink glass.

11.10.2010

appointment

he replaced my sock
slowly tugging
gently
lovingly
this side
that side
in small motions
until he found its groove
just below my knee

pulling up the sock
shutting the laptop
closing the door
gently
closing the door.

now to find the door
that has opened.

11.09.2010

damaged

worried
holding my breath to await the
ineluctable crash
and living on
eggshells.

This poem was inspired by my friend Evelyn, who writes wicked fine poetry and fiction on her truly amazing blog, Filling a Hole. She and I both have cinquain fever! She challenged me to write reverse cinquains (different in form from the ones I have already published here) using some delicious vocabulary words, including "ineluctable." Please go and read Evelyn's. It's called Bill Comes Due. Then stick around and read more of her extremely compelling writing. A couple of my favorites are No Advice (On How To Go) and the short story A Whore Named Pumpkin. Read!

11.07.2010

intimacy

i kissed his face in greeting
glances across the table
bathroom attendant took my hand
and said, here is more
deep inside myself, breath rising
joining the city song below

reading my own words on the train
stunned and sleeping

little bodies wrapped around me
mama's home.

11.06.2010

who owns

emblem
marks my body
lone scrivener, my tale
written abundantly, tells my
story.

legacy

deeper 
my ideas
abiding playfulness
apocryphal water baby
witness.

assault

listed
an accounting
oppressions, injuries
to civil liberties, spirit
keelhauled.

11.03.2010

uncharted

dizzy
you will catch me
delirious and soft
throbby excitement, unbounded
delight.

the first

the one
i gave it to
knocked me down, leaving me
like a ripe peach, bruised, savory
waiting.

11.02.2010

cinquain for not there

wishing
i had been there
too busy to go home
arrogant in my distraction
regret.

being safe

haunted
i hold your heart
darkness cannot prehend
for you, my lambent light sparkles
trusted

11.01.2010

cinquain for what might

longing
other worldly
like wearing a costume
commingling real with chimera
heaven.