Field Notes, Week of 01-26-21

Arthur Russell‘s recap of The Red Wheelbarrow Poets’ Workshop of January 26, 2021

We got the news yesterday that Mark Fogarty, the Editor in Chief and the Publisher of the Red Wheelbarrow Journal and the MC of the Gainville Café sessionss, and a stalwart member of the RWB workshop since its beginning, is retiring from his posts after work for the last 13 years at least on the journal, many excellent Friday nights of love and music, including his bass playing and singing.  Losing both Mark and Jim Klein to retirement in one year is a big loss for the group, so I just wanted to shout out our gratitude to both of them for their work, their spirits and their love of poetry.

Brendan McEntee’s poem, “A Last Act” is a fifteen line narrative piece of free verse in two stanzas, each of which presents the facts of a different part of the day of a burial.  The poem begins when most of the mourners have left the gravesite and “the men moved in” – the men who do shovel the dirt.  The speaker’s family, including girls who “played hide-and-seek among the monuments” remain behind.  At the center of the poem a strong declarative places the day in the context of a survivor’s life: “It’s the last, firming act of adulthood when your parents die,/ though I don’t confuse it with maturity.”  The poem never tells us whose parent died, which gives the voice a certain internality and adds to the sense of stillness that the poem generates from beginning to end. 

The second stanza, of four lines, brings us back to the graveyard later in the day, “after dinner and recollections,” as the speaker drives by, looking through the green gate, looking for the grave, taking note of the flowers that the men had set on the mound “nicely,/ a momentary reminder for anyone who might pass and see.  Tom B said that the speaker of the poem was hiding their feelings. The way the speaker doesn’t tell us the relationship between the decedent and themselves but declares the place a parent’s death takes is one example.  And look at those last two lines again: the speaker, driving past the cemetery sees the grave through the gate and declares, in a very third person way that the flowers are  “a momentary reminder for anyone who might pass and see.”  Well, there IS a person passing and seeing right at that moment, and it’s not “anyone”— it’s the speaker.  So whether they are hiding their feelings  as Tom says, or presenting them through the filter of distancing effects (and through the green gate), it gives the poem its enduring sense of stillness.  (Frank didn’t like the title.  Neither did I, and there were a bunch of other editorial comments on syntax and word choice.)  I for one would love to see this near-sonnet again.

Speaking of maintaining a distance from emotion, Raymond Turco’s poem “Nilde Iotti” brings his book of Italian heroes more deeply into the twentieth century that some of his others.  The subject was a lifelong member of the Italian Communist Party, who (spoiler alert) had an affair and child with a married man.  As always, in this collection, Ray works in free verse, does not eschew archaicisms, and addresses his subjects as “you” while maintaining a third-person-ish distance that frequently, as here, creates a jarring contrast of familiarity and anonymity.  Like Michelangelo’s slaves, they only emerge halfway from their stones. 

Speaking of poems written in the second person that maintain an emotional distance from their subject, Susanna Rich’s poem “e-ro-teme/ n. 1. A mark indicating a question” is a lyrical love poem in free verse stanzas of three lines each that magnifies the adoration of a loved one’s hair curling around their ear.  The magnification is achieved through lingering on the possibilities of the moment, and the distancing is achieved through a kind of intelligent coyness, allowing the fascination of the peculiar word – eroteme — that describes a question mark, to dominate, even going as far as presenting the word, separated (in the title) into its syllables in a way that sneakily calls out the “eros” lurking in “eroteme.”  Tom thought the poem digressed. Jen must’ve agreed because she said to take out the comparison to “yin and yang,” and Claudia Serea asked in the politest way possibly, why the heck the poem needed three-line stanzas.

Shane Wagner, fresh from three consecutive rewrites of his last photo-based poem “Retouching” (about the broken bond between father and son) brought “Polaroids” a love poem (also in the second person) in which the love is shared between those old-fashioned Polaroids with a white border, and the subject of the poem, the “you” who is nude in the third stanza and pregnant in the fourth (talk about fast developing!).  The poem evoked a lot of nostalgia for the old technology (and Don said there’s an app that can make any photo look like it was taken by a 1970s Polaroid, and a lot of editorial comments. 

What would our work as a workshop be if it wasn’t about trying to fix a poem?  When we edit, we erase what we don’t like or don’t understand to make the poem conform to our norms; we substitute ourselves for the poet; we say, if I were writing this poem, this is how I would do it.  Well, hooray for that, and no doubt that can be helpful.  I’ve been an advocate in workshop for reading the poem twice and even three times before we say anything about it, because it keeps the poem in front of us in the poet’s words, allows us a chance to enter the poet’s intentions as hidden in a condensation of syntax, diction, line breaks, assonance, metaphor and a dozen other strategies.  Gives us a chance to say what IS happening in the poem instead of what SHOULD happen in the poem.  And that can be helpful to everyone, not just the poet.

Mike Mandzik, the inside of whose mind is a pinball machine, brought a poem called “RED FLAG” about an unfortunate misunderstanding in love, in which, as usual, the guy doesn’t know what went wrong, only that he’s not getting any pussy for a while.  Mike, want to come over to my place for the Super Bowl?

Carole Stone brought “Somewhere Else” a good poem (with a shitty title) where her plainspoken mid-century voice tallies the facts and artifacts of age: hurting legs, a bit of kindness from the guy in the liquor store, a beloved book on her desk, and hair getting long during the pandemic.  And remarkably, the poem is overtly about the very sort of emotional distancing that we talked about in Brendan’s, Raymond’s and Susanna Rich’s poem, except this poem records that difficulty as the turn that ends the poem:  “I think I’m closer to putting my emotions/ on the page.  I’ve almost stopped longing/ to be somewhere else.”

Yana Kane’s poem “Tai Chi Teacher” is a re-write of her triptych about a tai chi master whose lessons survive him.  It’s in four sections now (Quad-tych?) of varying length and uneven stanza lengths, still in free verse, and even more clearly now an elegy to this mentor.  It starts with the highly formal address: Our Tai Chi teacher,/ Master Yu,/ was in the eighty-first year of his life,” and as the poem proceeds, it adopts several forms of address all typical of the elegy form: narrative of an incident in which the aged teacher showed openness to learning, strong declarations of inviolable truths (“Life does not make bargains…”) and expressions of personal grief (“Now I gaze at the blank pages…But the pages remain empty”); grief in ritual (“Looking at a snowy hill… I see the shaven head of the nun/ Who recited the sutras”) and the consolation of memory (“Ten years have passed . . .). One of the traditional moves of the elegy form that this poem does not engage with is the effort to place the life and loss of the beloved in the wider context of the world. (see “Lycidas” by John Milton).    

My poem was a haiku:  “The cardinal ate/ the suet cake into the/shape of a cardinal.” In the hands of most haiku practitioners I’ve encountered on the dusty road to hell, the form has, until recently, been a mystery of shallow ironies to me.  But then a few weeks back, I conceived of the form as a three-line poem with two turns, and then I saw the potential for doing some real damage in it.  Hopefully this is just the beginning.

Don Z’s poem, “The New Ideas in Chess,”  Susanna said, recognizes chess’s role as a metaphor for life. 

Frank said it was about endless conflict.  Brendan more or less agreed. 

Moira’s poem, “Twitch, No Twitch” is about that whole suburban obsession with the animals that dare to live near us, and the fight for survival and the confrontations that come from it.  It’s free verse, seven uneven stanzas long, narrative, prosy, and concerns two different denizens of that suburban cosmos: squirrels and hawks.  The squirrel bit lets us see one in the jaws of a fox, confirming that the game is for keeps, but also wonders what the heck these rodents want, including the possibility of flirtation.  The hawk portion tells of today’s confrontation, which is almost surreal, between the speaker and the bird, who stare at one another, one with god’s standard ocular equipment and the other with binoculars, which leads the speaker to conceive of them as dueling snipers. 

Janet K’s poem “Starz Who’ve “Sadly” Died” is a rewrite of her poem “Gone This Year TCM Remembers” and like that draft, it wades into the questions of reality and fantasy that celebrity and movies always prompt, and those questions tie back to our own of mortality and memory.  It’s free verse, prosy, meditative, and as in the first draft, it takes place in the automobile, American home of such meditations (remember, Brendan McEntee’s speaker driving past the cemetery?).  What Janet handles so well is the way crossing currents of belief and cynicism cross, never better than in the lines:

The car radio sings step into eternity,

and I’m cushioned in a moving shell,

an intimate place to dwell on the passing of stars and time,

as the Subaru’s odometer marks mine.

I’d thing, get lost, nostalgia,/

even as I summon it.

Note the assonance/rhyme of shell/dwell, and time/mine.  What are they doing?  Is it the lyrical work of elaboration, stopping time? 

See you all next week, and don’t forget on Feb 3, 2021, Wednesday night at 7, to leave some time for the RWB monthly reading and open mic, with this month’s feature, Kyle Brosnihan!  (Zoom link forthcoming from Frank).

—Arthur Russell

Field Notes, Week of 01-12-21

Arthur Russell‘s recap of The Red Wheelbarrow Poets’ Workshop of January 12, 2021

I arrived at the workshop very late on Tuesday.  I was at the introductory or welcoming Zoom for a year-long Mentorship Program sponsored by Brooklyn Poets.  I’ll tell you more about it as we go along, share what I learn, but the basics are: there are twelve of us mentees (dementees?), various ages, backgrounds, located mostly in the northeast, but west coast too and one zooming in from Singapore.  The idea of the program is an alternative to an academic MFA, with coursework and regular conferences and “craft talks” from the Mentor, Jay Deshpande, elective courses with other teachers in the BKP staff (stable), with an emphasis that is sometimes missing from academic programs, on developing a cohort of colleagues (which sounds to me a bit like the RWB workshop, but hey).  Mostly it’s a chance to work.

I arrived at the workshop in time to hear the end of the discussion of Claudia‘s “About the past,”  which the poem both is and isn’t at the same time. On one level it’s a complaint about how the speaker’s family doesn’t talk about the past, how the true past of famine and death is silenced, but on another level it is very specifically about that family, including a grandfather who “count[s] the beans” in the mother’s bowl, and a grandmother who “counts the spoonfuls of cornmeal” hidden “on top of the cupboard for my father.” And in a lovely turn, the speaker finds herself talking about the past in the same masked manner:  I open my mouth and the past rushes forth/ with all its cornmeal and beans/ that I foolishly keep counting/ like the dead.”

Tom Benediktsson brought another family poem, “666”, which figures forth the Beast of the Apocalypse as a tired mayhem worker pooping out on the poet’s porch to complain about pop music and the good old days, when evil really counted for something in the world. Like most of Tom’s work recently, the avatars of evil are ridiculous, and satisfy his growling anger with Donald John Trump (that’s the way they address him when he’s being impeached). What’s sly about this poem is the way the poem ends with the Beast disappearing and the family of the homeowner/poet going shopping, at CVS! Where they find “fifty kinds of deodorant, each one with a different scent.” Could the Beast of the Apocalypse be within us?

John J. Trause brought a prose poem called “An Attempt at Describing an Embarrassing Occurrence in San Antonio,” that begins with the all caps word “PURPLE” as though it were the warning on a label for an over-the-counter drug, warning the reader of purple prose to come, and boy-oh-boy is it ever!  An over-the-top description of a family outing on a “bright and bonny Sunday in San Antonio” serves as a shaggy dog to the revelation of an XYZ moment.  

Yana Kane brought a rewrite of her poem about the hope for a bright spring, this time called “Breaking Trail.” If you remember the earlier version, the poem noodled into this observation that the poem only exists in words and the words become the experience. Here, that thematic observation moves into a deeper place, as a stand-in for the speaker’s own experience of winter struggles and the longing for springtime:

Struggling through the exile of winter,
longing for spring,
words break trail,
meander across blankness,
lose their way,
read the constellations,
press on.

It’s a fascinating transference, and an audacious move. Can the reader (perhaps another poet?) sympathize with the struggles and longings of words? And what do we make of the second “half” of this poem, which abandons the “words” as subject and looks outward at the objective manifestations of the seasons: “snow, wind, sunshine, ice” and the “wild geese glid[ing] to the melting pond”?

 Moira O’Brien‘s “Round Table” is a memoir in tone, about the speaker’s salad days (“a dewy nineteen-year-old”) as a waitress at the Candlewyck Diner.  Mark Fogarty has set at least one and maybe several of his poems at this venerable sling-hashery, including (I think) one that imagined an alien invasion.  (I feel a collection coming on).  Moira’s poem captures the “breakfast and bullshit” valedictory the overnight staff would indulge in before peeling off for home.  The poem exhibits its bonafides in the evocation of the clientele, including this description of the late/early arrivals:  “The rush closed with bar managers/ and the occasional exotic dancer/ not eating her scampi.”  

Frank Rubino‘s poem, “The Path,” is not about Communist ideology. It’s one of his suburban moments stretching towards truth; the front path to the speaker’s house has been relaid, and the speaker’s daughter has told the speaker that the speaker’s son has walked on it before it “cured.” So the speaker worries about his son’s behaviors, and this leads him to worry about his own life as a provider, and we see him looking out the front window of his house until that thought runs dry and he turns back into the room to see the toes of his wife, including their toenail polish, poking out of the covers. It’s all there. When I read Frank’s poems these days, I get the feeling that his poetry is like one of those old time “real” cameras with an numerous adjustments, for f-stop, focus, lighting, exposure time, and the rest, and that he’s experimenting with all the settings. I can’t wait to see his next exposure (there’s a revision of Frank’s poem in word attached).

Don Z brought “Five Haiku on the Winter Evening After Steve Died.” The poem uses the haiku form (5-7-5) in a new way that draws on the incantational strengths of other forms like villanelle and sestina; the repeated elements, “part of our brain” “whatever parts” “whole” “constructs” illuminate and populate the emptiness of loss.  

Speaking of villanelles, Charlotte Kerwick (who returned last week after an absence) brought “A Villanelle.”   Her repeated lines “I wish I was dead is on repeat in my head” and “keep me in bed all full of dread” lock us into an ambitious evocation of insomnia and sleeplessness.  

Raymond Turco can’t stop himself. His poem “Antonia Masanello” is probably the 30th or so in his poetic sequence of Italian heroes, this one about a woman who disguised herself as a man to fight for the liberators in the Battle of Milazzo.  

And then there was “The Neighbor’s German Shepherds Rush Me,” with the author’s name omitted, and me having missed the workshop, I’m thinking, Brendan? Is that you?  But how to explain the “stuffed ponies, Cinderella records [and watching] Lassie?”  The poem may be a cross between Tom Benediktsson’s horror stories and Frank Rubino’s suburban soul searchers. A pack of 5 neighbor dogs annoy the hell out of the speaker, who is nonetheless observant enough to see that one of them, Dog One, has a calm, observant demeanor.  That’s the wonderful moment of the poem.  There’s also a fuzzier evocation of the speaker’s relation to his father, who appears to have suffered from multiple personality disorder.
 
Anyway, sorry I missed some of the discussion, and hope to see you all again with fresh work or revisions on Tuesday.

—Arthur Russell

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 10, 2020

Janet Kolstein

Conrad Heyer (1749-1856), The Earliest Born Man to be Photographed (in 1852)


He’d heard of the thing
and eyed images born of the contraption.
It wouldn’t take long for his own aged self 
to replicate on the silvered plate.

The man who’d crossed the icy Delaware 
with the Father of Our Country
had orbs reminiscent of the General’s.
His great, beaked nose had grown craggy with years,
his mouth indignant at the loss of teeth.

Maybe, it had been enough to see himself
in the mirror of clear lakes,
or to face his murky reflection on grooming.
He’d looked inward, and knew his character
forged with the gravitas of nationhood.

Changes come to those who live long lives,
some small, some monumental,
some bringing awe and trepidation.
As a farmer, he knew how crops grew from seeds
with the sun and the rain that nurtured his fields,

and that all living things are pitiful
when Death comes calling,
but this new machine, a camera,
miniaturized and memorialized
the very shades of his being,
and, in the beam of his eyes, 
brought forth a new way of seeing
and remembering.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 3, 2020

Arthur Russell

Fellatio Salon


I used to think Japanese porn,
with its pixilated penises,
wasted the strengths
that this ethnic type 
perfected,
the ultra femme
squeaky female voices 
no other nationality
could do as well.
Pixilating the cocks,
the coitus, as well the uniquely
directional pubic hair 
of the actors, 
was a shame.

But tonight, I grazed
on a long video
about a sex worker
in a fellatio salon
giving head to five 
guys in forty minutes.
There were no booths.
The guys sat on a pair
of wide banquettes,
both facing the same direction,
waiting their turns
while the others
got sucked off
one at a time.

The sex worker gave 
each of them her full, 
coquettish attention 
for seven or eight minutes.
She started them off
with a bright caress 
of the face, but no kissing.
She’d help them 
get their pants and unders off
then enthuse
as though she’d
spontaneously come up
with the most delightful idea:
oral sex.

She’d entered the room
with a miniature
riding-hood basket
stocked with 
individually wrapped
moistened cloth towelettes
dangling from her fingers.
When she struggled 
to tear the wrapping,
her smile twisted a little.
She’d clean the guy’s groin
before, and again —
more gently —
after he’d come.

She opened 
a second towelette
to wipe her lips 
between patrons.   
What I particularly liked
about her blow jobs
was that she’d
bring a guy off 
in three, four 
minutes tops,
then, after lingering
on the display and swallow
of his cum in her mouth,
which did not appeal to me at all,

she would go back 
to sucking him off
while his dick 
was sagging down 
to limp for nearly 
as long as she had 
on the run up, and, 
for at least one guy,
the second round of sucking
had more impact
than the first.
He turned his head aside and shrieked
into his own shoulder.

The last guy
she blew 
had this cool 
bass baritone grunt,
and a short, thick dick
she seemed to like,
and she made 
a Tootsie pop sound 
each time she popped it 
out of her mouth.
She giggled 
in a slightly more 
delighted way for him
than she had for the others.

All the guys 
were super grateful
and kind of happy,
as though they’d 
just gotten 
a free car wash.
No money
changed hands.
They must’ve
paid outside,
like
a movie ticket.
Inside, they faced forward
and accepted her joy.

The big surprise
for me 
was that after 
the first few minutes, 
I didn’t mind
the pixilated dicks at all.
I didn’t 
need to see 
the lip-on-dick contact.
I could follow
the obvious progression
and read 
the implied emotion
in her courtesan face. 

Pixilated
dicks show modesty.
Her spaghetti-strap 
satin top—
which she hardly 
paid attention to 
for the first 3 guys— 
dropped off
one shoulder for the 
fourth guy. Her tit 
came out, 
but it was an accident.
She lifted it back 
with her thumb.

On the last guy, 
the one with the thick dick
and the baritone grunt,
both straps came off.
Her whole torso,
with its lovely clear
skin and her youth 
intact 
came into view.
You might have caught 
an accidental glimpse of her 
as you walked
past your teenage daughter’s
open bedroom door.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Feb 25, 2020

Frank Rubino

We Love Sad Songs
 
I play the songs she listens to over and over.
They help me get into her mind
because those songs are playing in her mind too,
and the voice they take is her voice
inside her thoughts.
 
The voice she hears in the songs in her mind
is resigned to loss.
So much, she hears that voice
that’s sad, that’s yearning to be soothed,
and it makes me think that,
within her private experience,
she feels this yearning, and needs someone
to reach her.
 
Anyone you’re talking to,
anyone you’re standing next to,
or walking up the stairs with,
on their way with you in the meek herd
through the iron passageways
under Penn Station, across the iron gangplanks
hanging over the underground tracks—
anyone with their devices in their ears like networked robots,
all of them, also, have their sad songs.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Feb 18, 2020

Jennifer Poteet

Family on Stone Harbor Beach


If only I could have joined them, 
the clean-shaven father 
in madras shorts who strained to manage 
both umbrella and cooler in the sand. 
He reached for the freckle-faced 
woman beside him. 
Their boy tugged at the towels 
slung over her left shoulder. 

They chose a remote spot near the dunes 
but I saw them from the dock. 
The boy helped his father secure 
the beach umbrella with a hammer. 
Soon, he ran, laughing, toward the waves. 
The father produced a ball, 
joined his son at the water’s edge 
and threw it to him. 

Boats bobbed in the distance 
like bathtub toys; 
a lazy airplane banner touted Goodrich tires. 
The mother put on a straw hat 
and started to read the newspaper. 
This was the family I might have had. 

My own father let my mother and me 
drag him to the seashore once, 
but wore a sports coat and dress shoes. 
He wouldn’t go anywhere near the ocean. 
My mother’s wet bathing suit 
dripped on his oxfords. They argued, 
then we endured a long car ride home, in silence. 

Now, the mother removed three sandwiches 
from the cooler and waved. 
Father and son, bodies bronze, 
stood in the sun and waved back. 
Only one thing was missing, 
it would have made them too perfect— a dog.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Feb 11, 2020

Bill Moreland

Buy a Book Ya Bastids!


I sell reference books.
I’m a jockey in a cubicle
galloping across state lines 
and time zones.
My wobbly wagon is overloaded with
multi-volume, hard cover 
carcasses,
vetted by academics.
We offer it online free with the print 
and without that
digital ghost riding shotgun,
I’d have been extinct 
some time ago.
The Librarians I sell to have sentries;
Patience with fangs,
Fortitude with no budget.

I call them all,
and their names sometimes suit them;
from Somerval Linthicum 
at the Savannah Arts Academy
I can smell gardenias.
Tanya Faucet runs at the mouth.
Toylanda is a spoiled librarian.
But I will not cross 
Sister Loretta Marie Schollhamer
(assassins also have multiple names).
In the fall I like to call
Jennifer Two-Axe 
from Ichabod Crane High School.

I have a rambunctious librarian whose hobby 
is as a jammer 
for the Bay City Roller Girls
in the local Roller Derby League;
she elbows her way through the pack – 
on her back is stamped her pseudonym,
‘Sigourney Cleaver’.

Their breed, their kind is fierce and territorial.
The librarians’ heart beat as a pair of lions.
The American Library Association
were the first to push back 
against the Patriot Act and
“…opposes any use of governmental power 
to suppress the free and open exchange 
of knowledge and information 
or to intimidate individuals 
exercising free inquiry…”

Integrity like that you won’t get at Google.
In fact, they’ll sell it, they have a government contract.

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association
threatened to boycott our 
Notorious Lives set
if we did not expunge O.J. Simpson 
from its cover.
Editorial replaced him with Barry Goldwater,
and Barry Goldwater High School in Arizona refused to buy it,
a worthy exchange.
Our reference title on banned literature 
was itself banned
from a school district in northern Virginia 
of all places.
That is a ribbon we don with pride.

Once, a librarian whose building
was demolished by Hurricane Katrina
admonished me.
I told her our donation of a large set 
“was nothing, 
just books.”
And through tears she politely, 
firmly, as a librarian might,
sir-named my ass;
“When you scoop up books
with a flat shovel, 
and dump it 
in a muddy wheelbarrow, 
it’s more than ‘just books’, 
Mister.”

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Feb 4, 2020

Frank Rubino

DJ


I walked out the 33rd street side of my building, 
across the street for lunch, and felt, “We’re all soldiers.”

I see more and more homeless people in Penn Station camped in the passageways,
behind the departure board near track one where there’s a wall they go behind.
Maybe the cops are letting them stay. The cops are an army.

One homeless man, whose stomach is bare even in winter 
because he wears a skimpy cropped shirt, 
lets us pass around him in coats and gloves.
Are we an army, too? 

I know the Amtrak cops in Penn Station because I hit my head
on a fire extinguisher, and we chatted while they waited to see if I had a concussion.

I met DJ waiting for the Boston Amtrak. 
He was just out of Rahway jail serving twenty years. 
“I am not that kind of person,” he said, “but I will kill you if you fuck me.” 
I said, “DJ, if you always react like that, you’re going to be ruled by anger.” 
“You’re right,” said DJ. He asked could I help him get a train ticket to Camden, 
to get back with his ex-wife.
I don’t know if she knew he was coming.

Later, I considered whether I’d done a good thing 
giving DJ twenty bucks.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Jan 28, 2020

Jennifer Poteet

My Mother Wanted a Daughter So Much
 

She took off her silver earrings first, 
and pierced the silicone cup of her diaphragm 
with an earring post, 
and stood, naked in the bedroom. 
She skipped the spermicide, too, 
while she waited for my father. 
He didn’t want more children. 
There were two already 
from his first marriage. 
What if my father had stopped to look 
at that little lanced disk, 
dormant most of the time 
in a pink silk pouch 
on the bottom shelf of the linen closet?

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Jan 21, 2020

Out of Tune

Tierra Sherlock


Whenever you came over,
you bee-lined for the guitar at the foot of my bed. 

I tried to learn to play when I was younger.
I spent hours sliding my fingers across the steel strings 
and pressing down so hard that they bled.

We laughed at how small my beginner guitar looked when you cradled it.
You said the quality was shit, 
but you still reached for the pick you always carried in your wallet.

I watched how easily your fingers found the frets, 
how you could feel for the right notes even with your eyes closed.
The strings never made a deep impression on your skin, 
your fingers never bled.

The guitar hasn’t been tuned 
since you stopped coming over.
I was never as good as you at letting the calluses form.

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