Young curator’s show at Santa Fe Community College Gallery.
Art by Annie Sanchez from Albuquerque Academy.
Thank you Jeanne Simonoff for a haiku:
Wind spells time
Hand me my babushka
How soon to summer?
ostatni dyktator -
giving orders to the leaves
the fall wind
By Candelora Versace
Standing in the light of Venus at the back door
praying in the frozen pre-dawn silence.
The smell of chorizo sizzling on the stove reminds me
I am not alone.
A spritz of strawberry body spray wafts down the stairs.
Oh yes, there is much to do today and it starts now.
sitting in a hot tub
under the open desert sky.
I see Japanese letters pressed
against the window.
I look again
of course, only leaves.
My Memoir and Personal Essay class began this week at SFCC. Part of the inspiration for the class is the textbook itself, edited by Lopate. Although some of the reading is dense, I find it rewarding year after year. The other book for class is Natalie Goldberg’s “Old Friend From Far-Away.” By seeming coincidence, Natalie just forwarded this poem by Lopate to me.
by Phillip Lopate
A friend called up saying he was in a pre-suicidal mood.
I told him to come over.
I’d pay for the taxi.
“Will you go back with me to my apartment if I start to panic?”
I told him I would.
He arrived feeling chipper.
He wanted some wine.
I gave him a little cold sauterne that had been sitting
around in the icebox three weeks.
He said it tasted sour.
He looked at all my photographs.
He said he was feeling better.
We went out to dinner,
But it had to be on Madison Avenue.
For some reason he trusted Madison Avenue whereas Lexington, Third, Second and
York were out to get him.
We sat in the last table far away from any draught.
I had my eyes on the delicatessen floor.
The radio was full of George Wallace being shot.
“Just like Huey Long,” said my friend.
“Nixon did it
Now the gangsters are in the White House!”
I didn’t argue.
My eyes were on my plate, Stuffed Derma and french fries.
Suddenly he asked: “Are you feeling closer to me…?”
Of course I was,
I loved him.
But I used different words so as not to frighten him.
His head vibrated like a top whirling so fast you can’t see it spin.
We paid the check and I told him as we were walking along Fifth Avenue, to catch the
park and its rusty sunset, that I was also going through a bad time.
I had pinned my hopes on a shallow woman.
Though I no longer wanted her I felt curiously enervated.
Why this pain in my abdomen.
“Very simple,” explained my friend.
“You experience an expansion, joy, the energy flows into all parts of the body.
Then a contraction, blocked, everything goes to the stomach.
You’re still in high energy.
But there’s no release.
The result is despair.”
“That’s it exactly!” I said to him.
It was getting darker and the first fat raindrops spattered onto the canopies.
The doormen were slipping inside, I was too excited to care.
“Answer me one more thing: expansion, contraction, physiology, I understand
But what is it that stops us, when we’re so near to joy?”
Only now did I notice my friend had his mad look.
His eyes, always beautiful, slid into passing cars.
He begged me to stop talking but I wouldn’t.
I challenged him to explain the connections.
This nightfall, the orange chocolate smell, the dumpy couple walking by.
“Look at them,” he said. “They’re not going crazy.
Because they’re healthy?
Or because they can’t feel enough, because they don’t know how to feel it.”
Just then I felt it! Right through my body. “I feel it! I know what you mean! I feel it too!” I wanted him to know… “I don’t think I’ll wait for a bus,” he said and jumped into a cab. His face wobbled against the wet glass.
The next day he was still alive. Still alive.
The poem struck both of us as amazing. It is confessional in a away, with a bit of what I think of as NY School of Poetry jazziness but what really gets me is how it moves into a more private emotional place–still talking to the reader. Enjoy!
The black and red of a bug’s thinking brain
some kind of thinking
some kind of feel
do they get from one place to the next
with some kind of fear
the entire classroom of 5th graders did not know what the holocaust was
the nazi holocaust
the teacher bent her arms at her elbows and opened her palms
the visiting artist said that art should make us feel really good and really bad
about who we are
The sky as teaser
not the place that holds the dead
holds all our situations under its big bulging purple thumb
how the smell of a ripe melon overwhelms the kitchen
how the cottonwood leaves are as big as my big open hand
how do we move forward with amusement
today there is water running in the ditch through the town
sometimes people love us and it feels like tacks
when I saw the coyote I stopped my car
he was so apparent before my eyes, like my hand on the wheel
he looked at me for a long time and then decided to go toward the river
we call it a river but really all the water is underground
The People Museum
At the butterfly museum my father
pulled a pupae off a tree
and squished it between his fingers
he pressed the gook down the side of my arm
he pinched my cheek until it bled
and left me by the side of the road
I walked toward the woods
with a rock in my hand
I saw a man with a worm coming out of his heel on the street of a big city
he was asking for money if you took a look
and people were paying him
he had some blankets and newspapers and a high top sneaker on the other foot
his stomach was big from overeating and buttons were popping off his shirt
now in the desert, under my foot black beetle hollow shell crunching of past death
as I push it back into the earth
my life runs right into me faster than it can
if you poke a stinkbug with the end of a stick it points its butt in the air
and oozes an acrid orange smelly oilthe stinkbug that I have been watching is stuck on the elevated cement platform
that holds the bench I am sitting on
he will not make the plunge onto the dirt
and is not waiting for someone like me to push him
The City Saint Faith
At dusk the women in black walk toward the Plaza in silence
one of them has wound a baby onto her back with a long fuscia cloth
this is what happens when you die
this is what happens before you are born
there are beavers in the pond down the road
dirt Is on the floor of the forest
the women in black walk toward the peace at dusk
they do this every year, then sit under the lights
white lights strung on the pines in the plaza
that never get taken down
The Blackbird Told Me Why He Did Not Care
I saw how it could pull its whole neck long
out from the top of its wings
like a black snake stretching to a smell
shiny black packed coal head
I watched its mouth open as wide as it could
the muscle of its tongue pointing out
I saw the call of its sex jump across the cat-tailed pond
Fruit We Don’t Eat
Crab apples frozen on the trees like deep red brown glass marbles
crab apples defrosted and shriveled like raisins
crab apples under their tree and seeping into the brown ground of their start
green leaf of the crab apple tree
pink flowers of the crab apples
pink flowers of the crab apples on the ground like a bath of rose petals
a petal of a pink flower in the air like a moth, like snow
new crab apples swelling to join
When The Dog Died
I like to think that I wouldn’t have waited for the Nazis to come and get me
But what else am I waiting for
The sun loves who I am
The sun eats me from the inside out
I could tell you that I am learning to be unbound
But how is this feasible
When our package is wrapped up so tidy with a birth and a death
remembering my mother
I loved them on splattered
at her Sanibel home
and coarse grass
beyond acrid bayou
and non-native pine
they coo-coo cooed
of the gulf coast
their tremulous moan
in soft gray undertones
now haunts my desert home
above cholla scrub oak
and blond grasses
railing which I grip
and mimic their shudder
quaver and awkward
until out loud as they
do not know when to stop
I loose my own guttural
the unused chess board
in the empty hotel lounge
a line of small birdhouses
on the ground
some objects wait
turf roof of the shed
implies a mother’s blanket and the grave
earth took us in
out of the cold
by spring, the purple blossoms
crown the bitter chive
but when the wild swans took off
I was tongue tied, and forgot
what I was going to say…