One Hundred Degrees of Plum

Two Poems for My Veins

Infusion

If I had to choose
between snakes’ fangs
and tigers’ claws
to name the needle
piercing my flesh
I select the cat
whose stripes burrow
all the way to skin
because this hunt—
dangerous as an open wound—
leads the seeker
to my blood
and the venom
is already present.

from Mouthbrooders, Homebound Publication, 2019

Generous Bruises

At the bank the teller catches me
counting on my fingers—the same feeling
I had chasing my sister’s bike down
the unpaved road. She would fall before
I could catch her. As the road curved
I was thinking how little I have
to rely on; I should run faster.


Caught in the act of failing, used up again
dwelling in those Hopper paintings
where nothing vacillates, nothing
is weak, and all the women wear black pumps.
Their isolation—so original, it makes them
efficient, but keeps them separate.


But consider this: a crystal’s structure
appears only when cracked. We experience
the same self when the I cracks
and our breath runs out. We earn
the favor of being by breaking
revealing a symmetry so generous it bleeds.
Watching a bruise heal from the inside out
it’s the color that matters:
never black nor blue, but shades of yellow
and one hundred degrees of plum.

from Four Blue Eggs, Homebound Publications, 2017

Hotel Window, 1955 by Edward Hopper, courtesy of http://www.EdwardHopper.net

Light the light that will unblind us

 
Ritual
  
  
 Each night at dinner, in lieu of grace,
 my mother lit the center candle
 on the table. We children 
 were allowed two fingers of wine  
 from the icy jug that was kept cold
 out on the front porch. The seven of us 
 shared bread and casserole on our full plates
 and the light filled the room with luster.
 Each of us had a task: clear the dishes,
 wipe the table, snuff out
 the half-melted candle,
 its smoky trail reaching to the ceiling 
 like fingers folding into prayer. 
  
 When the washer was full,
 we’d stand by the sink, my mother and I,
 her hands plunged into the soapy water,
 mine holding a dish towel,  
 removing the dripping pans from the drainer,
 and wiping the water away, to expose the shine.
 We’d stand there in the evening hour 
 quietly perfecting every keepsake minute.
  
 Later in life, I stand in class, by the desk
 in front of students as we discuss short fiction, 
 plunging into emerging themes.
 A daughter and mother in one story
 bathe together in a tub infused
 with herbs and bark.
 The same characters travel to market
 to gather bread, butter, and fish
 to prepare together later.
 The mother preserves the daughter’s childhood
 in a trunk:  plaid dresses and yellowed blankets,
 mementos aired out and refolded again.
  
 In capital letters, I write ritual,
 chalk powdering the folds of my slacks. Together
 we learn that these acts are connective tissue that bind
 our muscle to bone.  Though pages away, 
 miles, or even years, we, as characters
 break bread, fold hands into each other’s,
 light the light that will unblind us.    

from Four Blue Eggs
   

Until nomading ends

Today’s poem comes from Four Blue Eggs, which won the 2013 Poetry Prize from Homebound Publications. It’s available now in its second edition (with a new cover).

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Sensitive Skin

The universe has banished us;
fragile gauze hair on tiny forearms
succumbs to renegade heat waves
and celestial currents, which now and again
sabotage our bones, flaking and peeling skin
like pastry dough. Until we forgo
our ambulant nomad ways, return
to fur, or learn to play possum, our doom
will find us roasted and sagging.
Perhaps
we should find our treeness, wear thick bark
and leaves that canopy over necks.
With years symmetrically bubbling
out of a center trunk, each milestone
would bear another ring of flesh
to shield the hemisphere’s burley snarl.

dandelion

Coils

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Losing the Summer

Winter enters the body and it collapses,
the blood cells attack, the fever leaves
the brain with its patterns of coils
and discs like a red stovetop,
an alphabet of rivers and branches.
This landscape, contoured for activity, settles
into animal hibernation,
while remnants of ancient languages howl
from the hospital monitor.

Like dried sap on a tree,
crusted, yet viable, a small scar has left itself
after the coma – such a thing is not
a deformity, but a bud:
a seed replanting its succulence,
an isthmus back to the world.

 

Come see me at Byrd’s Books on Sunday, June 3rd for a Book Club discussion of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, which chronicles that lost summer. “Losing the Summer” is from Four Blue Eggs, which was a finalist for the 2013 Poetry Prize from Homebound Publications. The 2018 Poetry Prize is now open for submissions.

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PechaKucha 20×20 Bridgeport Vol. 1

I have to admit that before the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport Connecticut invited storytellers to participate in their first PechaKucha night, I had no idea what PechaKucha was. It’s simple to describe: a slide show of 20 slides which progress through 20-second intervals–so a story in 6 minutes and 40 seconds. More than the slideshow, PechaKucha is an opportunity to gather with others and share. Developed by an architecture firm in Japan, PechaKucha translates loosely into “chit-chat” in Japanese. It’s taken off worldwide and the U.S. is starting to catch up.

I was happy to participate as the Barnum Museum hosted its first (of many) PechaKucha nights earlier this month (May 9). I told the story of how writing helped me recover from a coma–a story that I share in more depth in The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory.

Annotating the Self: Writing and Recovery  (or click the image below)

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I’ll be at Byrd’s Books again on Sunday, June 3rd for a Book Talk about The Comet’s Tail. Support your local independent bookstore and join us.

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Read Local Author Fair

READLocalJoin me and 17 other authors from Connecticut at the Read Local Author Fair. Saturday, March 24 from 11-1:00 at the Riverfront Community Center, 300 Welles Street, Glastonbury, CT 06033. I’ll be there with copies of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory (in advance of its official release date!) as well as Reconnaissance, Four Blue Eggs, Literary Connecticut, A History of Connecticut Food, and A History of Connecticut Wine.  Come out and show your support for local authors. In the meantime, follow my poetry progress with Tupelo Press and support Homebound Publications. 

Insomnia, debunked

From Four Blue Eggs (2017 Homebound Publications), a poem that has had quite a journey, from a notebooks sketch more than 25 years ago to a small but central kernel excerpted in my forthcoming memoir, The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory.

In My Sleeplessness, I Hear an Opera

In the beginning, I hear the darkness.
I am crowded by the soprano’s knowlege
of body rhythms. I see I E flat cry.
And then the light bulbs begin to sprout, one
by one, by the side of the stage where all
the Presidents line up in order.
I know them by their thunderous tenors,
because when eyelids magnetize I do not
sleep. After that I pretend that I lay
in a coffin, my arms folded like white
linen in a closet oddly fitted
to the size of my body. I smell cedar.
But all this time I have been wondering
if my eyelashes have learned how to sing.

I’ll be reading from Four Blue Eggs and other works at Byrd’s Books in Bethel CT, on Friday, May 18th at 7:00 for part three of Byrd’s Spring Poetry Series.

Four Blue Eggs Cover Second Edition-final

 

Forthcoming

As the year winds down, I’m looking forward next year’s release of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory. This will be one of two essays released by Little Bound Books, a division of Homebound Publications.

Comets Tail Cover Final

Kirkus calls it “a complex and compelling memoir.” Read the full review here.

As an enticement (Homebound is taking pre-orders), here is “In My Sleeplessness, I Hear an Opera” which is featured in Four Blue Eggs.

In My Sleeplessness, I Hear an Opera

In the beginning, I hear the darkness.
I’m crowded by the soprano’s knowledge
of body rhythms. I see E flat cry.
And then the light bulbs begin to sprout, one
by one, by the side of the stage where all
the presidents line up in order.
I know them by their thunderous tenors
because when eyelids magnetize, I do not
sleep. After that, I pretend I that I lie
in a coffin, my arms folded like white
linen in a closet oddly fitted
to the size of my body. I smell cedar.
But all this time I have been wondering
If my eyelashes have learned how to sing.