PLRcover

Five Poems
from PLR #42 (2014)  

 

THEY COME, THEY GO IN THE SPACE OF A BREATH
by Marge Piercy
 

We are told on certain days and nights
the dead are close to us.  Yet I find
Shalimar perfume, cinnamon, roasting
chicken can summon them, so that
my grandmother stands just behind me,
my mother sits at my vanity staring
into her vanished face,

If like Orpheus I try to turn to them,
seize their presence, shuffle unanswered
questions before them, cards on a table
face down, they wisp away like the scent
that brought them.  If I think of them,
remembering a dress, a laugh rising
like smoke to the ceiling

they stay away.  They come when
they choose and leave so quickly
I wonder if it happened. Sometimes
I hear my mother’s voice behind
me, commenting on my cooking,
my clothing.  Grandma has come
like Eliyahu on Pesach,

stood for a moment over the laden
table and left again.  Two of my cats
came back to visit, ever so briefly.
What do they want, these dead
ones that never linger?  They tease,
perhaps, or have only as much energy
as a candle that burns itself out.

 

 

CITY LIGHTS 1961
by Diane di Prima

Going there for the first time
it was so much smaller then
that crowded downstairs full of poetry
racks of tattered little mags against the wall
those rickety white tables where folks sat reading/writing
Vesuvio’s was like an adjunct office

Arriving again a year later, two kids in tow
Lawrence gave me a huge stack of his publications
“I’ve got books” he said “like other people have mice”

And North Beach never stopped being mysterious
when I moved out here in 1968
that publishing office on Filbert & Grant was a mecca
a place to meet up with my kids if we got separated
during one of those innumerable demonstrations
(tho Lawrence worried, told me I shd keep them
out of harm’s way, at home) I thought they shd learn
whatever it was we were learning—
Office right around the corner from the bead store
where I found myself daily, picking up supplies

How many late nights did we haunt the Store
buying scads of new poems from all corners of the earth
then head to the all-night Tower Records full of drag queens
& revolutionaries, to get a few new songs

And dig it, City Lights still here, like some old lighthouse
though all the rest is gone,
the poetry’s moved upstairs, the publishing office
right there now too     & crowds of people
one third my age or less still haunt the stacks
seeking out voice from all quarters
of the globe.

 

 

OUT OF BODY
by Joe Weil

I'd like to get out of my body,
but perhaps not all of it
I might keep the nose
or the shoulders, or the hands
through which memory moves,
but lay off the rest of my members.
 
Of course, according to yahoo,
I am seventy percent bacteria
and so I would need a consensus.
I think it might be like a faculty meeting
in which everyone gets stuck
on a single sentence, and old grudges flare,
and the theorists and the post colonials
ask what does out of mean?
 
Do you mean out of as in othered?
According to Derrida,
we are all out of our bodies,
all othered, all set orbiting
a center that does not exist,
 
And then someone would say:
move the H courses toward L electives,
and I'd sit there stuck in the same old body,
my coffee getting cold,
my paunch threatening to growl,
dreaming of impossible agreements
between what I desire and what I am.
 
I could try drugs, or religion
or lucid dreaming-- get some temporary fix.
I could shape shift into Maria Calas at La Scala
into Keats hearing a nightingale
into the exalted bodies of athletes
the whipped bodies of saints,
the body over there- the one
performing hand stands and somersaults,
 
but what if I lost the memory
of my daughters forehead against mine,
or the clasp of my son's hand around my index finger,
suppose my lips felt so different that, kissing my wife,.
I became a man she was cheating on me with.
 
Forget it, I accept this rasping cough,
this arthritic ache, this waddling walk,
this body which is sometimes alien anyway--
not the boy who leapt over cars,
but the man huffing up the stairs:
What I exalt, the lowliness of being
this corpse pending,
that unlike Mark Strand has never kept
things whole.

 

 

HOUSEHOLD SPIRITS
by Carlton Fisher

An empty house becomes belligerent.
The door casings begin to stick.
Window locks shudder and resist opening,
trying to reject the air that has been shut out so long.
The stairs that used to be so welcoming
cease yielding to cushion the steps of visitors,
insinuate there are only intruders here.

In the months after my Grandfather died,
his house began to revoke its invitations.
First, there was just a chill,
a sense of withdrawn comfort,
as the dust began to settle on the furniture.
Then the air itself began to seem thicker,
just a bit more difficult to breathe.

In the hottest days of August,
the refrigerator stopped working,
blowing hot air into the compartment,
rotting the food quickly,
and filling the house with a stench
that insisted no one was welcome.

In the week that the shock of loss finally faded enough
that we could begin to empty the house,
it openly rebelled.
Magnets fell from the refrigerator inexplicably
and shattered on the floor.
The walls pulled back when we tried to remove the pictures,
and the angry spots left behind in the faded paint
seemed to bleed like fresh wounds after battle.

And at the most unexpected moments,
the memories of the love that had filled a house
that had experienced so much sadness
lashed out in the cruelest of ways,
leaving me silent and frozen
by the reminder of the people I had loved so much,
the last of my family to be lost.

 

 

AMERICA, THE BEAUTIFUL
by Loren Kleinman

This is America,
the dark house of fiction,
the dark horse,
the battle ground.

This is the place
where I danced
with my mother
in the den
before she was drunk
and chose wine
over her daughter.

This state, NJ,
is where I grew up
and lived for 30 years
in a home full of love,
drunk love
and non love.

Mother,
my mother,
she’s her own country,

her borders closed,
highways full of inspectors,
streets turning
and winding with detours,
all under construction.

I miss her.

I wish she’d give up appearances,
the beer, the white wine,
the red wine,
how it makes her foreign,
the other reality,
shiny with red drunk cheeks.

I remember loving her once
in long sober hugs.

This is my song for her:
my mother,
my mother,
the beautiful.