Monday, January 5, 2015

Caution -- Artist at Work

Here's my "personal" poem.  Perhaps some of it will be familiar?

-- Joanna

P.S. Quite something to share work this fresh!

Caution -- Artist at Work

Before this room was mine
someone left a hot iron on the carpet
burned a hole straight through.
Who does that? A drunken reveler?
One fully subsumed by the artistic process?
What abandon and neglect might I give into
in this place where dry palmettos, crisp moss
sound like rain?

The shower curtain has a fine web of mildew
where hem caresses marble threshold
and a dog definitely slept
in what is now my bed;
lumpy pillows, Sateen (registered trademark) coverlet.
The ceiling is the same stucco
as the stilt-walking apartment complexes
that pancaked in earthquakes
of my ghetto youth.
And yet I am grateful.
A Room of My Own.
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

In the spirit of adventure I get into the rusty car
with the hatch full of crap,
ceiling fabric affixed with thumbtacks
in the shape of a post-stroke smiley face.

We stop to pickup swimsuits
at a 1905 cottage with a double veranda.
I don't want to go inside a stranger's home
lent to another stranger.
The porch settee's diner vinyl cushions
aren't sticky because it is cold.
I worry for a potted rubber plant
and its twin in the front yard, also
the delicate Christmas cactus in fuchsia bloom
a few fading poinsettias in foil wrappers.
Why are we going to the beach?

Neighbor children are being naughty
with firecrackers in their cyclone-fenced ranch yard
don't stop even after their mother
pulls up in her dirty white Camaro.
They don't care.
Why should I?
A broken wind chime tolls for all those
who do not care.

Parasitic plants have taken over every open
wound of a mighty live oak;
its crotches host palms, ferns
and the ever-present moss.
This Spanish curse smothers the trees,
sags utility wires,
drops to blow around the driveway
in tumbleweed masses.
Where are the cowboys?

We hit the beach full-force, full-throttle
like the cars that slither across the sand
between the plastic safety cones.
I don't feel safe.
The strand is too deep,
several empty city blocks wide,
a flat, wet expanse implying
an unfathomably enormous tide.
A soul-swallowing tide.
Heavy winds uplift sugar-fine sand
into my eyes, coating my throat, filling my ears.

I mind a child while the adults
fuel up on espresso.
I tell her of the time I swapped
sugar and salt for April Fool's,
watched my mother cook the Passover feast
unaware of my deceit.
It was inedible.
The child tells me her teacher bought
new markers for her class.
Now the sky can be blue again,
the grass green.
Then she reads my poem aloud
in a strong, clear voice without
irony or judgment of any kind.
When she is done she asks why
I use so many fancy words?
I have no answer.
I take a vow of simplicity.
I will sound like rain.

1 comment:

  1. Joanna, I am so glad you posted this. There were so many gems I heard only fleetingly as you read. The rain, woven in different threads,..crisp moss and palmetto as rain, lovely, the child and the markers as though coloring the world. Callooh, callay for you. Thank you.