Poetry Special – (March 2014 / 14.5)
Artist, Robin Grotke, is a photographer and artist living in southeastern North Carolina. She currently serves on the Board of the Cape Fear Camera Club in Wilmington as Exhibits Chair and is the Curator/Director of the Cowan Museum of History and Science in Kenansville.
Thump: Not Falling Is Hard
Seduction comes to us every day in so many ways.
It’s too easy to fall for a man, a woman,
baby blowing raspberries, a leather jacket,
that Labradoodle, the French butcher who still calls
you Mademoiselle, the movie guy who looks at you
and says, A senior ticket? Or maybe the waitress
who puts 5 martini olives in a separate glass,
the rabbi at a grandson’s wedding who says, She’s
the grandmother? Are these sweet nothings? The Boss can
still sing and make hearts thump as can the plum tree
in full bloom. Not falling is only hard, because we live
to fall, even without a safety net swinging below.
Susan Terris’s books include The Homelessness of Self, Contrarwise, and Fire Is Favorable to the Dreamer. Her work has appeared in many journals, including The Southern Review, The Journal, and Ploughshares. A poem of hers from Field appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXI. She is the editor of Spillway Magazine and poetry editor of In Posse Review and Pedestal. In recent years, she has won both the George Bogin Award and the Louis Hammer Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2013, The Ghost of Yesterday: New & Selected Poems was published by Marsh Hawk Press. Her book MEMOS will be published by Omnidawn in 2015. Read more information here.
you do what you
really want to do
you feel a sense of joy,
fluttering of the heart strings
bliss overcomes you like a cat
who just found a mouse
running through the barnyard full force
or the way a poor man feels
when winning the lottery on the day of his birth
or the way a school kid tingles
when blowing the first bazooka bubble
or the way a lover’s eyes
glow in the dark under the super moon.
It’s just this sumptuous sensation
embodied in microscopic neoplasms
of your own body
like when you spot your lover naked
for the very first time
as water drips down his body in spring’s rain
and you realize that you make your own joy
and can do what you want to do
whenever you want to.
Diana Raab, MFA, RN is an award-winning memoirist, essayist, poet, editor and the author of eight books, including Regina’s Closet, Healing With Words, and Dear Anaïs. She’s editor of Writers and Their Notebooks and Writers on the Edge and has been published and anthologized in national and regional journals. She teaches writing workshops around the country and is also an inspirational speaker and journaling advocate on the healing power of writing. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology. Her fourth poetry collection is Lust (WordTech Communications, 2014).
Oklahoma, 1933. Farming in the Dust Bowl.
We run to the barn with dusty buckets.
There the heifer stares at us, Mary,
as if we’re fools to be there.
We stroke Rosie’s back,
then run back to the house with empty buckets,
sand and grit stinging our faces.
All our neighbors and friends
have vanished like the soil,
drifting to other states.
Mary, we were once close, two vines
on the same stake. Now we stare
across the table at each other,
as exhausted as the land. Neither
of us speaks of the future. Why should we?
The bank threatens to take our farm.
Why? Who would want a pile of sand?
Maybe we could start over, Mary? Are you listening?
Maybe we could load the jalopy up,
head to California? Maybe
we could find a nice place
in a green valley to farm again,
our black dust swapped for air
that can fog with rain?
Bob Bradshaw is a big fan of the Rolling Stones. Mick may not be gathering moss, but Bob is. He dreams of retiring to a hammock. His poetry can be found at Eclectica, Pedestal Magazine, Stirring, and many other publications.
Earth and Water Sign
born a Virgo
all warm lips flesh and arms
reaching out for everyone
a lesson in mutability
the change to Cancer
a crab that
eats its own flesh
until all is gone
all cold bone dead poems skeletal arms
reaching for itself
Nancy Davenport’s poems have appeared in The Burning Grape, The Mountain Gazette, Red Fez, Twisted Tungz, and The Bicycle Review.
The Same Stars
This time they didn’t get it right.
I woke up in the morning to the same
stars of yesterday. Pots and pans
in their old positions by the sink
instead of in the cupboard. My lover
alive and singing to the Velvet
Underground, and not being prayed on,
in the morgue. I thought I could change
what happened, if I moved a pan
to a different place her blood vessels
would not burst inside her head.
But I realized she was not something
I could undo. She insisted of taking
the stairs. She refused to let me
drag her away. And when I ran up,
out of breath, her body a last memory,
I found her again, lost to this world.
I asked the clouds if they’d alter,
if that would change her fate. I told
the phone to ring, the TV to turn off,
the sun to glow a little less. Nothing
listened to me. I would go back
to sleep later on, wondering why she
hugged me this day, why she was
the one who worried. Why my left side
stung, and why I was buried in dreams,
with the same stars lit above me.
Donald Illich has published work in LIT, The Iowa Review, Nimrod, and other publications. He is a writer-editor who lives in Rockville, Maryland.
A Review by Heather Dobbins
Marilyn Kallet, The Love That Moves Me
Black Widow Press, 2013
Marilyn Kallet’s sixteenth book is unapologetic about vitality. Such vitality is gained by connection. In last year’s April issue of Poetry, Sven Birkerts asserted, “The most lasting poetry—speaking historically—is the poetry that has given some expression to the poet’s soul, that part of him- or herself that connects most deeply and exactly with the souls of others.” Kallet’s The Love That Moves Me is a study of relationships across the U.S.—New York, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Virginia, and Hawai’i—and relationships across the borders of the U.S., France, and Italy. And most importantly, it’s a study of relationships across time: Orpheus and Eurydice, Pele and her siblings, Beatrice and Dante, Rimbaud and Verlaine, Baudelaire and Duval, Breton and Mansour, Francesca and Paolo. What do they have to tell Marilyn Kallet?
Lucky for us, she has not a shy bone in her body and will tell on everybody, including herself, family, and lovers (some not even her own). You won’t need your old college notebooks or a search engine. Characters speak to Kallet of history and place, each vying for attention. The title comes from Dante’s Inferno: “The love that moved me makes me speak.” Kallet will not only lend an ear for 144 pages to these visitors but fall in love and then write about it. If not in the mood for sappy love, surrealism abounds, as do roaches in a rental car, elegiac boobs, and a double entendre rearview mirror of a state trooper’s backside. This is a mature poet; she won’t allow saccharine.
What makes Kallet speak? A want that refuses to abate with time. In the opening poem, “I Want You Here,” the speaker talks to dogs, coos like mad doves, and devours May cherries. Let that be a warning of an eros that has arrived at some wisdom:
In the ancient days
I was the young one coming up the path,
angry at the sale who tried to muffle, to
mouth me in his image. But now
I sympathize with the grizzled wolf who snared me.
Now I haunt an image without hope, a terrible beauty,
indifferent, dazzling, cruel like a ravishing woman,
like a young man, like Rimbaud, and who am I,
Verlaine? And this is still life! A prison. (“You Are What You Haunt”)
We learn about the ideal through myths. We learn about love from famous couples, and if we have a literary bent, we have plenty of endearing freaks to choose from, yes? Yet, Kallet reminds us that fixed images are the bars of a cage—a trapping of beauty and the familiar damsel in distress. Ideas can indeed imprison. Kallet plays with these stock characters, surprising us with empathy for the former villain. Egocentricity doesn’t go unnoticed, either. Kallet addresses Francesca, whom she calls Franny: “It wasn’t God who pitched// you onto this whirligig/ with Dido/ and a flock of sexed-up birds.// It was a man, Dante. . .Honey, Hell’s not/ always about you!” (“Freeing Francesca”). God can’t be blamed for everything, and a woman’s egocentricity is her own fault. Kallet is quick to point out dynamics in all spheres. No speaker acts alone. Whole cultural and literary traditions inform her decisions and feelings. When Kallet turns to her own family, her need for ties is evidenced—to continue a line, whether on the phone to her daughter, an unknown Russian grandmother’s refrain, telling her mother thank you for hanging the wash four times a day, or emailing a cousin who is the last link to her father’s side.
Perhaps a 16th book also comes with a brazen clarity and an increased likelihood to offend. For example, the poet’s muse—always dressed to accentuate that flowing of garment and hair—suffers cremation. The formerly resplendent flowers are singed, and those Vogue tresses are charred: “Nothing’s left/ of the Big O who drove your poems.// For years, he’d show up in dreams as/ Crazy Dog, and you kept opening your hand// To his incisors. Scene Two, twenty years/ down the pike, you invite him back in. . .you don’t need/his fucking hair, his bowed lips.//You can ignite words” (“Orpheus One and Two”). The power returns to the maker. No more sitting around, making elaborate offerings and pining for a visit from the sexy muse.
For Kallet, speaking is a personal and political responsibility. So much in The Loves That Moves Me is about power—not only reclaiming it in later adulthood but actively resisting indifference, passivity, and silence, especially what is hushed in the name of Oh, but that was so long ago; we are post-gender, post-race now. In a 1991 interview, Adrienne Rich said, “It feels to me that I need to know more than I ever did in order to be a poet, that I need to be conscious of what is happening on this planet in ways that I never used to think about.” Kallet proves that she is all too aware of what has shaped her imagination: her cultural ancestry and background, of course, but also her readings, interpretations, travels, and daily decisions and perceptions. Who we are is simultaneously informed by the past and today.
Indeed, Kallet is no naïve thinker, and she’s not afraid to write about fear – in this case, a fear known by those who know genocide: “Watch the Jewish girl cling/ to the slick// deck/ for dear/ life.” (“Woody Allen Mind”). She strives to get the details right, asking hard questions and seeking voices from which to learn. In “Few Talk” Kallet writes, “Few here talk/ about the 400 young Jews saved. . .Today in Auvillar, no one speaks of these heroes./ ‘Oh, everyone claims to have been in the Resistance!’// one villager scoffs. ‘Those who collaborated/ might get their feelings hurt,’ another explains.” Kallet teaches part of the year in Auvillar, in the south of France. She isn’t content drinking rosé in a quaint village. She will do the dirty work and risk a tourist buzz kill. She finds out “A few Righteous families in Auvillar hid Jews. Those Hidden Children are in their seventies and eighties now. One couple lives in Florida, and though they have email, you have not made contact. Waiting them out? Je suis desolee! Now we have arrived at ashes and those still breathing. What to say? Hello, I am in the village that hid you but not the others?” (“Get This Right”). Her poems want the brutal and forgotten to get their due; Kallet never hesitates to recognize the political in the seemingly picaresque.
While reading The Love That Moves Me, I am stumped as to how Kallet is so insightful while never preaching. Equally important, how she can make me laugh with the heated and serious? The opener of “Exclusive” reads, “I loved no one but you, no,/ and if the ‘only’ before ‘you’/ got stuck in my throat// like a Roy Orbison tune/ or a wishbone,/ whose fault was that?” Later, in the same poem, she makes a request to “Forgive the time/ before you were born,// the Sixties, when/ everyone loved everyone,/ and by ‘loved’ I mean shtupped,/ and by everyone I mean Curly, Moe,/ and Larry.” The frankness couples well with free-for-all deprecation. There is no judgment here. Everyone is invited to laugh at this tendency to say the same-old lines, knowing incrimination is soon on the horizon. What makes the humor is that Kallet can take what she dishes out, as evidenced in “Detached”: “Pele’s sister Kapo possessed a detachable vagina,/ unlike us. We can’t distract/ wild boars by flinging decoys. In high school though,/ I dated a guy with ADD, bristles, and pig eyes.” Bristles wouldn’t be enough by themselves!
Much of Kallet’s humor succeeds because of its sophisticated and crass word play. I don’t know anyone who can pull off that juxtaposition as well as she does. In “Playing Andre,” Kallet concludes, “Not in the skin,// no, love was all lines,/ literary passion.// Just as well, Puritans/ tossing vibrators into the incinerator./ Where’s Eluard when we girls/need him?/ Artaud’s burning at the stake, Desnos/ nods at the wheel, and no matter how// I fudge the verbs en francais, mix/ hours, years, heures, annees, we’ll never// arrive together, baby,/ not even manually.” Oh, literary lovers and their hands—such makers of line breaks and desire, meeting on the page only. Kallet reminds us that naughty and clever have always made for good bedfellows.
What happens when Marilyn Kallet doesn’t speak? Her jaw gets sore and an “afterbite/ champs like the pretty world/ pretending/ not to be ripped in two” (“Today the Underworld”). We need books like The Love That Moves Me to remind us of the importance of speaking up in this erroneously ascribed post-political, post-soul poetry world. Wit can make you check yourself better than a wagging finger. Let us return to the title poem:
Virgil spoke up.
Had he held still
there would have been no book,
No hell, heaven, souls.
Now every church in Florence
has their number, every schoolgirl.
I’m well past the middle of my life,
less able to cast visions
on a still life.
I won’t scold.