The Swim Mask

Did you take delight in the sound
of the belt on my bare legs?
Did the red welts please you?
Did you hear my stifled weeping and rejoice?

Or were you just grouchy for having
to welcome
us into your home
—you can’t turn family away, after all—
resentful of having your space invaded
while Mom and Dad got back on their feet?

Would it matter to you now, after 35 years,
if I told you
what I told you then?

Auntie, the lens of the swim mask
was already coming
out of the gasket,
and I was only trying to fix it.

No, I wasn’t hiding it behind my back
because
I was to blame—
I was hiding it for the same reason
prey conceals itself from the predator.

Turning Back the Clocks

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I look through the crystal face,
watch the hands circle
around, hands turning,

not creating time but only
simulating the irreversible movement
of past into future, quickly

past the present. I can, surely, grip
the stem between finger and thumb
and turn the ticking sticks

backward, 5-4-3-2-1, but nothing
in the past is ever recreated, nothing
damaged ever fixed, not entirely,

like the eroding beach beneath
my feet—no Golden Age to
return, no, never, no future bliss

of Kingdom Come, only this present
moment. And I don’t know what
to make of it, this experiment

of the now that resists observation
or interpretation, and is unmerciful
to any miscalculation.

The Wave

Driving east
toward Tybee Beach,
the smell of salt air
takes me back
twenty-five years.

I see in my mind
the shape of
one particular wave,
and the bob of your head
as you drift away.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And now, with the stresses bold:

 

Driving east
toward Tybee Beach,

the smell of salt air
takes me back
twenty-five years.

 

I see in my mind
the shape of

one particular wave,
and the bob of your head
as you drift away.


For dVerse. Tonight Gay would like us to reach deep into our natural poetic rhythms. I first posted the poem without noting how I hear the rhythm, to give you, dear reader, the chance to find how you read it on your own. This is an older poem that was written without rhythm necessarily in mind, and I think it is pretty typical of my inner beat. Do you hear it the same way that I do?

Maryann Corbett: Finding the Lego

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American Life in Poetry: Column 485

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

No ideas but in things, said one of my favorite poets, William Carlos Williams, and here’s a fine poem by Maryann Corbett of St. Paul, Minnesota, about turning up one small object loaded with meaning.

Finding the Lego

You find it when you’re tearing up your life,
trying to make some sense of the old messes,
moving dressers, peering under beds.
Almost lost in cat hair and in cobwebs,
in dust you vaguely know was once your skin,
it shows up, isolated, fragmentary.
A tidy little solid. Tractable.
Knobbed to be fitted in a lock-step pattern
with others. Plastic: red or blue or yellow.
Out of the dark, undamaged, there it is,
as bright and primary colored and foursquare
as the family with two parents and two children
who moved in twenty years ago in a dream.
It makes no allowances, concedes no failures,
admits no knowledge of a little girl
who glared through tears, rubbing her slapped cheek.
Rigidity is its essential trait.
Likely as not, you leave it where it was.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Maryann Corbett, from her most recent book of poems, Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter, Able Muse Press, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Maryann Corbett and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Poppy’s Brush Pile

 

Poppy’s Brush Pile

Poppy liked to tell the story
about the time he did a little
yard cleaning and had a grand old pile
of brush and leaves, probably
about ten feet high more than likely,
and reckoned he couldn’t
bag it all, that Ketchem’s
didn’t have enough bags to sell
even if he’d wanted to, so he
figured on it awhile and settled on
a big burning as the best way—
shortly the pile would be gone,
and while it was a-going he could
set on the porch and just watch.

So he took a dry bunch of leaves
up under the pile and dropped
his half-smoked Marlboro.
One tiny spark and a smidgen
of smoke and nothing else.
Well, this ain’t working
worth shooting, he said.
Then he went to the porch
and got a-hold of the morning paper,
crinkled it all up, stuffed it
in the pile and lit a match.
The paper burnt quick
and awful hot but petered out
before doing its business—
‘bout like my pecker, Poppy said—
so he went back to figuring.

Then he remembered that five-gallon can
of regular gasoline he had sitting
in the shed, and he wasn’t about
to let a damned brush pile
make a fool of him. He took the can
and scrabbled to the top, standing
like the precious good Lord
come again on Mount Olive,
and dumped the gas all over the pile.

‘Course it took awhile to pour
five gallons, so in the meantime
the fumes worked their way
all into the little pockets
of air. As you might guess
but Poppy didn’t, not quite yet,
when the match was dropped
the blast blowed him
clear into the flower bed,
heels heavenward. He said he smelt
singed ass-hairs for two weeks after.

He liked to tell this story and say,
See there, honey, even if you reckon
you got the best idea, you still
might want to figure awhile.

 ——————————
 
For dVerse Meeting the Bar. I have been absent from the bar for a few months, and sincerely missed everyone. Peak season at work, tons of overtime. I still was able to do a fair amount of reading, but very little writing. Just couldn’t find the motivation, the inspiration, the whatever it is that makes me put pen to paper and try to make sense of my world. 
 
Anyway, our host Tony Maude has us hearkening back to previous prompts, and since I missed so many I felt a lot of freedom. This poem is meant for the prompt Victoria offered, in which she invited us to write close to home, personal, in the common speech of daily life. I actually had another poem ready that I wrote last night, but things happened and I didn’t submit. Then as I was falling asleep I thought about this story, so I wrote it out this morning.