Tag Archives: poetry

Printer Prayer for the Beginning of the Semester

 
for Ellyn


Sure sometimes Wisconsin gets cold in the summer, jacket-weather cold,
but almost always the end of August is muggy hot
and the machines we need to do our jobs so often stop.
They just stop. They take the pages we labored over,
every policy researched and thought through, assignments shaped
for permanent learning, an ongoing attempt to balance love
of students with love of subject, excellence and kindness weighted
the same. Those very pages—stuck together like hands in gloves.
Like makeup slathered on. Like sandwiches. Or shredded like potatoes.
Or torn like deckle edges. Or folded up like accordion pleats.   
So just this once dear universe, benevolent being, ghosts,
please let the stupid printer simply print. Extra seals
of blessing might include collating and stapling. Thanks.
Honestly, this small thing would be enough for today.





(potential part 2--a prayer for actually staying alive during our 4th COVID semester)

________


picture of crumpled page in printer

Powerless

I don’t think it was a funnel cloud I saw, but 
it was black and the sky was swirly and it was at least
a protuberance on the belly of the sky, a bump
that got sucked back up before I plunged ahead and passed
under it. Trees were thrashing and arcing, deep
ceremonial bows to the east, to the west. Metal chairs
and a table flew in front of me; I skirted them, aware
it might have made more sense to back up, 
go around the block. But I just wanted to get home. 
“Holy fuck,” I said to my son. “Power’s out,” he said.  
We might drive around a bit, charge our devices, scope
out the damage. We might wait until everything’s dead.
I used to have recurring dreams, when I lived in a trailer,
of tornados peeling the roof back like a sardine can, 
lifting me gently in my bed. I always hovered at the roofline.
Nothing like that’s happened to me in real life. Not ever.


 

Prayer for the Burying of Masks

It isn't time to stop wearing them completely. Not quite yet. 
(My Dad's nursing home. Young nieces. The immunocompromised.)
But I want to celebrate because it’s time to wear them less. 

I’m picking one mask to compost in the garden. A favorite 
from the ones I’ve sewn? Black N-95? Baby-blue surgical? I can’t decide.
It isn’t time to stop wearing them completely, not quite yet,

so at most I’ll bury one. Memorial Day weekend. So I won’t forget
the people who lost their jobs. Got sick. Three and a half million lost lives. 
I won’t forget. But I want to celebrate. It’s time to wear masks less.

Now I’m wondering which kind of mask would break down fastest.
Should I cut the elastic off first?  Would the magic still work? Here’s why
I’m not going to stop wearing masks completely, not quite yet:

I don’t want to cause a single retail worker one split second of stress.
Long ago, we buried my son’s placenta in the rhubarb. That spot means life.
Thanks, dirt. Thanks, scientists. Thank-you Jesus we can wear masks less.


And with this mask I am also burying any possible lingering regret.
I didn’t write King Lear. Or bake bread. Or deep-clean. My brain was fried.
It isn’t time to stop wearing masks completely. Not quite yet.
But I am celebrating because it’s time to start wearing them less. 

And yes, I do know that we celebrate Memorial Day OFFICIALLY to remember armed services members who gave their lives in service to our country. (I also know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but honestly, if I want to say something nice about a veteran and I pick the wrong day and you correct me? I think you’re an asshole.) BUT LISTEN. MY GRAN’MOMMY ROANE USED TO PUT FLOWERS ON TOMBSTONES OF VARIOUS RELATIVES ON MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, AND THEY WEREN’T VETERANS. So if I want to use the holiday to just remember something, I’m gonna.

Also note: this is my front porch office, which I like to refer to as the FPO. (I also have a BPO.) This is a nice big old stalk of rhubarb which I’ll admire out here for a day or so and then do something with. Other rhubarb this year has gone to friends, been bartered for a fabric stash, and is going this evening into a new baked beans recipe called Red Beans and Rhubarb (same basic sauce as normal, boring baked beans but w/ red beans & chopped rhubarb. It may be awful. I’ve made it up. Have never tried it.)

The big vase behind the rhubarb is a recent gift from my amazingly talented brother. The wooden cut-outs are a gift from him from long ago–each cloud does indeed have a silver lining.

Also, as for me and my house, we are fully vaccinated. Fully marinated. Or I wouldn’t consider going mask-less.

Image

Sonnet for the End of the Baptist World

“Ow, ow, I think that penny broke my arm, Mrs. Fledermeyer.”

I was only joking.  My arm wasn’t hurt at all.

The penny hadn’t come from high enough.

My friends and I laughed and laughed

imagining the panicked high schoolers

above us who were just then perhaps

feeling a little regret for throwing things

off the tower they were climbing.

But honestly, why do what they were supposed to?

Just stand in line until the top then look around

and point? That’s what the ads showed. 

It looked like a giant waterslide without water.

Or a slide. Just a thing to pay money and do.

My brain knows I find it amusing

so works pretty constantly to please

and handing me this sentence

(which I’ve said out loud six times already)

right before my alarm went off two hours ago

was definitely a gift—a precious Monday morning gift—

not only does Fledermeyer rhyme with 

Neidermeyer so that Animal House

hovers in my memory of the dream

(maybe that campus is where my friends

and I were walking to, instead of where I really work),

I realized on reflection that the lack of masks

and distancing were of no concern

to anyone, not even me (and I am

generally, dramatically, in real life, concerned),

so it must have been done, the whole thing,

finally, and we could walk with our friends,

and make dumb jokes, or leave the house

to climb a winding stairway, mushed together, 

get bored in line and get in trouble,

the kind that isn’t about a disease.

Between pandemics I will

have nights when sloppy kisses seem just the thing

to bestow on every still-living friend I see 

and we’ll stare so close the sparks in our eyes will clank

together, warming our faces, and we’ll be drunk

on air, each other’s breath, we’ll pant, outrush, 

and suck each other in, French-cigarette-style, Irish

waterfalls of laughter—such noise!—and good old love

and food we paid someone else to make and serve.

Or maybe I will read about these things

or overhear them but not emerge from my house

because you never know what’s lurking about,

what new horror’s slouching in the wings.

I will stay in, I will demur no thank you,

I will say safe is what I’ve gotten used to.

See Seed Seen

I may have picked my nose on that Zoom call
just now. I don’t do it a lot, I promise.
I just lose track of being onscreen is all.

If I did it, I didn’t notice while
my finger dug. But I sensed an emptiness….
I may have flashed a boob on that Zoom call

while I was fixing both bra straps, which fall
off my shoulders so constantly, so fast.
I just lose track of being onscreen. It’s all

so mediated, so exhausting, so unreal.
I miss other people’s halitosis.
I may have murdered someone on that Zoom call

when they walked in front of my camera. Again. “Talk talk
talk talk talk” and then somehow, silence.
I lose track of being onscreen. That’s not all.

I chew, mouth wide open. I mop up spills.
Why shouldn’t I? I am, after all, the host.
I may have transubstantiated on that Zoom call.
I just lost track of being onscreen. That’s all.

What the little cat wants

The kitten I’m holding watches
the pen move across the page,
nose tracking the same pace as my writing.
She would rather my right hand
spend its time some other way,
petting her, for example.
She’s so small, a runt
(not a kitten any more) and I can
hold her with one arm, steady,
and feel her purring over my heart.
But she keeps wiggling, wanting
all my attention, both of my arms.

Tuuli, the little kitten.

(I was thinking of this Phil Levine poem, “A Theory of Prosody,” as I wrote, as I stopped writing.)

NOTE: she got down by choice after the selfie. I’d have waited to post it online otherwise. NOTE: she’s back. So it’s time to hit publish.

AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL

Am not the productivity queen, though trying,
every bad habit I have is worse right now.
I’ve learned a new word—“recrudescence.” Wow
is that my life at 3 a.m. I keep thinking I’m dying
from the virus that makes my lips a little blue
but is not, not according to the test, the hot new sick.
You can learn a lot about a person in a pandemic,
but what you think you know might not be true.
I’ve been thinking about the shows I used to watch after school.
Who would and wouldn’t wear a mask because it was or wasn’t cool.
Leave it to Wally to be the most consistent.
The Beave would try but lose his in a minute.
The actor who played him just died—let’s take a second to grieve—
or really however long we need—but I think we can all agree
Eddie might wear his mask in front of June,
but he’d take it off the moment she left the room.

—–

(pandemic poem #11)

IN WHICH THURSTON HOWELL III DECLARES THE PROFESSOR IS EXAGGERATING COVID-19 NUMBERS AND THAT THE HOWELLS HAVE NEVER WORN AND WON’T EVER WEAR MASKS OR PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING EXCEPT FROM PEOPLE WHO AREN’T WORTHY OF THEIR TIME

“Of course not dear,” Lovey says to her Mister
but she puts her mask back on when he looks away,
which is often, as unabsorbed as he is with her.
Dollar signs in his eyes and under his nails.
Who’s in Lovey’s eyes when she closes them?
She’s just smart enough to play dumb.
It’s not the rich man who sets her heart drumming.
It’s not her husband’s coconuts she’s rubbing.
Once more amusing myself takes an extra turn
as I’m sorting through what I’ve learned
in quarantine. It’s you I’m unhappy with, you
and your mask, or your lack of a mask, you make me rage, make me panic.
You can learn an awful lot about people in a pandemic,
but what you think you know might not be true.

(pandemic poem #10)

_____