Tag Archives: Villanelle

Recrudescence

I think I have some kind of chronic disease
or condition or ailment or pestilence because I am
productive only one day out of three.

I don’t mean relatively speaking. I mean
one good day & then I pretty much collapse.
I think I have some kind of chronic disease:

congestion, aches, low-grade fever, fatigue.
Nothing awful, but bad enough I can
be productive only one day out of three.

There’s a name for it: post-exertional malaise.
One cat in particular loves that I’m taking more naps.
I think I have some kind of chronic disease

which might be the virus getting all the publicity,
or maybe I’m depressed. Anxious. A hypochondriac?
Whatever—I’m productive only one day out of three.

Maybe I’m a secret Puritan if I think
less work equals illness, that perhaps
I have some kind of chronic disease
if I’m productive only one day out of three.

____

(I’m exaggerating a little for the rhyme. But I do have some kind of recurring crud.)

_____

This is Tuuli, who loves to crawl under the covers when I nap but would not, for this picture. Weird little cat.

Quarantined Uterus (pandemic poem #6)

–for Alison Gates

Is your uterus quarantined in my office?
Is it velvet? Latex? Mod-podge? Wires? Ribbons? Lace?
If so, I apologize. You’ll get it back. I promise.

Were you in the original exhibit? Are you one of us?
Are your creations fearfully and wonderfully made?
Is your uterus quarantined in my office?

Do you spend more or less time now taking offense?
Has your life been irrevocably derailed?
If so, I apologize. You’ll get it back. I promise.

Let us now praise our famous menopauses.
The big one. The peri, which stops and starts, like waves.
Is your uterus quarantined in my office?

Has yours been removed? Do you miss it? The mysterious
bloody Weltanschauung a uterus contains?
If so, I apologize. You’ll get it back. I promise.

Are you sewing like a banshee gone all Amish?
Has your normally sufficient equilibrium been mislaid?
Is your uterus quarantined in my office?
If so, I apologize. You’ll get everything back. I promise.

This is Alison Gates’s contribution to the Exquisite Uterus project.

_____

This poem was inspired by a Facebook comment from Alison Gates in which she said, in response to someone asking if she was referring to the Exquisite Uterus Project, “Yes! Are you one of us? Is your uterus quarantined in my office? If so, I apologize.” This may well be my first found poem. (The woman Alison was responding to quoted “fearfully and wonderfully made” from Psalm 139 in her contribution, so I was inspired by her, too.)

Alison Gates & Helen Klebesadel (two of my feminist / academic / Wisconsin / inspirations) started the Exquisite Uterus Project   in 2012 as protest against the (unfortunately) continuing (and unfortunately escalating) war on women. I was lucky enough to see the exhibit at the University of Wisconsin System’s Faculty College, which used to be hosted on my sweet little UW campus.

My villanelle here isn’t particularly political except in the sense that I truly believe the personal is political, that it’s political to speak plainly of our lady parts, and I aimed the question about taking offense at people who are offended by the word “uterus” or any hint of women’s agency, humor, intelligence, vast creative power, etc.

My own relationship with my uterus is very much defined by perimenopause these days. My brilliant body chose this pandemic as a moment in which to say “yeah–no–we’re not done with all that yet.”  So that explains the direction the poem went.

In any case, I believe reproductive rights are human rights. That women’s rights are human rights. In case anyone ever had any doubt.  And I’m concerned that people are using the pandemic as an excuse to curtail abortion rights, such as this story from NPR, which describes such attempts (and at least momentary judicial remedies).

In the meantime, I am happy to celebrate amazing, creative women who share their work and their passion and their generosity.

Bad Habits (Pandemic Poem #5)

“Do you realize the illicit sensuous delight I get from picking my nose? … Or sometimes there will be blood mingled with the mucous: in dry brown scabs, or bright sudden wet red on the finger that scraped too rudely the nasal membranes. God, what sexual satisfaction!”  Sylvia Plath

 

Eternity’s stopping and starting all the time—
my fingers shake. I count to three.  Apparently
I can’t stop touching my face to save my life.

I cover my mouth, two-handed. I don’t know why.
Afraid of my breath? Of what I’ll say? Beats me.
Eternity’s stopping and starting all the time—

if our fair-haired Sylvia hadn’t died from suicide,
her sexy rhinotillexomania would currently be
why she can’t sit on her hands to save her life—

I picture nails with a Betty Draper shine,
a shade of pink called Cool Eternity.
Depression stops and starts all the time

for some of us, a tide that likes to rise
and fall, constant. Irregular. Seriously,
I can’t stop touching my face to save my life.

Knowing myself the way I do, it won’t be a surprise
if I die from fidgeting. I hope it’s not immediately.
I can’t stop touching my face to save my life.
Eternity’s stopping and starting all the time—

______

Pandemic Poem #2: Singing Happy Birthday Alone

Life might get back to normal, but I don’t know when.
I’m trying to work. I’d rather nap. I just wash
my hands and sing happy birthday again and again

and watch my hands dry out. Here’s another concern:
if I don’t strive hard right now, really push,
my life will never, ever be normal again.

Pandemic, panic, politics. Alliteration is not our friend.
While I wait for everything online to crash,
I decide to wash my hands and sing happy birthday again.

I want to be a superspreader. I want people to die. I want
to die. I’m not as shocked as I should be by my awful thoughts.
“Things will get back to normal.” Can you tell me when?

I’m grateful for root vegetables and food in cans.
My hero potatoes: fry, roast, boil, mash.
Will we ever sing happy birthday at a party again?

How soon we have to cook over open fire depends
on how well the grid holds up. Such a specific wish.
Life might get back to normal, but I don’t know when.
I’m singing happy birthday all alone again.

Dream Song #3

Does cultural appropriation demand intent?
What if what I did was only in a dream?
I watched an eagle landing on a chicken

over and over and over again.
It was some kind of Native American thing.
Does cultural appropriation demand intent?

I decided I should weave feathers into a crown.
It looked like a massacre, but there was no harm
done by the eagle to the chicken.

We started singing, loud, “C’mon
Let me see you shake your tailfeather.”
Does cultural appropriation demand intent?

We were being assholes, absolutely stomping
around, not caring. We didn’t belong there.
Could you watch an eagle groom a chicken

and not wake up laughing like I did?
Is it my fault I summoned John Lee Hooker?
Does cultural appropriation demand intent?
I am sorry. For the singing and the laughing. And the eagle. And the chicken.

_____

I feel like my subconscious is a mess.

Half-Vast

Half-vast is way too close to half-assed,
both in how it sounds and how I do it,
aim for one and miss. Too slow. Too fast,

the one I want goes hurtling past.
Like ice melting and turning itself into fluid.
Half-assed is way too close to half-vast,

which is a measurement so imprecise
it’s no surprise I so consistently lose what
I aim for. Consistently miss. I’m slow. How fast

and clever and organized do I need to be?
I can’t begin to explain or even intuit
how perpetually close half-vast is to half-assed.

I still very much want my teachers to be pleased.
I want, I want. All my grinding duties
aim for safety and miss, too slow or maybe too fast

for anyone I want to impress to be impressed.
I had elaborate plans. They are somewhat ruined.
Half-vast is way too close to half-assed.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound so depressed.

cropped-photo3.jpg

DIES IREAE DASYPODIDAE

She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass
but wouldn’t say why. Also a caption that read,
“The armored possums are advancing fast.”

She’s always been the type with lots of worries,
chief among them, ways she could end up dead.
She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass

then said she felt as though she’d run out of gas.
As though nothing made it fun to get out of bed.
The armored possums are advancing fast

already into Southern Illinois. They crossed
the river bottoms by letting out all their breath.
She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass

but she still makes so much sense to me. At least
I think I can guess why she did what she did.
The armored possums are advancing fast

is just her way of saying everything’s gone past
recovering. There’s precious little hope in this world.
She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass
because the armored possums are advancing fast.

 

Slide1

Asking for a Friend

Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?
How do you know when you’ve crossed the line?
Thanks for your help. Just asking for a friend.

Wow. One matchbook collection more and you’d be in
a clutter monkey reality show of your own.
Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?

And if there is a demarcated line, can
you live inside the shape you’ve bent it in?
Thanks in advance. Just asking for a friend.

When your life falls apart, what does that mean?
Will your house ever be clean, ever again?
Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?

What if you remember one scary time when
one of your cousins seemed way too interested in
your secret parts. Asking for a friend.

You don’t recall his touching you like that back then.
So why his interest? You were so scared. So why?
Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?
(I know you know it’s me) asking for a friend.

—–

IMG_9668

(This is actually an organized spot in my house, where we store paper to recycle and reuse. But it LOOKS messy.

 

 

Remarkable

 

Something remarkable happened today—
I looked in the mirror and I liked how I looked.
(I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.)

There’s something you should know—how very much I weigh,
and the fact that my back is fused and strange and crooked.
Something remarkable happened today

in the locker room mirror. I thought, “Hey–
nice hip.” (The right one sticks out and I had it stuck.)
I was wearing my bright blue one-piece, by the way,

the one that inspired a very fit man last month to say
“New suit, looks good.” I mostly just said thanks,
which means another remarkable thing happened that day.

I didn’t make excuses. I didn’t say
I’m sorry I’m not leaner. I didn’t choke
for wearing a swimming suit. By the way,

I thought my entire body looked okay.
For me to think that—it’s like lightning struck.
Something remarkable happened today.
I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.

IMG_9498

No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.

No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.
Here are your snow boots, but they might not fit.
This same moment happens every year.

I always swear to myself, “next year I’ll remember.”
The spring equivalent is baseball glove and cleats.
No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.

Did you look in your closet? They should be there,
if you had an organized mother, that is. Yours isn’t.
This same moment happens every year.

Your snow boots are tight? Your feet got bigger?
Well, you’ll only have to hobble a little bit.
No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.

The coat rack? The front hall? The back porch?
The oven? Space station? Tardis? I quit.
This same moment happens every year.

It’s faster just to buy new ones, I swear.
I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with spit.
No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.
This same moment happens every year.

p1010058

The alarmingly tight snow boots.