Katharyn Howd Machan
When She Left The Island
The swan boat carried her across deep water
as she sat alone in her midnight dress, soft shoes
in tatters around aching feet that had danced
till all dance was done: the prince who had held her
in sparkling arms, tipping rum and champagne into
young willing lips was dead, dead, burned to ashes
and silver, dropped like a needle onto stinking streets
where dark angels disguised as wild alley cats
rolled sharp rusty cans and empty cracked bottles
that once offered the world pomegranate liqueur
distilled for cocktails with the Devil’s own vodka
poured only for dealers and their dark-tipped tongues.
Everything I Know About White
Caucasian white, the calico cat’s white,
the white of the notebook page, broken
by thin blue lines. Veined white quartz
gravestones. The ivory bill
of a woodpecker once thought extinct.
The white of black-and-white: TV
before there was color. White of a poached egg,
white of an eye compromised
by hard living. Bright white of a New England
clapboard house, so bright it looks
like color. The candle’s white flame,
the hot white center of fire, the white light
of lightning and the white heat of anger
splayed against a neon bar sign.
The white place your eyes go to when
there’s nothing you can have
so you go inside yourself, harbor it there.
The white pages of the books that saved you,
the powdered faces of the teachers
who saved you, white chalk dust clinging
to schoolyard brick. Chalk dust drifting
down the blackboard, Mrs. Costello
writing the true things in her perfect letters,
showing you a script as bright as the Milky Way.
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs
and developing our wings on the way down.”
– Ray Bradbury
Wisps of green, pale and lilylivered,
reach out like ghosts below Orion’s belt,
from a white hot core, a tight ball of light,
edgeless and unbound, a molecular cloud
complex, glowing in the night sky.
This stellar nursery, where stars are born
is visible to naked eyes, children of summers past,
who leap eternally off jagged stones into pools
of water and forbidden midnight reservoirs
with muddy banks.
On their backs in grass by day, they call the rolling
clouds Arcadia. Haphazard piles of lamb
pelts, sheared and white as bones.
Between sky scrapers and stores, earth is too
crowded for St. Augustine’s Medieval idea
of God’s City. No room any longer for a metropolis
of the dead to hover like breath.
When we fall now, it must be into deep space,
into a white hot core, where we wake up again
to find buds of wings on our shoulder blades
and streams of blueviolet blanketing us
against the darkness of our first night.
We will hunker down, aware of the vastness
of empty space beyond, and wait to see
if the light will compact or burst forth.
Karla Linn Merrifield
According to my theory of everything amorous,
sex is relevant; trust, however, pertains
because we are the Fermi bubbles of love,
our bodies its bipolar lobes, elementally opposite—
you, the purple perfumes of the polar sun,
I, the silly water nymph in a noisy dress,
and, like those twinned clouds at galaxy’s heart,
at middle age, our are the treasure fossil
remnants of twin stars formed in adolescence;
we defy explanation by your astrophysicist
and my astrologers, at a loss, all murmuring
enormous, mysterious, mind-boggling.
We are the 8, we are the ∞
of constellations crossed, ergo indivisible.
with lines from Authur Rimbaud’s “Metropolitan”
I’ve never been able to write a poem about my grandmother
But today she knocked on the door
of my first stanza, and said,
“Ach du lieber, you are writing still?”
She took the rest of the poem in her large
hands, wound the words around her ring
finger, and then let the letters drop into
her safety deposit box downtown next to her
wedding band and a few other memories
she’s fastened away.
When my sister-in-law
was pregnant my grandmother said only,
“No mean things,” so when we went
to the MET, Koali walked with her belly
facing Matisse and her back to Picasso.
I write “sister-in-law” for my grandmother
because they’ve been engaged for years
and she never said a thing about it until
the baby was born and they didn’t choose
a name for days. “Ach du lieber, I have
a no-married grandson with a no-name
baby” and I said, “I’m sure they’ll name
him soon,” and she said, “You call me
when they do. If it’s weird, you e-mail.”
My grandmother is very deaf,
so I changed my Thursday phone calls
into Thursday postcards.
My grandmother bought an outfit for her 90th
birthday on Overstock.com in the wrong size. “Ach,
I’d give it to you, but you got so thin. Do you
have any fat friends?”
My grandmother shares her birthday with Hitler,
and my struggle is that his actions caused
my existence and I should, somehow, be grateful.
I write “grateful” for my grandmother
because she always says “please” and “thank you,”
despite seeing her parents for the last time
in Heidelberg in 1937 when she left for America.
My grandmother lives with her cat Anna-Belle
on the 21st floor of an apartment building in Harlem.
Her name is Inge. She calls me Doll.
I was the first of us to find her, titianesque in profile, motherly soft against the pillow. A face you trusted would go on, and on, never detracting from the scene. In a gesture of hush, I reached my tiny starfish hands to her mouth. In red fright, her feared expression as my tufted head appeared devil horned. In blue hesitation, as I fluttered cupid wings towards the coverlet. The girl who loved to draw also loved to dream, of magic, of monsters, all the drama of form emerging from the formless. She saw the thinnest wisp of baby hair atop a cherubic body. And she drew me. And I soldered for her. Became gardener, carpenter, cook. While my brothers and sisters were best as kut-outs and dolls. This world needs to laugh, mama always said to her menagerie of raskals and kuties. And MerKewps were fished from the trickling bonny brook as CopKewps gave mean boys their chops, AngelKewps helped weeping Annies and orphans. We all danced at her pleasure. But I was the rouge, and remember that ragged beauty at the moment I made her extravagant heart tangled for keeps.