by MELISSA CARROLL | September 11, 2018
BEWARE THE POEM WITH WINE STAIN
Light halos my fingertips against the paper,
a poetry book in my hands. Glass on the table,
blood-bead of merlot at its base, that last undrinkable
bit. My love playing blues and DeBussy on his grandmother’s upright
this late Friday night. Half-wilted spider mum in a hand-me-down vase, all
the trappings of a life I’d call rich and vicious
with happiness. And Lao Tzu in the back of my brain like a song
in the next room — ever desireless, one sees the mystery,
ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations. One foot
sucked deep in the mud, daily life calf-heavy; one foot suspended, held
like a half-smirk in the air. Non-grasping. Such a novice I am, and drunk
with love for the golden dusk, piano notes, this precious breath, please
just another line of poetry, one more tune, another sweet red sip.
There is never just one thing.
Dread threads happiness, how wine takes the shape
of its cup. How a hammer creates melody. Beware
the finger pointing at the moon, beware the poem
for blood-pulse, for life itself. You know
I don’t believe that, either. The poem is pulse, not diagram —
haven’t you, with your own fingertips
reached into the page, made halos
with words, stepped into the temple and touched
the holiest thing directly?
When you are afraid, aren’t you also
HOW TO COOK LIKE AN ITALIAN WOMAN
Of garlic clove, of white sheaths
peeled off the curved bulb, of knife slice
and sticky fingertips that mince
the cut white moons
to tiny broken teeth
for the cutting board. !
Grandma Lola said no matter how poor we were
the secret was in the sauce: onion, oregano, single bay leaf
like a sinking flag. Sauce simmers with voices rising like steam,
spilling all over the house.
Their hands are not sparrows.
Italian women are orchestra conductors playing appassionato,
always moving. Their hands know verbs like scrub and stir
and fix, their songs are the rip of crusty bread
and the hum of mmmm,
that vibration, that heat
that fills your mouth. !
If an Italian woman is speaking in Brooklyn
she may be heard in Staten Island.
If three or more Italian women have gathered
you can eavesdrop in Bayonne. Beneath the glottis
boom and vault there is a love
that both craves and gives, there is a hunger
when she says the names of her children,
as if each of them were called loneliness.
Her voice carries these names, this one name,
out the kitchen window,
she watches, my mother,
each of my syllables disappear
into the sky, and her eyes follow,
this moment she allows herself
then turns to the stove before
the water boils over.
THE MERITS OF FAILURE
A stone becomes unbidden
by the mountain, is loosed
and flings downward.
Watch any still scene
for long enough and it will come alive
on you: the mountain is, yes,
slipping back into the sea.
Close your eyes and listen
to the rocks trill
down ledges, mercied
to the pull toward center,
as we are all
stumbling to our own
center, all held
in gravity’s hands.
with dry heat,
And yet, when we tip
our heads to the sky,
that indifferent roof,
our palms up
in desperation, our mouths
in the pained curl of why,
we are also in the gesture
of accepting, the corners of our lips
drawn up, our trembling
hands open for a gift
yet possibly imagine.