The Magic Theater in Somerville

featured in the poetry forum September 6, 2020  :: 0 comments

The first time I saw
the man with the wispy
beard and the flapping silk
jacket, he was coming out
of Healthway Foods with a
chalky carob bar
in his pocket.

Of course,
I did not tell him
the truth. I feared he
would discern it, his eyes
and accent blazing.

The last time I saw
him, he was clean-shaven
and had cut off his pigtail.
I remember advice he gave,
having seen me walk
afternoons away from school.

I thanked him.
We moved on. He would
stay near this magic city.
I would not.

If I saw him now – no
longer the little sister, I
wouldn’t tell him the truth.

editors note:

Magical tradecraft, never revealed. – mh clay

If the Sky Were a Poem

featured in the poetry forum June 23, 2020  :: 0 comments

A poem is not a mirror but a sky – Thade Correia, “Manifestos: Aphorisms on Poetry”

The closed system of Tuesday resists all

your efforts. Look for something, anything,
images, words, irregular pulse, rhyme.

White space cloaks notebook pages. A gel pen
leaves only scratches. Weak, pale light seeps in

from somewhere, probably the east, source of
yellow, source of wisdom, source of dawn. Clouds

turn gauzy, turn gray. You remember your
own family’s four directions: the cross

at meals and Mass. While you do other things,
the sky splits, like a seam of cotton pants.

You can’t see blue, but you do see light, bright
enough for sunglasses. Clouds imitate

yesterday’s sky.

editors note:

Sky as you will, keep your shades handy. – mh clay

The Bird Looks into the House of Cats

featured in the poetry forum March 31, 2020  :: 0 comments

One beady eye sees all. Tabby
is dozing on a pile of clothes:
a winter hat, socks, spring sweaters.
In sleep, her cheek nuzzles a book
of a poet’s letters from Brazil.
It’s almost fall. The bright edges
of locust leaves, roots in thin
soil, yellow. Summer’s clouds clear
out, leaving skies free for birds.

The calico guards the kitchen.
Perching on the back of a chair
that, never used for guests,
is just for cats and coats,
she glares at all that cross her path.

The bird now raps on the glass,
his beak a cat’s paw, a fist.
He cocks his sleek head and pretends
that he is ready to fly through
the house of cats. The tabby snores.
The calico will never move.

The bird flies off. He seeks
a seed, a crumb, a drop
of water, open windows where
humans and cats are not.

editors note:

An open-space opportunist, unable to arouse interest. Away! – mh clay

Sunday in Bushwick

featured in the poetry forum January 7, 2020  :: 0 comments

Under a metal sky, walls blaze.
Unreadable script glints, a sculpture
whose angles clash, whose edges bristle.

No one touches the bricks,
as if fingertips will make them disappear.

A short-haired girl puzzles over
flames like feathers, feathers like flames,
leaves embroidered on shadow-colored cloth.

On the next wall, liquid white flowers
and thick purple leaves sprawl.
No need to puzzle over them.

Just take pictures.

editors note:

Imprint now, interpret later. – mh clay

Life in the Archives 1978

featured in the poetry forum August 11, 2019  :: 0 comments

Inside the darkened storefront that would soon be
a bright Asian restaurant, fading album covers
from just ten years ago armored the wall,
protecting clerk and customers from the revolution
outside, jazz in the doorways on Mass Ave.,
and soft rock in the offices upstairs.

Customers’ blind fingers searched
through the dollar bin
as their eyes heard the songs
on each album. I don’t remember
what played up in the front.
I didn’t know those songs yet.

I do remember stopping in these archives
that used to pop up all around the city.
I remember paying a quarter for one LP
I played for years.

Later after moving to Indiana,
I found the college town’s archives,
a building adorned with primitive paintings
of dead rock and pop stars,
some of whom would never have been
honored in the archives back in 1978,
some of whom had been kids my age.

By then, the archives on Mass Ave.
had become a bank with Boston ferns,
plants and children’s pictures on every desk.
I don’t remember what I listened to
on my first visit, but I remember
what I had heard at lunch
at the grill near the med school:
The Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River,”
a crack in the archives’ façade.

editors note:

Searching the stacks for proof that what we were makes who we are. – mh clay

Working with Stone

featured in the poetry forum March 28, 2019  :: 0 comments

After Racconto, LS2, Bice Lazzari (1958)

In this story, the canvas becomes
stone. The sky turns the color
of concrete. Clouds, black scuffs, emerge
once you squint. Sun trickles down:
wan pink, not orange, not red,
not light revealing blades of grass.
The shadow is a wall, concealing
grass, dirt, cigarette butts coated with
slick lipstick, broken glass, candy wrappers.
Disembodied, a white jacket floats free.

editors note:

Grey words to lift a grey mood. – mh clay

We Can Never Live Where We Want

featured in the poetry forum January 3, 2019  :: 0 comments

A friend’s ashes clump by a red bush.
His quizzical, bearded ghost
peers in at interns opening mail.

He had been happy once
as he wandered by the river
drinking bad coffee.

But I feared being caught
scattering his ashes
into slow, black water.

I feared clambering
over rusted shopping carts
while police watched above.

Now my ghost can’t leave town,
ashes mingling with the cat’s.
Our urn is the pin

upon which I, no angel, dance.

editors note:

An issue of ethics over real estate for ashes. – mh clay

Midsummer Moonrise

featured in the poetry forum October 7, 2018  :: 0 comments

After “Midsummer Moonrise” by Dwight William Tryon (1892)

At first glance, you see
just prettiness,
a haze of green, flurries
of brushstrokes,
scent of turpentine.

Be patient.
Yellow and white flowers
appear, plants
for which you’ve no name.
You might know them

as you walk past them. Or
you might not.
The gash of silver
water opens
up, reflecting chalky

moonrise, yet
water does not dis-
solve this parched moon.
With time, you see needles
on pine trees,

copper blight elsewhere
as wind rifles
through. The gash of water
widens. You
smell the earth at night.

editors note: Check out this image, and you will smell it, too. – mh clay

Blue Green and Brown (Rothko 1952)

featured in the poetry forum July 26, 2018  :: 0 comments

She wonders what is intimate
about an enormous canvas hung
up on a museum wall.
Museums are silent except for
garbled conversations, docents’ lectures, spills
of sound from someone’s device.
Nothing is intimate, not even
silence, the pristine space between
each person in a public place.

She sits at home with
the image on her screen,
all other lights off. In
twilight, blue, green, and brown
envelop her, keeping her company
in this humidity. Cicadas call
outdoors. Indoor and outdoor sounds
blend: buses’ wheeze, the washer’s
slosh. She feels the space
between her and them dissolve.

editors note:

Exhibit vs. experience; one to see, the other to be. (Congratulations, Marianne! This poem is one from her latest collection, On the Other Side of the Window, just published this month. You can get your copy here.) – mh clay

Woolworth’s, 1970

featured in the poetry forum May 27, 2018  :: 0 comments

She remembers the lunch counter
in her grandmother’s city,
half a day’s drive on backroads
to smaller towns in Canada.

She didn’t remember anyone black
at the counter or in the stores.
She remembers ordering a hamburger
like Grandma did, never looking
at the cracked, greasy menu.

She remembers cages
of green parakeets,
the thick smell of popcorn,
heaps of butts and ash
in the ashtrays on the counter.
“The Long and Winding Road”
billowed out from the record shop
speakers like curtains in the summer.

She wonders how different
this Woolworth’s was
from Greensboro’s in 1960.
She thinks to ask her grandmother
but knows she never will.

editors note:

Color recalled in no color. – mh clay