An Official History of My Name

featured in the poetry forum July 15, 2023  :: 0 comments

– after “Wunderlich” by Mark Wunderlich

It comes from the Greek, for greenery.
Phyllis, ideal pastoral maiden
who dies of a broken heart, or suicide,
depending on the version of the story.
Gets turned into a tree. A Waterhouse painting,
in which she rises out of her almond trunk,
bare chested, fragile, with Demophon,
that lousy lover, looking up guiltily.
Unrequited love.
Bad endings, guilt.
Menopausal insomnia.
My name has been planted
on the North Pole, sung to sweethearts
with guitar accompaniment, flown in a banner
behind a small airplane.
Jewish mothers hovering.
Father like a Fang.
In the annals of my identity
it’s analogous to caregiver,
tenacious healer,
determination with a bruxism problem.
Also attachment problems.
Sex just off a hiking trail.
Fear of quintessential varieties:
shut-downs, thermostats, ceilings,
terror of rent past due lugged around in a sack
labeled worry. Husks where youth once was.
My name, also known as Phillida or Phylicia
and Phyllisity, a special poetry name
a teenage prodigy in a wheelchair gifted
me on his way to somewhere
else. Only Perie calls me by this name
which means it’s a secret.
Phyllis, popular from 1916 to 1958
when it nosedived into virtual obscurity,
now an old-lady’s name.
And what does it mean that the two most famous
Phyllis’ are Diller and Schlafly?
Impossible to feel good about that.
Also, impossible to spell the plural.
Sometimes I say it out loud to myself.
My version is dressed up, jeweled, closets
hunched around crowded fabrics, felted
pouches of gold and silver landslides.
Paper-thin hair that lost its curl. Shopping
trips to bargain basements, sagging racks of lace
shirts, endearing dresses size extra small.
It wears fake tattoos, hidden, to ward off
further skin cancers. Yearning, as in
I want an electric car. As in, I want to
be called Kwame, or Crystal,
Louisa or Jacqueline or Destiny Birdsong
As in, I want hair like Marie’s.
It’s the reach for something better, the climb
hand over hand, as if on a ladder of myself,
footsteps, footprints everywhere.

editors note:

“What’s in a name?” you ask? (We welcome Phyllis to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of her madness on her new page – check it out.)- mh clay

Artichoke Moses

featured in the poetry forum October 31, 2022  :: 0 comments

This evening I surrender my teeth
to the promise of a petaled globe,
under-appreciated vegetable meat
with its treasured vegetarian heart
like a bearded frisbee, this green baby in a basket,
this herbaceous creamy mystery. That is to say,
glory of roundness in a chariot, resonance
of ingenuity, nights on a riverbank, nights of escape
near the seaside, foggy olive oil washes
with salt and butter. Spiked produce wearing
a headdress of hail. Split in two, roasted.
Bowler hat with horseradish sauce.
Green skulled pyramid.

Getting down to the heart of it,
freeing the choke from its vulnerability,
tied up in its barbs. Thou shalt be gentle,
but I’m in the desert of hunger,
a thirsty hound on a chase. Don’t we all
lust for our prophets? Like this one, verdant heart
without beats, this innocent essence, folate-filled
provision of goodness, this deliverer of sustenance,
visionary, this selfless thistle, this parter of lips.

editors note:

Dietary diviner gets to the heart of it. – mh clay

Ode to Gynecology

featured in the poetry forum June 28, 2022  :: 2 comments

There’s the office waiting room, mostly women,
some full-bellied, some dewy. There’s a sisterhood
of vaginas sitting there wishing for good checkups. And me,
my parts somewhat disheveled, drought-ridden, hoping

for redemption. There’s the break I took from Pap smears
and speculums, a vacation from feel-ups and downs. After all,
so many years have departed since I’ve bled or suffered with a uterus,
or had even a wisp of a dream to fertilize one of my eggs.

There’s the routine, frontal, rear, wait for the sting. There’s the doctor,
only a female will do! To peer into my worn out walls.
Maybe it’s a party up inside. Maybe it’s a sick day—no streamers
or soft guitar music, no gossip or showing off, just a laid-up womb.

Just a couple of retiring ovaries to greet her latexed fingers.
Everything’s so mixed up down there in the female bush, a crossing of organs,
outspouts and dumping zones, and she’ll enter carefully, unafraid,
a spelunker, explorer of the hidden.

Clothes off, wrapped in a paper gown, I wait for her soft knock.
I’m draped in fluorescence, rich with experience. I’ll ride her stirrups.
I’ll give her my fluids, let her clamp in a speculum.
I’ll watch a ceiling mobile splaying stars and planets into a neon sky.

editors note:

So much more than a prostate poke, fellas. A little respect… – mh clay