Tag Archives: Zingara Poetry Picks

The Baltimore Catechism – Unrequited Love by Roy Beckemeyer

The granite girl stands to recite.

Catechism quotes limn the inside
of her eyelids.

Her fingernails
spike her hands to her thighs.

She prays for Rorschach stigmata
to stain her virginal palms.

Her insatiable need
is for the sainthood of white doves.

Her face aches
for the crescent moon purity
of wimple and coif.

The desire for God is written
in the human heart,” she intones,
thinking all the while
I am a good Catholic girl,
I am God’s innocent girl,
I am the girl of the incised granite heart.

Roy Beckemeyer of Wichita, Kansas has most recently had poems accepted by the periodicals America, The Lyric, and The Journal of Civic Leadership and the anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties.

Inception by Joanne Bodin

It’s a tiny drop of dew on a blade of grass after a rainstorm
that won’t let you shift your focus until it burrows into your subconscious
with tangled images that call out to you
then it disappears for awhile
but you know it’s still there,  the melancholy thoughts
still disjointed pulling at you to give them life
to tell their story untill they weigh you down with abandon
you try to convince yourself that it’s not your story
but then the tidal wave, no longer a tiny drop of dew
envelopes your subconscious and debris of human suffering wash along
the shore of your mind and interrupt your every day routine
then it disappears for awhile
until you are sitting at the Sixth Street Cafe with your writing pad, pen
cup of Moroccan dark roast coffee
the sound of rain pellets on the picture window
in the corner of your wooden booth
the drone of a train whistle tunnels into your subconscious
and synapses begin firing away
a train roars by
rain mixed with snow blurs your vision and you look out of the window
see the ghostly shadow of the red caboose as it disappears into the mist
suddenly the fog lifts
you see distant sun drenched fields of poppies and columbine
the entire story now unfolds and you know everyone so well
their stature, their favorite foods, their deepest secrets
and your hand begins to write- you dribble words onto
paper like creamy butterscotch candy in metaphors of longing
of pain and  euphoria that dance with you in a
tango of sentences and the floodgates open
you stay with them until the finish, not to win the race
but to honor their presence, and the heaviness lifts
your muse gives you a creative wink
and runs off to romp in her fields of glory.

Joanne Bodin is a retired teacher of the gifted in New Mexico. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum Instruction and Multi-Cultural Teacher Education. Her latest novel, ORCHID OF THE NIGHT is a dark psychological thriller about a man running from his troubled past who finds solace in the gay community of Ixtlan. It WON the 2017 New York City Big Book Award as “distinguished favorite” in GBLT fiction. It also WON the 2017 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award in GBLT fiction and placed as “favorite” in three other categories.
Visit her website at http://www.joannebodin.com for updates

 

The Good Wife by Allison Elrod (Cave Wall)

This week’s poetry pick is from the Winter/Spring 2011 issue of Cave Wall, to which I recently subscribed. Cave wall is published bi-annually and, according to their website, is dedicated to publishing the best in contemporary poetry. Follow this link to find out more about their publication and submission guidelines: Cave Wall

The Good Wife
by Allison Elrod

On the day she knew for sure
she walked through her quiet house
admiring its lovely bones.
She loved the light
that filled the place,
the view from every window.

She went upstairs and lay down
on her boy’s small bed.
Lying very still, she made herself
small — watched the paper dragon
hanging by a tread above her, watched
it turn and turn in endless circles.

Later,
she folded shirts
and started dinner.
She went out to meet the school bus right on time.

From the contributors notes: Allison Elrod is a poet and essayist whose recent work appears in or is forthcoming in Iodine Magazine, Kakalak, The Mom Egg, and The Sound of Poets Cooking. She is Associate Editor at Lorimer Press in Davidson, NC.

In the Field by Rebecca Aronson

This week’s Poetry Pick comes from Rebecca Aronson’s 2007 collection of poetry Creature, Creature, which holds the honor of first recipient of the Main-Traveled Roads Poetry prize. This first collection of poetry reflects the author’s familiarity with the landscape and inhabitants of both the Midwest and southwest regions of the US. They juxtapose picturesque scenes with honest appraisals of the people which inhabit them, and provide the weight of truth and a measure of clarity. In the following poem, Aronson effectively captures a culmination of images and notions leading up to the kind of moment many a Midwesterner would recognize as genuine:

In the Field

Where cows graze
among mud and stones
and their own droppings
we spread our blanket
and sit close
for the first time
this whole week spent
in your mother’s house,
we put our hands
on each other and slide
quiet under the enormous eyes
of cows, fogging up as I
spread my skirt (your mother said
as skirt for walking? yes I said
it’s a walking skirt), and we
are moving together, the skirt
around us so the cows might wonder
but not the ruddy-faced man
bobbing suddenly over a hedge
or the one with him who
tipped his hat, later introduces
as your mother’s favorite
neighbor at the market where
he shook your hand
a long time.

Formerly with Northwest Missouri State University, Rebecca Aronson continues to act as contributing editor to the Laurel Review. She currently teaches and resides in the Albuquerque area.

“Creature, Creature” is available at Barnes and Nobel online

Zingara’s Poetry Pick: Manzano Sunflowers by Dale Harris

Dale Harris is an Albuquerque potter, poet and author of this week’s Poetry Pick. Her poem can be found in “A Bigger Boat” anthology as published by the University of New Mexico Press. I met Dale and heard her read Manzano Sunflowers at the volume’s book release in the summer of 2008.

Because this poem evokes images of sunflowers, which are as common in the Midwest as they are in the Southwest, it calls forth the character of both regions while yet focusing on the New Mexican landscape. Harris’ sunflowers, therefore, capture more than place and image, but the very essence of sunflower-ness. And while a Midwesterner may not fully appreciate the significance of the arroyo’s image, or never attend the Indian Market, or discern the difference between Manzano or Sandia, she does understand the way sunflowers amass – has seen them take the place of prairie grass – and can appreciate the truth of sunflowers as offered in this poem:

Manzano Sunflowers by Dale Harris

You missed Indian Market and of course, the sunflowers.
As usual they swept across August,
at first a few, a yellow trickle along the fence line;
then more, making pools in the pasture
and splashing down into the arroyo;
then incredibly many more,
dappling the distance as though
a giant hand had buttered the land.

 Yet with the entire prairie to expand into
they prefer crowds of themselves.
They mass along the roadsides line up
as though a parade were about to pass.
Here and there one stands alone but not for long.
Soon his kin will come and there will be
sunflower squalor, a floral slum.

 Once out they will not be ignored.
Stretching their skinny stalks, they top our roofline,
press against the window screens, peep in a the door.
Familiar footpaths to the outbuildings are obscured
and from the road we seem afloat,
our cabin an odd tin boat in a sea of sunflower faces.

 They are the most staccato of flowers.
I catch them humming snatches of polkas
and John Philip Sousa marches,
bobbing in the breeze to the Boogaloo,
the Boogie-woogie and the Lindy Hop.
I call their names, Clem, Clarissa, Sara Jane
to try and tame them.

My neighbor comes by, she has a field full.
They’re useless, she complains;
her horses won’t eat them.
I should hope not, I exclaim after she’s gone.

I don’t remember if you even liked sunflowers
but you like life and they are all about that.
Today I wrote to your family finally.
I expect they are occupying themselves
with beautiful gestures
in order to get over the grief  of you.
As for me, I have sunflowers.

Read more of Dale’s poetry and learn about her pottery skills at Dale Harris Pottery.

A copy of “A Bigger Boat” anthology is available from The University of New Mexico Press


The Name of a Tree by Catherine Anderson

Today’s Poetry Pick comes from Catherine Anderson’s second book  of poetry titled “The Work of Hands,” published in 2000 by Perugia Press, whose mission it is “to produce beautiful books that interest long-time readers of poetry and welcome those new to poetry.”

THE NAME OF A TREE

Right here on Ash Street, Ana says, she used to stagger
up the stairs like a drunk.
There was no light, so she patted the wall,
following hardened gum and kick marks.
Those were crazy days she tells me –
two kids, no money, no job –
when English made the sound of click, swish,
money gliding from a cash drawer,
and the only words she knew were numbers –
seventy-five cents ringing down the throat
of a soda machine, her soapy fingers counting quarters
to feed the dryer.

Some days I am Ana’s teacher, some days she is mine.
This morning we look through her kitchen window,
The one she can’t get clean, cobwebs massed
between sash and pane. The sky is blue-gold, almost
the color of home. Ana, I say, each winter
I get more lonely. Both of us would like the sun
to linger as that round fruit in June, but Ana says
it’s better to forget what you used to know:
the taste of fish cooked in banana leaves,
the rose color of sea waves at dusk,
the names for clouds and wild storms, and a tree
that grows, she says, as full
as a flame in the heart of all countries
south of here.

Catherine’s book is informed by her work with immigrants and refugees and explores the pathos involved in such work. Her poem “Womanhood,” which was chosen by Billy Collins’ “Poetry 180” project, can be read at poets.org

“How My Father Learned English” by Juan J. Morales

Cover by Oswaldo Guayasmin

This next Poetry Pick is pulled from Juan Morales’ book of poems “FRIDAY and the Year That Followed,” winner of the 2005 Rhea & Seymour Gorsline Poetry Competition.

HOW MY FATHER LEARNED ENGLISH
382nd Hospital, Japan 1952

The wounded who could not speak English
congregated around the bedridden every morning.
Manuel, the nurse from some other ward,
taught my father and others English
word by word. Sometimes, phrases, the sloppy
repeated English made sense — Because es porque.
Yo soy es I am.  I am.  Otra vez, diganme.–
Bee cause.  Pain.  I am in pain.

English moved my father’s tongue unlike Spanish.
It stuck in his mouth, stumbled past his teeth.
He dreamed he forgot Spanish and his tongue
withered away.  My father never told anyone
about this or the scratching fear of his legs,
under bandages and scars, never walking again.
He didn’t have words in English yet.

From its initial lines to its closing stanza, Morales’ book of poems are nothing short of compelling. Sometimes surreal, other times magical, these poems evoke moods akin to the visual art of Frida Kahlo. It is a staple for any lover of the arts.

Juan J. Morales is currently the Director of Creative Writing  and Assistant Professor at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He is curator of the Southern Colorado Reading Series as wells as the student literary magazine, Tempered Steel.

“Friday and the Year That Followed” (ISBN 9780977197354) is available for purchase at Amazon

Ground Waters by Alison Apotheker

This second poem in Zingara’s Poetry Picks made it into the “notebook of favorites” for the same reason many poems do – I like it. I like it because I relate to it and identify with the speaker, whom I find believable and authoritative. And while these reasons may not be critically sound, they are nonetheless the primary reasons I chose  to write it down in my book of favorite poems and  include it here. A brief commentary of some of the poem’s strengths follows.

Ground Waters

by Alison Apotheker

from (Slim Margin)

Yesterday, in snow’s rare visit to this city,
my son and I raised his first snowman.
As we rolled the white boulders of its body
my pregnant belly nudged up against them like kin.

By evening, its body leaned to the left so impossibly
I kept checking the window for its collapse.
In the morning, even more so, the body straining
groundward as if to grasp the carrot nose
that had fallen and lay now half-covered in slush.

My son, who hasn’t yet been around the block
with gravity, suspects nothing. I remember
last summer when he skinned his shin on the sidewalk.
I watched his eyes register the body’s betrayal.
Yet he seems not to notice the snowman’s state,
the degree of recline, how little it would take
to return it to an idea of itself.

All over the neighborhood,
snowmen assume such inspired angles,
splayed skywards as if in appeal to their place of origin,
kneeling for their own beheadings,
canted in prayer, tipsy
with the song of their own slow-going.

The relief obvious in their frozen hulking masses
to rejoin the fluid grace of ground waters.
The truth is: before I became a mother,
I knew the body’s longing to be lost.
An untrustworthy lover bound
to forsake us, I’d rather do the leaving
than be left.

But now, as we walk home in the dusk,
my two-year old riding my hip,
patting my cheeks with his mittened hands,
I never want to leave this earth.
Inside the baby tumbles and reels,
already knowing where the body will take us,
that we have no choice but to follow its lead.

*Excerpted from Garrion Keillor’s Writers Almanac

In addition the speaker’s repeatability, there are in fact a number of poetic techniques that contribute to the poem’s effectiveness. The first stanza, for example, provides the reader with a appropriately subtle set-up for the poem. Instead of writing “I built a snowman with my two-year-old son,” the poet opens the topic with an observation of the rarity of snow, suggesting preciousness, and does not reveal the age of the child until later in the poem, when the reader has become truly curious about it.

The word “raised” in the second line is a powerful choice and connotes a process more complex  than the simple act of packing and rolling snow to create a shape suggestive of a human being, and further broadens the significance of the event to include the complex experience of raising a family.

Imagery plays a huge role in poetry and is wielded with expertise here in such observations as “the white boulder of its body / my pregnant belly nudged up against them like kin” and “as if to grasp the carrot nose / that had fallen” add animation and whimsy despite the underlying seriousness (mortality) of the poem’s tone.

The meandering thoughts of skinned knees and the longings of youth present in the poem do not distract from the narrative because they reaffirm the overall theme that our to bodies seem always to betray us, or at least resist our desire, forcing us into an internal life and landscape where our bodies matter less. Adding these meanderings in just this way illustrates a lovely mastery of language.

Finally, the extended metaphor pairing the human body and its biological changes with that of the slowly melting snowman is particularly poignant.

Zingara Poetry Picks: The Shadow by Carlo Betocchi

In order to celebrate my love of poetry and ensure that I have plenty of it available to read, I subscribe to many periodicals of both the physical and electronic varieties. Sometimes when reading these periodicals and email subscriptions, I discover a poem that is, in my subjective opinion,  beautiful. Other times I am intrigued by a  poem’s complexity and marvel at its mystery. When I find such poetry, I want to share it with the world, and say “Hey! Look at this great poem!” Whether or not the poem resonates with another person is not within my power, but the possibility that it will is thrilling, as is the way disconnection evaporates when kindred souls recognize each other through a poem. In any case, blogging allows me not only to share the poem but to promote quality poetry while discovering, or rediscovering, great poets.

Here, then, to share my love and fascination with poetry is the first of many future installments of “Lisa’s Poetry Picks.” I don’t intend at this stage to explicate or comment over-much on any of this poetry, though I suspect some poems I post will insist on some response from me. That is, I might share whatever it is about the poem that drew me to it and caused me to want replicate here. Above all, I wish to fully appreciate each poem as well as its poet. Please feel free to make comments and constructive observations about these poems if so moved.

From the March 2010 issue of the “Poetry Foundation’s” Poetry magazine:

The Shadow
by Carlo Betocchi

One spring day I saw
the shadow of a strawberry tree
lying on the moor
like a shy lamb asleep.

Its heart was far away,
suspended in the sky,
brown in a brown veil,
in the sun’s eye.

The shadow played in the wind,
moving there alone
to make the tree content.
Here and there it shone.

It knew no pain, no haste,
wanting only to feel morning,
then noon, then the slow-paced
journey of evening.

Among all the shadows always
joining eternal shadow,
shrouding the earth in falseness,
I love this steady shadow.
And thus, at times, it descends

among us, this meek semblance,
and lies down, as if drained,
in grass and in patience.