Three poems published in the fourth Western Voices issue of Setu (2022)

Many thanks to Scott Thomas Outlar, Sunil Sharma, and Anurag Sharma for including three of my poems in this fourth Western Voices issue of Setu, among the many fine poets included. I appreciate the hard work they perform on behalf of the global poetry community. My apologies for formatting problems in this copy and paste.

Here’s one of the three.

The grackle’s gifts

In my backyard there’s a grackle. His eyes quick,

he finds gifts I do not realize I need. Gives

me his cocked head of attention. Sings love songs only

my Viejo knew, back to keep his eye on me, frustrated

he no longer has thumbs, fists, a facile tongue, and bilingual brain.

The grackle found another’s ring with letters and a date. But now

it’s gone to pay the water bill.

Indigo shards adhere to glass bricks, bend light, distort shadows

both inside the house and out.

My favorite sound is the harsh cry of a grackle.

My favorite smell is the honest sweat of a worker.

My favorite tastes are whisky and sin on his breath,

or the gush of sex memorialized on hands and thighs.

My favorite gift is a lover who pays attention, gets it right.

The one who pulls me into that other dimension where nothing

exists but percussive sound, intimate scents,

secrets muttered through clenched teeth into the back of my neck,

a single black feather left outside my closed door.

poems published in Setu Western Voices issue 2020

I’m thankful to Setu and to Scott Thomas Outlar, it’s guest editor for the Western Voices issue, for publishing two poems written in collaboration with Lee Ballentine as well as a poem each from us both.

My poems in Setu Western Voices issue 2020

Poems by Lee Ballentine in Setu Western Voices issue 2020

Here is one of the collaborative poems:

but silence is never silent

Collaboration with Lee Ballentine

Like an ultimatum of birds gone to their winter nests,

I refuse to speak in the shadowed echoes of your applause.

Like things you will never hear again, sounds tremble as they fall,

leaving nothing but your voice telling me what I cannot be.

As my honest self fades to gray, I hear its damp echo.

A machine preaches tolerance, but I see only scowls.

The eruption of unbidden tears. Imperfect duplicates.

A divided spirit—sonorous voice, gregarious smile—

belies the familiar fist. The slammed door and bruised spirit.

Heartache demands shame’s silence.

But silence is never silent. Car doors slam. Jets

roar through dirty sky. Distant dogs complain.

Choppers enforce imaginary lines between Us and Them.

Or maybe bear torn flesh, twisted bodies, the comma of death.

Train tracks thunder a despot’s rage that stops for nothing.

A teacup knocked to the floor, a tympani of windows and roof,

a glorious vibration, the sound of fragile metal, a car

dropped to the concrete floor of a garage in the next block.

Pigeons trill sweetly, then scold anyone without seed.

Water flows through pipes like the presence of god.

Breath rattles through tubes of flesh and dying lungs.

Snub nosed dogs snort and snore in irregular rhythms,

like the voice of ghosts from beyond a non-existent wall.

They cannot stop telling stories of all that’s long forgot.

Footfalls from wooden floors where no feet walk.

I breathe poisoned hills and smell toxic water. My life

demolished like a listing shed in the rail yards.

Lost as the travelers who never returned home

bathed in the midwinter scent of a sea’s perfume.

The migratory odor of abandonment lingers,

and I have nothing to say to you.

The waves you would not see

shimmer like a mirror of clouded ice

gone frozen over the falls.

Setu, April 2020

Scott Thomas Outlar’s guest editor introduction and table of contents for Setu Western Voices issue 2020

Repost from a few years back: person Donna Snyder, three poems

20200504_123846_Film4isacousticvia person Donna Snyder, three poems

Here is one of the three found at the link above:

Rabbit in the moon

Rabbit looks down
sees barren land, water infrequent.
The sun’s biting caress a death blow.
A cold too vicious to survive without cariño.

Ixchel sent me a lover
but chastity had already claimed me,
denied tactile pleasure and serendipity,
tongue pierced with cactus spine.

Mariposa sent me a lover,
but I wasn’t free to flit from ocotillo
to nopal on wings of pumpkin sun and indigo,
trapped in a box of death the color of plums and sky.

Colibri sent me a lover
who couldn’t shimmer in the air drinking sweet.
He plummeted from the sky like a fallen god,
his lungs became rock and his muscles stone.

Jaguar sent me a lover, too,
one kept from me by knives and chains.
He ran into the mountains and lives there still.
You can hear him scream in the starless night.

Eagle sent me a lover
with a tattooed arm that ends in fury,
dead lovers dancing to an unheard drum,
sugar skulls meant to celebrate life reek of death instead.

Rabbit looks down
into this indigo desert, sees my heart twitching
on a plate of lapis and jade, sees blood on the land,
but no succor. No solace. No water to wet my dying tongue.

 

 

Speak the Language of the Land includes three of my poems

Speak the Language of the Land is the first of what will be an annual showcase of talented poets, presented by the Lummox Press in conjunction with The LUMMOX Poetry Anthology and the Angela Consolo Mankiewicz Poetry Prize(courtesy of the estate of Angela C. Mankiewicz and her husband, Richard Mankiewicz).

Order your copy here

Summertime rain

         for Oseye

Swing clarinet blinks neon in a foggy afternoon.
Black wings take to the carmine sky. A cry rises
loud enough to be heard on the other side.

Flash of black limbs spread deep into ruddy earth.
Another son dead 50 years before his time. Another
Mama looking hard for some good to find.

A spontaneous wail stretches from the golden gate
to the one made of pearl. Despair travels a highway
that ends in unfriendly waves.

Either way, waters cold or warm still drown the same.
Every mothers’ sun rises on a world black with pain.
Every breath becomes a sob.

Every mothers’ son lucky each day he doesn’t die.
Flesh like Black Palm. Skin like Walnut. 
Every time another son gone

every mother joins in the silent sigh. 
Nothing as cold as a summertime rain.

#####


Cruising the Alameda

After hearing Douglas Kearney’s “Alameda Street”

Down on Alameda, close to Azcarate, a 1955 Bel Aire. A stretch of chrome splits pink from white, ends in fins.
The color of Bazooka, that gum wrapped in a comic,
goofy boy’s face covered by a turtleneck.

A bass beat from a purple T-bird rattles storefront windows.
Good boys pretend to be bad, white cotton shirt over khakis,
almost a uniform. Pack of Lucky Strikes in rolled up sleeve,
sleek groomed hair.

Grandmas cross themselves, not sure if the bad boys just pretend. Intimidated bookkeepers on their way to work lock the car doors. Attracted, but not fast or loose, secretaries check their lipstick,
touch their hair, flash big I-Love-Lucy smiles.

If I Daddy hears me laugh louder than Bobby Fuller on the radio I get, What did your mama tell you before she let you come along, baby? What she always says, I chime, be a little lady. I look down,  imagine white patent leather shoes,

pink flowers on an Easter hat bobbing in time to rock and roll,
scalloped anklets embroidered with tulips. I repent laughing too loud,
still looking at the boys in the corner crowd. Eyes on my tennie shoes,
I hum along with the radio and vow,

When I grow up, I’m going to laugh out loud. When I’m full grown,
I’m going to brag of how I cruised the Alameda in a bubblegum car,
speaking Spanish to Daddy, English to Mama, and Spanglish to friends.
All the time loving the drama of bad, bad boys.

#####

Your smell is a glove

That splash of secret smile, so rare, such sweet victory. That flash caught by fluke in response to something I said  The Cramps blasting up to the open sky, wintry and hot.  The beat takes over my body and the words happen
without premeditation. I need a new wardrobe now.  I still feel the flannel gown I had on 20 minutes ago,
the snuffled tears dried by the desert air of my bedroom.

You move fast, both behind the wheel of a car and walking
through a doorway. Christening my lips with something
both sweet and bitter. I caress my face with speckled
knuckles. Your smell is like a glove.