Thursday, July 5, 2012

POETRY SELECTION FOR AIPF


Okay, poetry-readers, the deadline approaches for the Austin International Poetry Festival. I enter each year and submit poems to the blind, juried anthology. I can only submit three poems and have narrowed down this year's work to a dozen. If you can/will, please cast your vote for the top three. Thanks!

RUBAIYAT CÉILIDH

I dream I'm dancing with my girl
Our hips encurving like a burl
She whispers in my ear a charm
Before she laughs into a whirl

She spirals down my eager arm
The air between us flickers warm
My past a blur of clever days
Which somehow carried me past harm

The nearby fiddles play strathspeys
Of seismic drift and Simon Says
My feet glide over gritty beams
And friends pound tempo in the haze

I am not crippled in my dreams
My heart tells tales, like Parson Weems,
Of cloth wove whole, sans patch or seams
Of cloth wove whole, sans patch or seams

©2012 Maggie Jochild


SURFACE TENSION

I have stepped back into the river
Still cannot swim
but a swift current
will keep my head above water
down a descending rapids
maybe around the coming bend

You have said you won't let me drown,
but you can't swim either
Our hands are joined
and we laugh into our lungs
the rich clean air
just above the surface

Catapulting toward an ocean deep
Worth it, worth every terrifying tug
at my legs. Look at the stars,
they are outlined by colour.

©2012 Maggie Jochild


SHEVIRAT

I look back and the steps I left
are being washed out by waves.
I have loved as best I could
but my village is scattered or dead,
or wish to forget me.
Where, then, alone in the dark
do I find a handhold, purpose
A smooth bowl shaped by my hand
My own HaKelim? No answer now
is not a final response.
Drink some water and count meter
until either sleep or light returns.

©2012 Maggie Jochild


SETTLING

This is how we get ready
Even as we tuck wisdom
into skin pouches, lots to spare
and marvel at what joy we have
simmered, still redolent decades
later -- even as we admit
we were stronger than anybody
ever told us, we have been heroes
Still, we are tired, we face night
with tricks to wick away twitchy thoughts
of what we are not sure we can face again. 
Yes we endured it once
but twice may not be worth it
Heresy you dare not speak to friends
who cling to you tighter than ever
There is no one who can promise
it will get easier and you can coast
Lying back in the slow boat for a
long glide, take in the view, never
having to hear of another impossible death,
watch governments destroy themselves
or women put a cast-iron lid
over their own world-saving spark

©2012 Maggie Jochild


SABRA

We traveled out of that rift valley, they say
following animals and waterways
How long did we stay in one place?
Days, weeks? Carrying little
except story and song, flint flakes
and enough for the next meal
Until our mothers discovered
planting seeds and taming herbivores
could buy us a year-round ticket
by some likely river. I am so afraid
this migration inside me will mean
I live forever as I feel tonight
Changed by a full belly into
someone I don't know, in love
with a watershed that may flood
or dry to flakes. You say
it is what it is,
rejoice and wade in.
I pull off my tunic and join you.

©2012 Maggie Jochild


PLACENTA PREVIA

I remember Mama's belly when she
quickened with my last brother
The dropping curve of it, and her
drained face, how she stopped smiling
I am the only human alive now
who can remember this, with her name
attached to all it meant. My memory
matters to me, but who else? The dust
that blows down garden rows is
from bones of women who were treasured
like I did Mama. I am supposed
to feel safety in a world where
erasure is continuous. I would look
at her that autumn and say "I love you"
hoping the grey would lift, for once.

©2012 Maggie Jochild


PAINTER CREEK

Mama said when she was eight she had a friend
who lived out near the county line, where no one
but that family dwelled. Sometimes she'd ride
home with her friend, going to the bus route end.
They'd play along the nearby creek and climb a ridge,
watching out for rock-matched snakes, to see
a view that soared clear south to where, folks said,
a teacher once was killed when 'Manches rode in
from the west too fast for her to get away, though
she did use every horse and mule for the children
at her school to flee east into postoak woods. She saved
them all and was a hero whose tale brought choke
to Mama's voice. But nobody now could say what
her name had been. At dusk her friend was called in home
to feed the chickens, pen them up, then set the table. Mama
helped, and dried the dishes after supper. They were
sent to bed early because they giggled so, sharing a slender
iron bed, continuing to laugh and whisper under quilts
until her papa shouted through the wall. Mama loved
that farm and the dark-haired girl who was her family's
only child. Until the night she woke from sleep
when something screamed out on the ridge, a long and
full-throat sobbing howl that seemed to chink in through
the walls. Mama said terror near bout stopped her heart
and when she cried against her friend, the whisper came
"It's painters, looking for a love. My grandad called that
Painter Creek, before it got named something else on
the county map." Mama answered "It sounds like a woman
meeting her end." "I guess" her friend whispered, half-asleep
again already.

©2012 Maggie Jochild


OUR MOTHERS

They want us to appreciate the squeeze they felt.
To forgive them their choices, honor feeble intent
in the men they married, our fathers.
They drag us out to dinner on dead men's birthdays
milking into wineglasses our compulsion to forgive
the women who gave us our eggs, now unused forever --
Even as our would-be daughters blame us for not
finishing our revolution, every step we took wrong.
We have no absolution from those who came after.
They demand our sisterhood as well, and mock how
we turn to each other, old now, but still in love
with the glimpses we uncovered of female spirit
unchained.

©2012 Maggie Jochild


ONLY ME TO REMEMBER

Witchhazel on cotton balls to clean her face
after ironing, and Salems (a woman's cigarette)
until Benson & Hedges came out
Pretty Feet on her calloused heels
Tall jelly glasses full of ice and coffee
She liked Dinah Shore, the Dorseys,
and John D. McDonald mysteries
She kept elephant ears and last year's
poinsettias, gone entirely green
She smoked while stirring gravy, began
coughing if she laughed too much
Shapeless flowered housedresses
that snapped up the front, Tonis
and rubber girdles for dressing up
She told me being a girl was better
than being a boy
but play along, they could not
handle the truth

©2012 Maggie Jochild


ONCE HAD

I once was young, and had my strength.
I woke up rested. Of course I knew
someday it might run away, like a dog
slipping out the gate, but I never guessed
it would feel this halt. And the props
I counted on -- smarts, hope, friends,
nature, art -- I can see they are
impermanent. Yet still I want this
body, all it manages without my bid,
muscles which try to respond, hunger
which comes and is appeased, tears
that burn and somehow clear memory.
I want to be inside here, and I even dare
to consider sharing it, trusting her to
step around my debris as I grant her
respect for her own jury-rigs.
Older women know how to go on
and hand out love like biscuits, tuck
this in your pocket for tomorrow.

©2012 Maggie Jochild


HER ORGAN-GRINDER MONKEY

I know how to sing for my supper.
Close your eyes and do it earnest.
When we could not make the rent,
Mama sent me down the block
to beg the foul-tempered landlord
for just a few days more. I went
to school with his granddaughter,
and by the time I reached his ivied porch
Mama knew I would be wheezing.

Honour your people, stay alive
but rip out every seedling they left
and hold it up to the sun.
Scorched earth is fertile.
And find a companion
who can tell when you are
leaking shame into your bloodstream.

©2012 Maggie Jochild


AFTER MARS

When you come out of stasis
the pain is bone and nerve
You want to dive back in, no
drenched and dripping apple tree
is worth this. But life is forward
if it is life at all. And now you find
a list of all you missed, the deaths
and exes who are happily married
The children who will not be yours
The books written better than you could
have attempted, the friends who moved
and have other friends now. You will
have to start over with less muscle and
no coin at all. Go ahead and breathe deep
the rest of tonight. You made the bed
you are standing up from. If you believe in
god, wrap her muslin around you. Other-
wise, keep moving and you'll stay warm.

©2012 Maggie Jochild

3 comments:

vividreconstructions said...

Shevirat, Once Had, and Her Organ Grinder Monkey Have my votes. They're wonderful! Great to read your writing again. ~ Marie

C. Diva said...

Your endings are like punchlines, but to the gut.

Placenta previa, Once Had and Shevirat (once I looked up the meaning of the Hebrew ;>)

Painter Creek felt more like a story than a poem (even with the punch line), and the Rubaiyat should be set to a dance tune.

Also, not sure about Sabra; I'm sure the title is important, but I wasn't sure which meaning you were using.

Margot said...

This is so hard! Ok, my two-penn'orth:

RUBAIYAT CÉILIDH, because it's simply wonderful and contains that perfect phrase "My past a blur of clever days / Which somehow carried me past harm", and SURFACE TENSION because of the sustained metaphor.

After that, I'm torn between SETTLING "tricks to wick away twitchy thoughts", and
HER ORGAN-GRINDER MONKEY for its deceptively simple savagery. The monkey wins by a hair.

But don't let me over-influence you - I'm too personally invested to be objective.

Smootch.