V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





Get used to it, says the fortune man, 
tracing the webbing of lines in my palm,
stacking his deck to reveal The Magician
charged with the power to push my trouble
into the shapes of charms.  Ain't never
going to happen, hon.  That'll be forty bucks.
But you are a real lady, and smart.
You do just fine.
                                        His name is Otis Pepper,
his hair a wig.  Inspiring a double shrimp
platter washed down with too much of a big red drink
named after a storm.  Dip you in deep-fried
voodoo, suck you down with sad tidings
from Otis Pepper, mystic sweetheart, love
doctor of no degrees.  Girl, you should count
your angels.  Try being gay and psychic
in bayou country!  Ain't never
going to happen.  Happy New Year.

By spring I am used to the lack of you, except
to want to share this path of prairie
mowed into a maze, this June day sunny and cool
and fragrant with mowing.  I'll spare you
the names of flowers I pass: spiderwort, yarrow,
sparks of phlox, I can't help myself.
Trill of a cardinal—no. I won't list the birdsongs.
Out back of town they've piled a season's
felled branches inside a circle of boulders.
Brittle by fall and ripe for ignition.
The whole village comes to watch.
                               What, after all of this time,
have I ever required, besides requiring you?
You without whom I have so long
burned and sung of burning.

July in high desert: hot, hot.  Sad history of conquest,
sad-eyed dogs.  Day-glo chrysanthemums
left for beloved dead in twists of highway.
By now you're the tail of the Rio Grande,
a trickle too low for rafting.  A faded ristra strung
on a flaking porch post.

                               Here is the church
of St. Francis, hunched like an elephant
into the Ranchos square.  Inside its chambers of mud
and straw they genuflect and cross and strike their breasts.
Outside the path of red dirt up the mountain,
the heifer's skull, her wormy jimson crown.

Outside my out-east window now, green mountain
of moose and owl.  Spare you the names of trees,
the names of lakes, the shades of August; call it green.
This morning I climbed a hill so steep
I could feel clumps of muscles
working, dividing, gathering.  The sky was a twirl-a-round
dizzy heaven embellished with blown-out clouds,
the kind girls could carve into horses, flank and mane.
Swimming the nameless lake, I knew my shoulders
as my own, thought these are my shoulders,
my trunk, my burning branches.
                               Out loud I said sturdy, if nothing else,
I am sturdy.  That doesn't mean strong.

© by Pamela Gemin


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