Posts Tagged ‘alphabet menagerie’

If you’d let me, I would lift you up
so you could touch the moon.
But that is a fairytale thing to say,
and you’re so practical.
I’d move a mountain for you,
though you’d laugh and insist,
“Please don’t bother, the mountain’s fine
exactly the way it is.” I’d plant you a field
of Mariposa lilies or a garden of magnolia blooms,
but you would say, “Don’t trouble yourself.
All I want is you.” But what about a meteor
shower to light up the darksome nights?
Or a macaw to brighten up the room?
Or a Martian might be nice? “A Martian?”
you’d say? “Oh come on. That’s not even
real.” So I’d offer to take you fishing
for marlin. Or maybe for a blue gill? And you
would say, “I told you already, all I want is you.”
But I’d still try to offer you something—
something sweet like a marshmallow?
Something tasty like wild mushrooms?
Something humble like marigolds?
Something weird like a marmot with a mustache?
and you’d say, “Don’t you know
you’re fine just as you are. Bring me
you with your empty hands.”
Why do I find it so daunting
to come to you just as I am?

*an M poem for Lian Canty’s Alphabet Menagerie

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X marks each spot where I would like to kiss
you, dear. That’s why this map is full of them,
though I will never show this map to you.
I’m too afraid to tell you how I really
feel, so in each letter I have written
you, I’ve hidden xs somewhere, secret
kisses veiled in talk of other things.
For instance, when I wrote to you about
the xenops on the branch outside our house—
ridiculous, of course. Those birds are native
to the tropics. Or the time I wrote
about the mile-long xylophone? There was
no xylophone. Just one more buried kiss.
I got no x-rays of my hip, nor did
I spot a Xiphias gladius on a deep
sea fishing trip—those swordfish are elusive.
That is why there’s talk of chromosomes
in all my letters, x most frequently.
I know it’s silly. Hiding all these kisses
in these letters to you, none of which
I’ve ever sent. I keep them in this box
beside the map, then hide the box beneath
my bed. And this confession goes there, too,
sealed with a kiss I’d rather give to you.

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In a snowstorm, the yaks know to huddle together,
calves in the center. They press the bulk of their bodies so close
to each other that their breath forms a column of visible steam.

Elsewhere, in burrowed colonies, the yellow jackets
work in concert to forage for food, to feed the larvae,
to expand the nest and defend the queen.

It’s hardwired in us, this will to survive. Just look
at the yucca with its cascade of lemony petals
surrounded by tough, sword-shaped leaves.

Just look at you. Just look at me. See how we
like to hide behind our identities—lover,
loner, baker, runner, singer, prayer, biker, child.

As if we could use the list of our interests
and roles as a shield against our greatest fear—
the fear that we don’t know what we are doing here.

So we shout to each other like yodelers—here I am,
this is me, who are you? And we hold up invisible yardsticks
to ourselves, to each other, in an effort to learn our value.

And our egos rise and fall like yoyos in the hands
of a child who’s just learning to play. We think we’re someone.
We fear that we’re not. And what are we doing here anyway?

Is this why some choose solitude? Choose to live
beyond the shoulds and masks? Live like the yeti—
unknowable, unseeable, known only by stories and tracks?

Today, the hummingbirds are gone, and the waterfall is thin
in its plunge. The hours are warm though the sun is low—
and I can’t say that I know what we’re doing here,

but I think it has something to do with noticing the missing birds
and the thin waterfall and the timber in your voice when you tell me
you don’t know who you are. Me neither, friend, but whatever I am

fell in love with the way that the first morning sun today glanced
the frosted grass, and I could see dozens of columns of steam rise across
the whole field before the yellow jackets emerged from their nest.

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I may never travel to Neptune,
I’ll never eat a newt,
I’ll never ride a narwhal,
but I’ll always love you.

They say the North Star’s brightest,
they say nightingales sing best—
but to my ears and nose and eyes
you’re finer than the rest.

You’re more prized than the needlefish,
as elegant as a nautilus,
as cheerful as a nasturtium,
and lovelier than the narcissus.

I’d make you a nest of my love,
I’d draw you blank staves for your notes,
I’d spin you blue thread for your needle,
I’d carve you oars for your boat …

and I’ll nudge you from my nest
and push your boat out to the ocean—
I will always, always love you
though some ways are too sad to mention.

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(another poem for Lian Canty’s Alphabet Menagerie project)

Obey the poem’s emerging form.
—Jack Mueller

This is the poem in which you accept
that anything might happen next.

A red umbrella might fall from the sky
and offer a ride to Belgium.

A constellation of bright sea urchins might
walk by on their tiny transparent adhesive

tube feet. Or perhaps a petulant cherub,
unhappy with a day full of broken hearts,

might urinate on the next line. It happens
in poems all the time—the improbable,

the profane, paired side by side
with the miraculous. Like love. Unicorns, well,

they are more often saved for fairy tales and
UFOs, they belong more to sci fi texts.

But why not have them here? In this poem, ukeleles
might serenade the next stanza with their sweet Hawaiian twang

and their hint of exotic happiness.
An umbrella parakeet might fly its way in,

or a strange man might enter
and wonder “Why?” It happens,

it happens in poems all the time. Though
there are never any simple answers. Always paradox.

The Great Bear in Ursa Major just might hunch over
any errant rhymes and strew them like stars

across the sky. Or a cow might stroll through
with its pale pink udders reminding you

of other things you have never done.
Oh, there you are, you made it

at last into the poem. I was hoping
you would show up, not like in one of those

terrible dreams where you’re wearing only
your underwear and you’re afraid everyone

will notice. No, here you are, ready to do
whatever the poem asks of you, which is

to say yes to whatever happens next,
though the poem is as unstable as uranium,

as fickle as a butterfly in a whole field
of open flowers, and you will be asked to make peace

with not knowing what the poem really means.
And yes, you will say, yes. And you will perhaps see

how you are the umbrella, the seven stars, the parakeet,
the urchins slowly moving their way across the sea.

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