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    Room 57 • Poetry Hotel 

Four Poems / Perie Longo

 

WRITING FOR LIFE

 

On the edge

he signs his name

with a skid mark

voice a hollow drum

willow without stretch of deer skin

to bring the rain.

 

Having been on the edge ourselves,

             the long way down—or up—

             either way barely bearable

we hide behind neatly pressed words.

                       

He writes in such jumble (word salad

with blood dressing)

 

no one understands but that’s the whole idea.

 

Last time someone figured it out

he was sent down the river

(figure of speech) to get his head screwed on

straight

straight

straight

 

locked in a room

of curve balls.

 

“I just wanted to stand out,” he says

slinging up the umbrella of his misfortune.

“As if your nails are trying to hang

onto the sky?” I ask (up talk it’s called).

 

He laughs a cry,

strong hand over his wet, pale cheek.

Curse the screw of chemicals

that leave who we love tweaked

and double crossed.

 

-------------------------

 

PEANUT BUTTER

                       

Thank heaven we buy a natural brand rather than one

that’s poisoning the public as reported in today’s news,

our kind the one with a thick layer of oil on top

 

you have to stir into the stiff brown glop beneath

so it will spread with ease onto bread

without ripping it to shreds. First you insert

 

the tall-handled wooden spoon mounted with a carved moose

your friend brought as a gift from Russia, and begin blending

as the oil drips down the side of the jar

 

onto the counter settling into the grout between the tiles

and you remember how your mother used to slather

her naturally swarthy French skin with olive oil

 

for a delicious tan but when you did the same thing

your fairer complexion burnt to a crisp

and then your mind drifts to the La Brea tar pits in LA

 

bubbling up fossils under a full moon

so you move to more drastic measures as you must

in matters attempting to penetrate the surface of things

 

and you dump the whole mess into a large bowl

mashing and kneading until the texture

is something like wet cement

 

but when you try to fight it back into the jar

you notice how the agitation and your own vigor

have caused it to expand something like the miracle

 

of loaves and fishes but you’re hardly Biblical, swearing

with a thick tongue trying to lick the slop

off your fingers and face, while it seems to be rising

 

like the price of oil itself and the more you try to beat it down

the higher it goes, the wider it spreads and you wonder

if that isn’t the way of oil, not to stop until it slicks over

                                                                                                                      

every bird and boat and beach, country and continent

until we burn and slide helplessly together

in the muck of our making, just to satisfy a Permian hunger.

 

-------------------------

CLIFFS OF MOHER, COUNTY CLARE

 

Flight has dropped you right where the Ireland calendar

on your kitchen wall left you thousands of miles ago,

and since Dublin, days more of a good dose of twists

 

and turns. Walking the precipitous edge of the cliffs,

the day full sun, in the distance row upon row

of birds roost in eon-chewed niches. You peer down

 

to better hear the swish-swash below after the sea’s crash

against the walls still forging the ridge. At the drop,

stomach churns like the spume inside the blue whorl.

 

You back off at the sign posting Danger, lives lost

slipping over. A woman in a wheelchair

poised too close, gazes out, a man holding her firm.

 

Perhaps this view a last wish. Suddenly flashes of white

like flung arrows distract, fulmars and kittiwakes

playing like children, gliding the spray.

 

They whiz toward the dark cliff rise,

then tour j’eté back to sea in a kind of tease—

coming home, just kidding— like exultations

 

of souls unbound from flesh. What else can you do

but run toward the tower at the very tip

and lift, all wing and weave.

 

-------------------------

 

THE AGE WHEN ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

 

The fifth grade class doesn’t know what a crocus is.

That pushes over a mound of snow in spring,

            I explain. That strong,. It grew in front

of my house in Wisconsin where I lived, their age.

 

The boy who-only-likes-sports, never poetry,

in a sky blue tank top down to his knees stops wiggling.

            Freezes. “Wisconsin!

                        Did you know my cousin?”

 

He’s ten and serious, lived in Oconomowoc.

A girl says her mother was from Waukesha.

           Native words I love wobbling in air, it’s time

to write the lesson. Music on, paper passed around

and pictures for ideas, 

      he appears before me, eyes round as baseballs. Whispers,

                        “He was murdered!”

It’s not the sun that makes him squint back tears.

 

Tells me his cousin was twenty-two,

tells me it happened when he was eight,

      the age when life is limitless, anything possible

                        but death,

tells me he’s scared, they never found who did it.

 

These days you can’t hug children at school, without

                        suspicion. I hold him

in my gaze, say I’m sorry, so terrible for him, his family.

Say he could bring his cousin back to the page,

            his pencil like a small bat that sends out words

                        where they need to go.

 

He drifts back to his desk. Writes fast about setting sun

you can’t stop, like sadness, morning light, his cousin

            who taught him how to play football,

            that life won’t last forever. I nod, move on

 

tending to my crocuses bright in their square

            of ground, feet planted

                                                before they blow away.

 

-------------------------

Perie Longo, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate (2007-09) has published four books of of poetry, the last two titled With Nothing behind but Sky: a journey

through grief (2006) and Baggage Claim (2014). Individual poems appear in numerous literary journals and anthologies including International

Poetry Review, Miramar, Nimrod, Paterson Literary Review, and Prairie Schooner. She teaches poetry for the annual Santa Barbara Writers

Conference as well as privately, and in the past  through California Poets in the Schools for thirty years. A psychotherapist and poetry therapist, she

feels poetry is a light that guides us to hope and truth.

 

Acknowledgements:“Writing for Life” previously appeared in Writers on the Edge: 27 writers speak about addiction and dependence. (Diana M.

Raab and James Brown, eds. Ann Arbor: MI: Modern History Press, 2012); “Peanut Butter” previously appeared in Atlanta Review (Fall 2007) and

Baggage Claim: Poems, (Artamo Press, 2014); “Cliffs of Moher, County Clare” previously appeared in Levure litteraire #13, (June, 2017); “The

Age When Anything is Possible” previously appeared in Askew, (Fall, 2013).

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