May 14 2017

Are the children opening mouths like hungry saxophones
Clamoring for bread from my bread music?

This exhale of ours bellows in and out
And does not look like a wind instrument

Must be a fool’s hat collecting coins
Never earned by my frail mouth, not like Coltrane

We never slept in the same bed
Coltrane and I: in the same bed I’d fumble.

Yet you wind inside of me and I become your instrument
Now the breasts on my lips

Soft like the rolls I’d bake
When I finally clamored myself to you

Earning that key no door will unlock
I wake to find you seamed against me, Coltrane.

Sexe avec Coltrane

Est-ce que les enfants ouvrent la bouche comme des saxophones affamés
Réclamant du pain de ma musique à pain?

Cette expiration de nous braille aller retour
Et ne ressemble pas à un instrument à vent

Doit être une sébile qui collectionne les pièces
Jamais gagnées par ma bouche fragile, pas comme Coltrane.

Nous n’avons jamais dormi dans le même lit
Coltrane et moi: dans le même lit je me serais échappée.

Pourtant, vous vous retrouvez à l’intérieur de moi et je deviens votre instrument
Maintenant, les seins sur mes lèvres

Doux comme les rouleaux je cuirais
Quand je me suis finalement réclamé de vous

Gagner cette clé qu’aucune porte ne déverrouillera pas
Je me réveille pour vous trouver sertis contre moi, Coltrane.

Originally published in the bilingual edition of Pussy

This is actually the poem referred to in the November 2014 issue of Vanity Fair in their article about Shakespeare and Company. It is the only poem I read in French.

vanityfairetmoi

Vanity Fair: November 2014 Issue

shakesandcomereading

Reading “Sex with Coltrane” at Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France 2014

 

Cover painting by Jean-Noel Chazelle

 

Mar 29 2017

July 4th, 1936- March 28, 2017

The Omen (must be) from the Great Blue Heron in my Backyard

My mother says it must be an omen, but of what, she doesn’t know.
Terminal cancer, she’s become a shaman of what’s between the sea and the landing.

We’re binge-watching Breaking Bad. “All doctors want us to radiate.”
“Fade away and radiate,” a Blondie song from the 80s pipes through my head.

She’s home now, not a metaphor, but a three hours drive from here
into a polluted wasteland of petroleum, pesticides and tumbleweeds.

A place where a great blue heron would never live, only migrate through.
My house is on a creek that trickles–sometimes torrents–to the ocean’s maw.

Now it’s meandering. The bathymetry has changed since last year:
two trees fell in my yard, on Easter a spruce crashed the trellis, shaved the cherry.

When the cottonwood smashed the tea roses, they were un-thwarted.
Lots of light now, more birds. The house finches returned: a nest in the barbeque:

the Steller’s jays returned; a nest in the bottle brush, not their usual stupid choice
of the patio umbrella, though they did leave a few twigs there for their gods.

And the great blue heron, a first time visitor.
A portent. “An omen,” she says.

The heron, who suffers no fool, flies past my line of vision, to the sea.
Great sweeps of wing close enough to tease a strand of hair from my face.

Over my shoulder a shudder of air as all the mourning doves tear out
of the sycamore, a sound like the gods’ shrill laughter, a chilling sound.

“An omen,” she says. There is a nest I built inside myself on a rocky perch. To love is to borrow a future sorrow made of sticks and hair and spit.

Feb 2 2017

I spent the summer of 2016 traveling in southeast Asia, mostly in Penang, Malaysia and Bali, Indonesia. While there the Soberanes Fire broke out in Big Sur, California, subsequently 132,000 acres of some of the prettiest land I’ve ever seen. Many of my friends and loved ones were in danger, some lost their homes. I was keeping track each day while also spending my time in temples: Taoist and Buddhist temples, or meditating at the ocean’s edge. This poem came out of these meditations. It was published on the program for the Jesse Goodman presents/Henry Miller Library benefit concert featuring Sharon Van Etten, Al Jardine, Michael Nesbith and many other musicians who donated their time. We ended up raising over 40K for the victims of the fire. Here’s my poem:

Ash for Breakfast

We reconnect at the moon gate, like clouds colliding,
and use measuring sticks to plumb the death of solitude.

With no one watching,
we solder meaningful doubt.

Hello, it’s me hauling my load of dust toward Bethlehem
under a shelter of corrugated sky.

A fire cannot extinguish us, but when we sit on the ash heap,
we may need reminding.

How to break through? The fire burns everything
except clouds.

The smoke fogs our glasses, while condor nests go up
in summer flames. How do we save them?

Ash floats over the charcoal house we painted turquoise.
At the charred edge, a bobcat runs with a squirrel.

The progress of stars is humbling.
We bow to the spectral ash
we all of us
are in this universe.

Maria Garcia Teutsch
HMML Chair/Board President

Poster by Steven Erdman

author’s note: It is not lost on me that the fantastic German poet and essayist Durs Grünbein has a collection entitled: Ashes for Breakfast. I love this collection (highly recommend you read it) and want to give this devil his due for in part inspiring the title of my poem. I woke up each morning wondering what damage the fire had caused, so it was literally like having ashes for breakfast.

 

Jan 14 2017

In my backyard, I wrote a letter to god.
Dug a hole with my mother’s
silver serving spoon

bent with the effort,
knees in dirt,
sunburnt neck in a crinkled cotton dress.

Four years old, I couldn’t spell
but knew my hieroglyphs
would be deciphered.

Words folded into white paper.
I thought, “When people are buried,
they shoot right up to god’s face.”

So I planted my letter,
shaped a mound on top
and placed a yellow marigold as marker.

I asked for a painted horse.
My father’s stone agenda
did not include horses for girls.

 
I didn’t get that horse,
though a fire maple
did grow from that spot.

The lingua franca of the wind
scratches a riot of leaves
across a blackboard sky.

 

Photo Credit: Stewart Ferebee

Nov 10 2016

revolution cover

Here’s a groovy interview with me conducted by Climate Activist, Dan Linehan for Monterey Poetry Review

Nov 2 2016

Smooth hands are suspect.
I love the way your hands
snag my silk blouses.
Sandpaper calluses are kisses.

I have tortilla-making hands,
and fingernails with chipped red polish.
My hands are tattooed with the ink of poems.
They touch moonlight
on your cheek while you sleep.

Originally published in The Sierra Nevada Review

 

Nov 1 2016

Not the Sound a Drum Makes
Her son’s last name pounds “little drum.”
Beat of heart, rain on flat rock,
his father’s voice.

Her maiden name is her father’s name, obvious I know: Mexican tiles, adobe mouths that could say more.

Her mother’s name cries Southern wind on white porches. Tobacco teepees drying death. Black-eyed peas.

Her first name screams long-suffering virgin. Pieta. Crosses made of abalone on the roadside—

She learns how to spell a new name—
The sun says it’s green. Her last name
fields red circles, blue cloth, not the sound a drum makes.

Sep 28 2016

The shadow winks behind

a green iridescent hummingbird

 

who flits across yellow blossoms

and jade eucalyptus leaves.

 

Winter rain drizzles down the tree.

The negative space of silver

 

between branches of thought —

death’s silhouette.

 

Originally published in the “Inhabitants” issue of  Redeft

Aug 21 2016

The Piñata

Cold rain turned my shirt
into paper maché.

I tried to hold it away
from the mound of each breast.

Your warm palms traced their shape,
and you told me I was beautiful,

all wet and streaming.
I believed you.

 

Originally Published in The Two Review

Jun 23 2016

Boom, Boom, Boom, Satellite of Love

She hands him a tiny poem on a small card. He looks at her and says, “You really are a poet, do your parents know this?” He’s a physicist, the small kind of physics, like angstrom small, not astro big.
He tells her ether is an invention of poets. She says if you think it’s real then it’s real. He laughs, says she’s too rational for him. Brings her flowers tied with a purple ribbon. She resists for a while but then succumbs. They create a tiny universe too small to be seen without a microscope. They float out on a dust mote where  galaxies swirl within galaxies.

messier

Text version published in Leaf by Leaf

Multi-media version published in Porter Gulch Review