Other notable works by Oonagh C. Doherty, Sally Bellerose and Ellen LaFleche.
The Balance Stone
~after a sculpture of the same name by Isamu Noguchi
there used to be another stone
the ghost stone is not there
above the stone that is
the stone that is is on the roof
of the building where air passes
through windows that are not there
like the quartz gathered in the woods
near the house a child used to live in
who used to be me
the ghost of the child
is balanced on the roof
of what I have forgotten
The Bar where the Physicists Drink
Is a simple old place that serves Guinness.
They sip in sync with the universe,
calculate the time it takes
for heads to dissolve into golden lager,
observe the centrifugal force
of barstool turns, the trigonometry
of dart throws, comment on
the waitress; whether she exists
in time and space while she is on break,
the centripetal force of her inert body
leaning against the outside wall,
inhaling molecules of smoke; debating
if her curvature is equal to her curves.
They don’t order martinis, but if they did,
they might contemplate Pascal’s 2nd Law
of Hydrostatics, how an olive
affects a change of pressure in a
homogenous, incompressible fluid.
They drink their beers, join the flow of charge
as the current of money quickly ebbs.
When the conjugate quantity of beer consumed
is equivalent to the linear movement of time wasted,
they declare this system closed and depart,
leaving a sense of relative uncertainty at every table.
I believe in strum and riff,
in the medley of pluck and thrum
in strings pulled taut to tune
finessed with finger picks,
or tickled with steel for a slide,
in the thwap of a chord,
the vibration of hammer on.
I believe in a good fake book
in the midnight jam
I’ll bring my axe, you bring yours.
We’ll play St. James Infirmary
and Uncle John’s Band
until the sun comes up
over the Hudson or the O-hi-o.
Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak
a knock and sequence, hands
unsuccessful, reach for numbers
twelve hovers atop
a round white mountain
long sweeping curve of shrug
a gesture in one direction
the hiccup of a second
the thousand spins of a life.
Lori Desrosiers’ book of poems, The Philosopher’s Daughter is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2012. Her chapbook, Three Vanities was published by Pudding House Press in 2009. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is editor and publisher of Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry.
Oonagh C. Doherty-
A time like the space between tracks –
cyclic whisper of diamond needle
on the record’s swaying warp:
Abbey bells woke me at night,
a patter of feet after pubs closed,
laughter of strangers, a song, a crash.
Morning I brewed tea stubbornly using
the oldest loose leaf Lyons Red Label
though it had mildewed and tasted of hay.
Drink, don’t waste. The least I could do.
So much could not be recovered. I fixed pillows
measured opium syrup into tarnished spoons
until the automatic morphine shunt
hung round his neck in a gay crocheted bag.
A good work of the Women’s Institute no doubt.
I walked to the shops while the winter jasmine
sheathed itself in ice as did another pink flower.
He said, good butter is worth the cost,
so I bought good butter in town.
At the Sikh’s round the corner I chose
The Manchester Guardian. He opened it
but could no longer read. I went again anyway
I asked the turbaned man behind the counter
if he knew my Dad, He came in every day for the paper.
But my eye was on the Teachers and Beefeaters bottles.
You must know him, I said, an older man, bearded
not so well lately. He came in every day I’m sure.
Over time, the record warps and rasps, the shunt sighs.
I think they are for you
heaped tannic acorns which grind to dust
in the driveway –
twin seeds yellow as stored sheets.
If I could unbutton your sleeve
touch skin between
wrist and elbow with my lip
would that move you?
What if I found the right words
and you even read them?
If we met (instead) in the forest –
could we run and fall
until cones and needles marked our skin?
The waning moon is for you
as it gleams
between shifting oak leaves.
My eyes hurt.
Does the grey in my hair,
another man’s ring on my hand
still all desire?
Was it never there?
RADIO TELESCOPES IN THE DREAMTIME
I remember walking the flatlands of Cambridge
that was the way we traveled then
until we saw the seven white giants
planted, spanning the ploughed fields.
Still they were, rapt every one of them,
facing the sky as though the sky mattered.
There was a day you gave me a whelk shell
such were the gifts we gave then
We listened together to vanished waves rushing,
seas where the trilobite paddled the old silt,
sharing a dream time with Tethys and Koios,
myth waves now faded to static in sea shells.
From a slate roof, we watched the stars burn
that was the way the night was then
You told me of red shift and big bang and Doppler,
the purpose of giants which crane towards deep space:
they girdle this planet from Cambridge to Moscow,
listing as radio breaks from the heavens.
You tried to explain, but I never could fathom
that is the way I am now and was then
how radio, singing, and crimson are all waves
differing only in wavelength and distance.
I saw the salt ocean’s hammering rhythm
not arching sine curves when I thought of waves.
It is a long time since I last saw you
life is no longer the way it was then
The flatlands, the stars, and the learning have passed on
I do not believe that the deep space is rushing
lapping with waves of rough radio signals:
Kronos runs forward, the echo is gone.
Oonagh C. Doherty was born in Scotland, and grew up in both the United Kingdom and the United States. She has recently published poetry in Measure, Crannnog, Margie, William and Mary Review, and Existere. She has short stories in an upcoming issue of Black Lantern, in the current issue of 34th Parallel and was a 2009 Pushcart Prize nominee for poetry. Like Robert Louis Stevenson, Martin Espada, and a quantity of nonentities besides, she is member of the bar.
The Poem is the Hummer carrying
bottled water and weapons
to the war zone.
The Poem is the channel,
tread, and the spin of a tire,
the gravel that spit on the child
abandoned on the side of the road.
The Poem, of course, is the child.
This poem is no haiku
It’s a fantasy
of frog-thighed lovers
No mamsy pamsy
Sorry about the wet skin
and webbed feet
May I ma’am’s
Brought in with the Swiss chard
a three-legged grasshopper sits on my counter
prehistoric unmoving. Even the bulbous eyes
only appear to shift around in their orbits.
No threat to me.
The missing fourth leg makes me sigh
before smashing the monster
between thumb and forefinger.
Chartreuse bleeds through paper towel
wetting my skin. The grasshopper was big.
I had to squeeze hard.
To live it would have had to look
a little less alien
a little more like me.
Days turned night side up,
he is nonetheless awake, his nose flat
against the window pane this morning.
His spouse says, “Eat your breakfast, darling.”
“Front row seat.” He nods. “Look,
our backyard is Broadway.”
Sleep deprived by his night wanderings,
his spouse squints out a dirty window,
sees his chorus line of berries
dewed in glamour on the leggy vines.
With coffee and Fibre O’s
from the breakfast nook they follow
the day warming to full rehearsal,
berries high stepping in the heat,
plumped in longing,
keeping perfect time.
“Dying to be picked and eaten,”
he sings portly sweet,
waving from the window,
“Red raspberry…black raspberry
choose me…choose me.”
He’s in a good mood.
His meds are working.
By late morning he is dozing on the Lazy Boy.
His spouse is drinking yet another cup of coffee,
staring at low-hung,
dangling in the hot sun.
All is quiet then, except one Jay
caws and staggers.
It’s too early, even for a matinee.
How they had loved the theater.
The spouse watches.
Delighted by the bad bird’s
peck peck pecking,
he wakes his husband.
“Come, come see your Broadway,
there’s a villain with a beak-full,
badgering the chorus
getting drunk on stolen wine.”
Sally Bellerose is the author of The Girls Club, Bywater Books September 2011. The novel won the Bywater Prize a Fellowship from the NEA. Excerpts from the novel have been published in Sinister Wisdom, The Sun, The Best of Writers at Work, Cutthroat, Quarterly West and won the Rick DeMarinis Award and the Writers at Work Award. The manuscript was a finalist for the James Jones Fellowship, the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, The Backspace Scholarship, and the Bellwether Endowment. Bellerose is also a poet who loves rhythm, rhyme, and messy emotion.
On the Beach
After making love,
you bury me.
You sand-sculpt my legs:
slender calves for stroking,
I hear the tender slap-slap
of my breasts being formed:
adorned with pebbles and shells.
You arrange salt-damp kelp for pubic curls.
Only my head is unburied:
egg-tight and white
in my rubber bathing cap.
Night comes. The moon
glides into my mouth. It snags,
a hook in my throat.
The tide drools down my legs,
cooling like ejaculate.
Gulls strut on my hips.
In the morning
beach umbrellas blossom open,
colorful mushroom clouds.
Beyond the sea rocks:
the siren’s haunting wail.
~What I was thinking at three in the morning
Giraffes ambling through the safari park. Twisting
their rubber necks to gawk at
the smoking car wreck.
Scent of thunder and electrified lilacs
my ex-lover’s legs.
Smoke and black gas venting from
the shotgun’s sewage pipe.
My ex-lover’s eyes,
blue as the flushed face
of a fornicating squid.
pushing against the nostrils
of a corpse being mourned.
My tongue sucking sweat from the rose
tattoo on my ex-lover’s shoulder.
Blindfolded child teasing the birthday piñata
like a sweet-filled hive.
Just before coming,
the bullfrog puff
in my ex-lover’s throat.
Dead friend turning her skull
to the questioning owl. The slow way
she reaches for fog and moon,
for skulking bug.
The ex-lover opening his mouth
to swallow my foot.
My sleeping pills making fatal
music in the rattlesnake’s shivering
Making Old Love with my New Love
your gray nape hairs
against my palate
like smoky meringue.
when I tug on it
your brittling limbs
shiver during love
between your legs
has faded to the scent
of mint tea
steeping on a vintage
when you look at my dyed
through the halo-making
haze of your cataracts
you see an angel.
Ellen LaFleche’s manuscript, Workers’ Rites, won the Philbrick Poetry Award and was published in 2011 by the Providence Athenaeum. Her chapbook, Ovarian, was published in 2011 by Dallas Poets Community Press.