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Pickle Me This

March 11, 2011

After the third earthquake (2005)

After the third earthquake
I began to devise my own tremors
Cautious nerves alert
to pseudo seismic sensations
I fathomed near-death possibilities
via waves in a coffee pot.
Mistrustful of any stirring
You can be too in tune
with your house’s vibrato
Too inclined to begrudge men
who drill holes in the street for their living
For fear of what they might disturb
I could not take a step in case
of rattling plates threatening
killer tsunamic swampings
After the third earthquake
those beats pounding in my ears
made the room shake.

December 20, 2010

"A Simple Poem for Virginia Woolf" by Bronwen Wallace

This started out as a simple poem
for Virginia Woolf you know the kind
we women writers write these days
in our own rooms
on our own time
a salute a gesture of friendship
a psychological debt
paid off
I wanted it simple
and perfect round
hard as an
egg I thought
only once I’d said egg
I thought of the smell
of bacon grease and dirty frying-pans
and whether there were enough for breakfast
I couldn’t help it
I wanted the poem to be carefree and easy
like children playing in the snow
I didn’t mean to mention
the price of snowsuits or
how even on the most expensive ones
the zippers always snag
just when you’re late for work
and trying to get the children
off to school on time
a straightforward poem
for Virginia Woolf that’s all
I wanted really
not something tangled in
domestic life the way
Jane Austen’s novels tangled
with her knitting her embroidery
whatever it was she hid them under
I didn’t mean to go into all that
didn’t intend to get confessional
and tell you how
every time I read a good poem
by a woman writer I’m always peeking
behind it trying to see
if she’s still married
or has a lover at least
wanted to know what she did
with her kids while she wrote it
or whether she had any
and if she didn’t if she’d chosen
not to or if she did did she
choose and why I didn’t mean
to bother with that
and I certainly wasn’t going
to tell you about the time
my best friend was sick in intensive care
and I went down to see her
but they wouldn’t let me in
because I wasn’t her husband
or her father her mother
I wasn’t family
I was just her friend
and the friendship of women
wasn’t mentioned
in hospital policy
or how I went out and kicked
a dent in the fender of my car
and sat there crying because
if she died I wouldn’t be able
to tell her how much I loved her
(though she didn’t and we laugh
about it now) but that’s what got me
started I suppose wanting to write
a gesture of friendship
for a woman for a woman writer
for Virginia Woolf
and thinking I could do it
easily separating the words
from the lives they come from
that’s what a good poem should do
after all and I wasn’t going to make excuses
for being a woman blaming years of silence
for leaving us
so much to say

This started out as a simple poem
for Virginia Woolf
it wasn’t going to mention history
or choices or women’s lives
the complexities of women’s friendships
or the countless gritty details
of an ordinary woman’s life
that never appear in poems at all
yet even as I write these words
those ordinary details intervene
between the poem I meant to write
and this one where the delicate faces
of my children faces of friends
of women I have never even seen
glow on the blank pages
and deeper than any silence
press around me
waiting their turn

by Bronwen Wallace

September 21, 2010

"Banana": A poem by Alison Pick

Banana

Call him honey, call him
love, anything sending out
the high clear light

          that is yellow.
                    Sunshine. So close

to white, the purest
of snow, granular
sand he toddles over, bucket
in hand.
          Sugar. Come back
from the edge, my darling,
          my dear,

and he does, brandishing mud
like a flower,
stacking your name like a tenuous
tower of blocks:
ma ma ma MA.

Call this true love.

Even on the longest of cloistered
afternoons when he reigns
in his highchair (call him
The King), the tin cup
          dumped back onto the floor, banana
pushed back through his teeth
as though through a sieve;
          in your mouth
the names clatter–
          Sweet Pea, Sweet Cake–
like the rattle he shakes in his fist.
As though he desires
to be nothing
but the clear yellow light

he knows himself to be. Buttercup,
          Angel,
call him what he is:

your Baby. Your Baby. Your Baby.

(from the collection Question & Answer: Poems, by Alison Pick).

September 6, 2010

Authors' Ghosts by Muriel Spark

I think that authors’ ghosts creep back
Nightly to haunt the sleeping shelves
And find the books they wrote.
Those authors put final, semi-final touches,
Sometimes whole paragraphs.

Whole pages are added, re-written, revised,
So deeply by night those authors employ
Themselves with those old books of theirs.

How otherwise
Explain the fact that maybe after years
have passed, the reader
Picks up the book – But was it like that?
I don’t remember this . . . Where
Did this ending come from?
I recall quite another.

Oh yes, it has been tampered with
No doubt about it –
The author’s very touch is here, there and there,
Where it wasn’t before, and
What’s more, something’s missing –
I could have sworn . . .

(Text taken from here. Poem discovered via Ali Smith’s introduction to The Comforters).

July 8, 2010

I wish my enemies were Russian

(I wrote this poem a few years ago, back when I wrote poems, and I’m reposting it now, in light of recent events, to celebrate my wish coming true.)

I wish my enemies were Russians

for the privilege of your naivete
they played you like an instrument
set against that Europe
your Russia was a love story;
the thinking man’s erotic fantasy.
You wrote odes to odes on lunacy
but even the polarity was an illusion
shifty spies confused the confusion.
That war was all in your head;
endless scenes of winter
intrigue. Your house with
picture windows and a fallout shelter;
mutually assured destruction.
Your history was the cinematic stuff
of fiction. The enemies were Russians
with beady eyes and edgy names.
Your symbols were comic book
red menaces and red phones,
iron curtains and star wars.

March 9, 2010

"Staircase" by Susan Telfer

Staircase

I stand at the kitchen sink in my bare feet
that melting July morning as my mother was dying.

I hear the thumps start on the top steps
over my head. Know in that instant

that my baby has crawled up the staircase
for the first time and is now somersaulting down.

Turning from the sink and running through
the hall as I hear his soft body hit each step.

Reaching my hand out to catch his head
above the tiles. Scooping him up in my arms,

my heart bludgeoning through both of us.
Nursing him then as we breathe at last.

I caught him like when he was born in his sac,
that melting July morning as my mother was dying.

(from House Beneath by Susan Telfer)

April 29, 2008

Paint Chip Poems

1. Cover up the names
for they sway me;
colour blind. To be happy
in a white room called
man on the moon.
Give me monterey white,
balboa mist.
I want niveous.
Cream froth, sugar cookie.
Butter milk, summer solstice.
Vichysoisse, straw hat;
elephant tusk,
bare
and windswept.

2. Future children’s names:
Audubon Russet
Powell Buff
Livingston Gold
Putnam Ivory
Jackson Tan
Winthrop Peach

3. At eighteen years
I painted my room.
Citrus orange.

April 25, 2008

Alligator Pear

I want
scrumping.
To eat your ugly,
Avocado.
Lumpy isn’t
lumpen after all.
Just to dig
that perfect pit,
unbreakable ovum.
Your malleable
flesh. To taste
the savoury sweet;
hideous beauty.

April 24, 2008

Dear Joan Didion

Dear Joan Didion,
For though you are small
your look is fierce,
as blunt as your haircut,
the bare facts
to which you are
amanuensis.
Your stories write
your stories.
Pieces falling,
with rigid ease
you let them.
You will point
to the places.
They will land.

April 23, 2008

Since they stopped exclaiming

Since they stopped exclaiming
Panic at the Disco seem happier,
“panic” more ironic now
than eccentric punctuation had ever been.

Which reminds me of how
everything got better
when I turned twenty three
and stopped speaking in italics.

I would have been depressed too
if I’d worn that much eyeliner.

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