“Age Comes While I’m Trying to Figure Out What to Say” by Mary Rose Betten

Mary Rose Betten

AGE COMES WHILE I’M TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO SAY

Age comes while I’m trying to figure out what to say.
I’ve put on ten years just this weekend.

My sister turns into my grandmother
while I’m asking her a question.

I become my Great Aunt Marie
turning down beds for those long dead.

Parts of my body play musical chairs.
My hair is a color God never meant it to be.

I wear shoes only an elephant could love,
forget where I put them and go out to buy more.

My answering machine makes more sense than I do,
I must draw pictures and point to them.

This rearrangement of knee caps and eye balls
makes objects appear close because I want them to be.

“Well, come on in,” I probably should say,
but by the time I got that far,
I’d forget who I was talking to.

from Rattle #19, Summer 2003
Tribute to the Twenty-Minute Poem

“Self-Pity” by Cecilia Woloch

Cecilia Woloch

SELF-PITY

So few birds I know by name—
bluejay, cardinal, sparrow, crow,
pigeon and pigeon and pigeon again.
This morning I woke to the thump
of soft breast, frantic wings against glass—
female robin, I thought, confused,
mistaking her own reflection
for some other, enemy bird;
launching herself from the limb
of the dying tree outside my window
toward the ghost limb—there; not there.

My sister calls all birds suicidal.
Our mother sits in her big green chair,
too weary, even, to talk on the phone.
All afternoon it’s rained and rained—
all the damp world weeping, so I’ve thought.
Self-pity stinks, my mother says
and says, You should see me naked now.
Her body a map of the broken world
through which I slipped, and my sister, once.

Well, I would eat ash if I thought
it could bring back the dead,
or my own youth, or anyone’s.
Nothing gets done around here, we complain,
but I’ve learned a few trees by heart:
Here is my sycamore, Mother, Sister,
here is the branch I have loved like an arm.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

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Cecilia Woloch: “I’m a poet, writer, teacher, and traveler, based in Los Angeles but happiest living out of a suitcase. I’ve crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border on foot in the company of smugglers, been robbed by a Russian gang in Warsaw and rescued by off-duty police in Paris. I write poetry because I keep falling in love with language and prose because there are so many stories that haven’t been told. I can build a fire in a woodstove, bathe in a bucket, apply lipstick in a rearview mirror, cut my hair with a kitchen knife, drive a stick shift and pick a lock—these are skills I consider essential, along with good grammar and knowing how to fake it until you’ve learned the steps of the dance.” (website)

“Oscar” by Mari Werner

Mari Werner

OSCAR

My answering machine received a call from a machine that said it had an important message for Oscar Rivera. It told my machine it should hang up if it wasn’t Oscar. My machine just sat there and kept recording. Didn’t seem to even consider hanging up. Then the calling machine said that by staying on the line my machine was confirming that it was Oscar Rivera. My machine still didn’t flinch.

Now I’m wondering if maybe it really is Oscar Rivera. I never asked it if it had a name or offered to give it one, but now I think of it, the name kind of suits it.

The calling machine seemed to think that Oscar Rivera owed it money though, and I’m pretty sure my answering machine doesn’t owe anyone any money. But then again, I have no idea what sort of life it may have led before I brought it into my home. The people I ordered it from said it was brand new, but how would I actually know if they were telling the truth.

But then I thought maybe it doesn’t really matter. So what if Oscar has a past? Don’t we all? I told it, “Oscar, don’t worry about it. You’re here, the past is past, and I wouldn’t even think about ratting you out. And besides, it’s nice to know your name.”

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Mari Werner: “I came to the L.A. area in 1976 when I was 24. I wasn’t planning to stay, but I grew roots and did. I write poetry because of the way it can make a connection between one human and another. And because it helps me stay convinced there’s meaning in all this—or at least be able to laugh when there seems to be none.” (website)

“Ice” by Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb

ICE

was Granny Clark’s cure for all ills.
Ice for a banged forehead or skinned knee.
Ice for headache, sniffles, fever. Ice
for chills. For bruised feelings, a drink

from the icebox, as she still called it.
In the old days, she explained,
people chopped ice from lakes in winter,
and stored it in ice-houses underground.

Twice a week, the ice-man brought—
swinging from tongs—a sweating
block, and plopped it in the box.
She’d hoped to be an ice-girl, then.

Now—kids grown, husband fled to a bank-
teller with frosted hair—she rocks
on her porch, and sips iced tea, and thinks
how Eskimos would feed

an old, sick Grandma special herbs.
“Thank you for spending time
with us. Return in a nice new body soon,”
they’d croon, entrusting her to ice.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Charles Harper Webb: “I consider myself an L.A. poet for the very prosaic reason that I’ve lived in and around L.A. for more than half of my life. As a long-time professor of English and creative writing at Cal State Long Beach, I’ve helped to turn a number of fine poets loose on the world, and am pleased to take part myself in the local literary scene. As the editor of Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology, and two earlier Stand Up anthologies, I helped to define and call attention to an entertaining, reader-friendly style of poetry that grew up in L.A., and still flourishes here. I’ve lived in L.A. for so long that my poems are full of it (L.A.—not, I hope, that other ‘it’). But even more than L.A. imagery, many of my poems have, I think, an L.A. sensibility: casual, performable, leavened with humor. As critic Wilhelm Blogun quipped at a party, ‘As poets go, you’re a Schopenhauer in duck’s clothing.’ How L.A. can you get?”

“The New Humility” by Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb

THE NEW HUMILITY

So the last will be first, and the first last.
—Matthew 20:16

At first, jockeys rein their horses in.
Then they make them stand still
at the gun. When everyone does that,

they back up—at a walk, first; then, a run.
Workers try to earn the least, drive
the worst car, and dive deepest into debt.

Fashionistas vie to wear the shabbiest
clothes: coarse fabric, bad fit, full of holes.
When those holes get so big the clothes fall

off, people compete for Worst Body—
fattest, flabbiest, skinniest, most
malformed. People wear sores as kings once

wore jewels, until the point is reached
where hideous is beautiful. Then the trend
must be reversed—the fewer blebs,

fat-rolls, scars, humped backs, the better.
Football teams have lost so many yards,
points-given-up seem like points gained.

Horses lose more gloriously by running—
faced forward, all-out—in the wrong direction.
People forget they ever ran a different way.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Charles Harper Webb: “I consider myself an L.A. poet for the very prosaic reason that I’ve lived in and around L.A. for more than half of my life. As a long-time professor of English and creative writing at Cal State Long Beach, I’ve helped to turn a number of fine poets loose on the world, and am pleased to take part myself in the local literary scene. As the editor of Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology, and two earlier Stand Up anthologies, I helped to define and call attention to an entertaining, reader-friendly style of poetry that grew up in L.A., and still flourishes here. I’ve lived in L.A. for so long that my poems are full of it (L.A.—not, I hope, that other ‘it’). But even more than L.A. imagery, many of my poems have, I think, an L.A. sensibility: casual, performable, leavened with humor. As critic Wilhelm Blogun quipped at a party, ‘As poets go, you’re a Schopenhauer in duck’s clothing.’ How L.A. can you get?”