“Desert Love Poem” by Dominika Wrozynski

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Dominika Wrozynski

DESERT LOVE POEM

This is our second Christmas, the make-it-or-break-it
Christmas where we decide. I didn’t know whether
I would still love you tomorrow. So today you’ve left
on a hunt for a natural tree because we are both tired
of talking and my mother is coming to spend her first
Christmas in New Mexico, eat green chile rice at your
parents’, get to know their Chihuahuas as the dogs
hump her leg. I wanted her to have a tree, not from
the Walmart parking lot, but a pine from the mesa,
cut by you with a blunt axe—the only one we have.
You will refuse to wear gloves, knick your thumb, swear
into the year’s first snow. But you will bring it back,
remember when you hunted trees with your father last
year, how his beard caught the sudden storm, and how
he dragged the prize through his asthma home to your
mother. She cried that night, cursed him for almost
killing you both. You will then understand how she
leaned into your father after she was tired of talking,
after there was nothing more to say.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

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__________

Dominika Wrozynski: “I often look at my own work as a poetry editor looks at submissions (since I’ve been a poetry editor for various journals for almost ten years). As an editor, I always want a poem that makes me want to go into the editorial meeting and put up a fight to see the poem in print. Give me an arsenal of surprising images, unusual word choice, and a critical awareness of what it means to be human. If I’m going to take the effort to fight for a poem, I want it to win. As a poet, I hope to write poems for which I’d put up a fight.”

“In the Presence of Absence” by Richard Widerkehr

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Richard Widerkehr

IN THE PRESENCE OF ABSENCE

When I woke from anesthesia,
I was quoting Shakespeare, saying, “I feel strange,

but, as Shakespeare says, I must greet it as a stranger.”
The nurse in the recovery room

tried to orient me, but I replied, “So I have heard,
and do in part believe.” I said something

about Love Pantry, next to a Thai restaurant,
where Linda and I had joked about going.

There she was beside me. I kept saying,
“So glad to see you,” as if I’d come back

from the other world, casting off dread
like an anchor. I know nothing

about heaving an anchor. I know a few things
about meteors and grief. And if I’d chosen

to go on in my pedantic, loopy way,
I could’ve said, quoting Shakespeare,

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate.
But I was happy as I sucked at the ice chips

Linda fed me with a blue plastic spoon.
They were the best things I ever tasted. At midnight,

the nurse let me have a cup of raspberry jello.
It was the best thing I ever tasted. 

If only these opiates could last, each breath not empty,
each moment bright and flickering. 

When the lab tests came back,
the surgeon said, “We got the cancer.

It hasn’t spread to your lymph nodes.”
Again, I felt gratitude and thirst,

which I tried to remember as the pain began,
an anchor dragging, my works and days

connected to a catheter. As I turned to my routines,
walks and one book, I tried to get it back,

that strange gift from the other side. I wanted
to join it to an orange on a white plate,

bitter at first, sweet underneath, a crow
on a picnic table, an empty bowl

that a friend filled with water for her regal white dog.
I tried to connect the crow’s 

arrogant croaking to the pain in my back.
But, no, you don’t need to know how OxyContin

knocked the pain down from a seven to a two,
don’t need to hear how they stitched me together.

On the beach at Moclips, where we went
before the surgery, Linda flew a blue kite,

a smile of pure delight on her face,
the sun half-hidden in gray-white clouds.

She said, “Maybe, this isn’t the last goodbye—
maybe you’ll get lucky again.”

And her face in the recovery room,
her smile—you can take a blackboard

and set God’s stars on it. You can take
an orange and chew the pulp,

savor the juice that tastes like nothing else,
as the word “orange” rhymes with nothing else.

I can’t tell you what Linda means to me.
Perhaps, our life isn’t a string of moments,

each one no more or less important
than another, as the Buddhist poet implied. 

But I was talking about gratitude and thirst.
I get to park my ancient green Subaru

under the linden trees, near the privet hedges,
with their sweet white flowers.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

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__________

Richard Widerkehr: “You ask why I love poems. I think of the woman in Fiddler on a Roof who said, ‘I’ve cooked his food, shared his bed, given him children. I must love him.’ In poems, I wrestle with water, sticks, dreams, stones, syllables, and stories. I wrote ‘In the Presence of Absence’ in a workshop led by Ellie Mathews at Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington, in the summer of 2007.”

“Dip” by Holly Welker

Holly Welker

DIP

Once I had a lover who annoyed me by
not liking me as much as I liked him, though
I admit I didn’t like him as much as I
liked certain other guys. He was tall and
aloof and laughed too hard at his own jokes,
which were never that funny anyway. He
was also the best dipper I’ve ever known,
sure of the strength of his own body and
appropriately daring with mine. You know
how at the end of a dance sometimes the guy
will spin the woman into his arms, then drop
her backwards as a final flourish, leaving her
suspended in mid-air till the music stops?
I love dancing but I also love that bedizened
sashay of closure at least as much as every
graceful movement that precedes it; I love
giving my hands to my partner of the moment,
kicking up one leg and surrendering to gravity,
falling quickly toward the earth because I’ve entrusted
my weight to someone I don’t quite trust,
someone who could drop me on my head
but never does. Once at an after-hours party at
the Dipping Guy’s house this other guy brought
a baseball glove he’d had since he was seven
and loved more than anything in the world.
Of course he lost it. Dipping Guy felt
responsible and made us all look for the glove,
offering an unspecified but highly desirable
reward, so someone traipsed to the guy’s car
and someone else checked behind the sofa.
No one found the glove. We all felt bad,
or would have, if we’d known or liked this guy
dumb enough to haul his beloved glove
along for a night of heavy drinking. When the beer
ran out and the night was nearly gone too,
Dipping Guy sent his guests home but wanting
to be a gentleman he walked onto the lawn to
bid us farewell and what should I find revealed
by the humid half light of a hungover
midsummer’s dawn but the poor guy’s
glove lying where any fool could see or trip
over it, right on the path to the house. “Look
what I found,” I said, and held up the glove
like it could actually catch something. I
gave it to the guy, who said, gratefully, wisely,
that he’d leave it home next time. “Can I have
a dip as my reward?” I asked Dipping Guy.
He stared at me a moment, then charged
toward me with fierce resolve. “I’ll dip you
to the seventh circle of hell,” he said, which
sounded threatening, not fun, but then it
was happening: my hands were grasped and
my left knee bent while my right knee straightened
and kicked up, up and my hips dropped to just
above the earth while my hair and my skirt trailed on
the sidewalk and I watched the sky above me blanch
with the inevitable light of morning. And then
he pulled gently on my hands and up I sprang,
my face flushed with blood and gravity,
the rest of me singing and ready to go home.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

__________

Holly Welker: “I grew up in southern Arizona, the descendant of dour Mormon pioneers I always praised for having the sense to get the hell out of Utah soon after they arrived there, which made things a little awkward when I ended up living in Salt Lake City. I began writing as an eleven-year-old because I was promised an audience of angels if I shared my deepest thoughts in a journal. Eventually I gave up writing for angels; it’s plain old human beings I want to connect with now.”

“Burka” by Charles Harper Webb

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Charles Harper Webb

BURKA

The day after a door crushes his thumb,
the stain that flutters out of his cuticle
looks, at first, like a black squid
floating up through a pink sea. Then,
poised above the nail’s half-moon,
it seems a black burka with a white
slot through which dark pupils stare.

“Her face is scarred,” he thinks.
“She wears the burka to spare me.”
Then he thinks the eyes are Mom’s—
not crazed, as in the nursing home.
Forgiving. Warm. Or they belong
to some woman he misunderstood,
rejected, deceived, who loves him

still. Each day, the fluttering mark
climbs higher on his nail’s flesh-
colored wall. Bit by bit, it tops
his finger tip, is clipped, and falls,
re-joining—like everything he loved
has done or soon will do—
the dark.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

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__________

Charles Harper Webb: “When I was sixteen, playing in rock bands and preparing to become a physicist, if someone had said, ‘You’ll end up a poet,’ I’d have assumed they’d end up swinging a rubber hoe on the funny farm. Now I find I’ve written poems for more than half of my life. So why (besides the groupies and big bucks) do I persist? For one thing, I hope to give to others some of the pleasure that good poems have given me. But I also want to wring more out of the time that I have left—to live, whenever I can, with my awareness, intelligence, and imagination fully engaged. Poetry does that for me.”

“Triolet for Carol” by John L. Stanizzi

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John L. Stanizzi

TRIOLET FOR CAROL

So many things that still feel new
are old, and that’s the way it goes.
This is what always happens to
so many things that still feel new.

I think of how I have loved you
all these years, and that just shows
so many things that still feel new
feel new because of the life we chose.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

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__________

John L. Stanizzi: “The poem is from a manuscript in progress called Hallelujah Time! based on the albums of Bob Marley—specifically Burnin’, Exodus, Confrontation, and Survival. The poems are loosely inspired by Bob’s songs, and when it’s appropriate the biblical inspiration Bob used to get to the writing of the song. The poems in the book appear in the same order as the songs on the albums. Completion of Hallelujah Time! is about two years ago. Jah Bless!”