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"Offset Specimen”
by
Shelby Graham

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Rosie King

Shy Violet

Once she was that arguing girl,
her name so near to “violent”—
her brothers teased
and whether out of spunk
or spite,
she’d throw things—a rake,
a doorknob, a ripe
tomato—and run
through the hot afternoon,
black hair flying
past the honeysuckle hedges.
 
      *
She fended off every beau
but one, then longed
three years for motherhood—
Lillian! she pounded the bed                 
where her sister-in-law
sat nursing her third,
Tell me your secret!

      *
She had to hold her wild self close
when she wore the beaver coat—
its middle clasps still met,
though just barely, over her belly,
                                                                                                     
snow in the air,
the oaks and maples whitening,
along Porter Street
lace curtains parted—
not good to be out that big
the old German neighbor-women
whispered, and she grew warmer
imagining how she’d hold me,
her first-born.

      *
From our house in summer,     
rippling the burgundy awnings,  
her invincible “Indian Love Call”
trilled out over the garden and hedge
and I ran until I found her,
cheeks flushed at the baby grand
where her ringed hands over the keys
threw sparks into the mirror,
bare feet pedaling
rattled the mantel-horses,
and the big-bellied vase shook its spears—
flamingo gladioli.

The End of the Song Begins

      How happy are the girls on the cocoa tin
      as though there could be nothing in the world but chocolate.
                  —“A Sweet Place,” John Ashbery

No one around
to tell you you’re sweet,
And then, your clavicles lift,
lungs fill to their peak,
and cadenzascome rippling
Si tu
ne m’aime pas . . .
the “Habañera!”
in the straw under the lemon tree
sunning your legs
like Callas on the yacht after weeks of Carmen,
and you’re humming
in the thickets of Ashbery,
young in Self-Portrait,
aging in Chinese Whispers.
Bees loop around lemon blossoms,
wind fans the leaves,
the Medicine Buddha is dappled in shadow,
the lemons deepen their yellow.

Nothing Can Save Us

What then
shall we do
loving the sun
that yo-yo swirl of yellow
we drew in our
cornflower skies

counted on to flirt
among the curly white clouds
above the elms
to make fragrant even the dust
we spun up from
the cracks in the sidewalk

sun
that warmed us
freckled our skin
and that we learn
only slowly
one day won’t miss us a bit

Nothing can stop them
says my young nephew
pointing to the wrinkles
on my outstretched arm
not even
being content

In Spring

I’m out with the wheelbarrow mixing mulch.
A mockingbird trills in the pine.
Then, from higher, a buzz, and through patches of blue
as the fog burns off, a small plane pulls a banner,
red letters I can’t read—
but I do see, over the fence,
a man in a sky-blue shirt walking his dog to the beach.
He says he missed it, will keep an eye out.
Four barrows of mulch around the blueberry bushes,
I’m pulling off gloves, and he’s back, beaming.
“It says, I LOVE YOU, MARTHA.
Are you Martha?”

Rosie King, born in Saginaw, Michigan, had Pulitzer poet Theodore Roethke’s sister, June, for 9th grade English, went east to Wellesley College, came west in the 60’s for graduate school, taught the beginning poetry workshop at UCSC in the 80’s while finishing a dissertation on the poetry of HD, and is grateful to be living where she first landed in Santa Cruz, close to a beach and in a house where poets like to meet. Her first book, Sweetwater, Saltwater, was published by Hummingbird Press in 2007, and her new collection, Time and Peonies is just out.

In Celebration of the Muse
Jean Walton Wolff
Patrice Vecchione
Dena Taylor
Lisa Simon
Dee Roe
Joanna Martin
Cindy Knoebel
Rosie King
Helene Simkin Jara
Kate Hitt
Clifford Henderson
Carolyn Brigit Flynn
Sigrid Erro
Margaret Brose
Carol Brendsel
Barbara Bloom

Featured Artist
Shelby Graham

 

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