Catherine Arra



Plain Acorn Speech

This strange May heat has cooled in the moonlit night,
herself dragging her round white body across a puddle of clouds,
bevy of stars behind shifting like models in a fashion tableau.
What brought me to this church, this union of banjos
shamelessly strummed, voices raised in imperfect praise
of the flesh, bread, roses and turkeys in the straw

was you in the first place, endless adoration of the you
that tangled me in its sideward romance glance,
your roaring ballads an excuse for my head-on stares
rummages through your deep eyes, your hair
now grey at root and reason.
Where do I put this love now, with no place to go?
I confess all my happy sins when we are face to face,
ending with an easy half-lipped kiss, only a moment's hesitation,
a bad sign in other times, other starlight.

Like pollen your gaze clings, takes time to soak in,
irritate my flesh into sorrow. You mistake my mask
for the real thing, and I hold tight to the powder and shadow,
all that stands between you and the me who is still sobbing,
keeping the urge to fall at your feet in check,
remembering the fury of this crush, unusual kisses of tender munch,
foreplay and conquest all rolled into two lips, one soft tongue.

All the lilacs and irises have popped in the last few days.
Forsythias have started their greening over.
Squirrels knock at my bathroom window, gangs of them,
looking for nuts or a quick rinse. Eyeball to eyball I examine
their bodies entirely on the sill, offer them mine fresh from the shower,
and one grey god doesn't flinch, stares right back,
allows me to count his lashes, notice his coat
contains gold, black and white to make grey, boa in tow.

What do I do on my turn in this old game is pull out my heart,
slit it, flip it inside out 360 degrees. All love is still good,
no matter what name you call yourself,
your old name a totem for me, an earring on the window ledge,
a dream I held of impossible manhood, even for you,
a brand for all I've come to expect of dreams,
logo of darkening bitters, soaring highs of vapor trails
caressing these Catskills, these Gunks that
we both chose for homelands.

I loathe, I love, I am all for this new voice.
Chocolate chip cookies endure, songs held high above
checks and crosses, and home is where a note hangs,
and all else falls to a folding chair, a tea cup,
the open mic.


Salt

By now everyone looks familiar.
We dine at the same hideaway bistros,
all-nite coffee shops, hot dog stands.
I have seen them go grey,
thicken and wear, or endure with the time,
swap partners or dance on with
the ones that brung 'em.

I guess some have seen me
and the way I wander these
roads like an old warren,
in awe of the sunlight gold
on the windshield, passing
through dandelion clouds on this
late spring evening, trees
thick now with full, new foliage,
clear flat twist of river
offroad to my left,
below the old guardrail.
It never ends.

Behind me at the restaurant is a
mechanic I recognize from his ads,
and maybe his mother, ascending
to the hilltop curve this place
occupies, perfect for dinners
that shouldn't be, company
that shouldn't be kept.

Point A to Point B is the old life,
exit to exit, and I miss the salt
but not much else: crowds on
the beach that have their own rules,
trusting no one will take my blanket,
the edge of sand on a homemade sandwich
to be eaten around, Expressway that
gives the illusion of progress,
so straightaway does it move
from one ramp to the next.

Tonight I dine with two consenting lovers
at a round wooden table before a dormant fire,
floor lashing us in with stencilled vine borders,
an angel and her redeemer,
one blond and sweet as new milk, the other
tall and dark, eyes heavy with the
long task of dayhood and absence.

Only the salt is missing for me,
in the air, my blood, tofu wings being
all my friends have promised,
gazpacho thick with tiny fragments of
cucumber and onion that urge me to chew.

Through long windows a yellow breeze
heats and shatters the white sheers
anchored only by bars and velvet valances.
I have nowhere to be, rooted like a lily
deep in any water, my attention
loose as these same leaves
after their entire summer life.


About the Author

Cheryl A. Rice, Long Islander by birth, Hudson Valley resident by choice, has had work in Chronogram, The Woodstock Times, Ulster magazine, Art Times, The Temple, halfmoonreview.com and PoetryPoetry.com, among others. She is a member of the Academy of American Poets, Voices of the Valley, the Hudson Valley Folk Guild, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Woodstock Poetry Society. She is also the founder and host of the annual Sylvia Plath Bake-Off, held each year in Kingston, New York.

(click here to close this window)