POETRY  by Anna Marie Laforest

A sampling...  (Copyrighted material, January 2016)

FIRST TASTE
 

Sitting

down on knees

creaky as the lid

of her satin-lined trunk

an old, old woman holds

in a last calm moment,

her mother's lavish bridal dress

and long kid leather gloves,

their rows of pearls like the ones

she'll see, perhaps, tomorrow;

 

she holds and holds and holds

such a gift this holding,

and here she thought she had nothing left

to lose.

 

 

LUNCH DATE ADAGIO

 

So animated
you won’t remember what you just ate
every dripping word
at the edge of appetite,
his eyes cross the table
and break
into yours,
honest vowels
caress and flatter,
one        
corner of his mouth
smiles
as you chatter

mighty arms
in rolled up sleeves,
chalky hands
from placing brick
offer you a light
in finger plie –
you pull a breath and look
along his elbow

he makes your previous men
cartoons.

 

TINY LIGHTS

 

Are these ginger-gnarled hands

the hands

that planted peonies

pearl and silk with hummingbirds 

and buds more perennial

than we… He sighs.

 

Her young hands, tracing fireflies,

caught him in fairy spell

against the graceful trees,

her fingers dancing, telling tales

from Perrault and H.C.

 

We kept her safe when darkness fell,

the trees and I, our knotted arms

encircling her each day

to stay the foxes, darting owls

and other glint-eyed things she’d see…

 

She wove the stories

that brought him alive,

in turn he kept her safe

and once, before her old hands froze,

she made a cream-white skating cap, dotted with red stars

to keep him from the cold,

 

those deft hands now clenched

and guarding

against the tiny lights she sees.

Still, she feels his arms and hears

his plea:

 

those are just detector lights 

in every room these days,

he holds her tight

don’t go, don’t go from me!

 

She lets him hold --

she may not tell the tale aloud

but her bent and burnished hands

still move,

knitting the garment of their wedded souls,

white stalks, proud, e’relasting.

She knows what her stars really are

and will wait

until he is soothed.

EMBRACE

On the ferry

we step out of the car

and stand quietly,

water

rolling

and a light spray.

 

We are held in its film

and by a black hug,

the iridescent drip

of a cormorant’s wet wings

to our left.

See it? On that stump

in the shallows

neck extended

as far as it can

from the Mesozoic 

bottom floor

where

it still feeds.

 

The cormorant, you tell me,

reading from your phone,

has precious little preen

oil

and more or less sinks

to the river roots for fish.

Plunk! you say.

But the cormorant, I read from mine,

has evolved

to face 

gnarly depths

and fly its catch

to the sky.

Power, I say.

 

As if to show us,

a second bird

dunks

unerringly into the water

and rises, flinging its prey

upward in triumph,

opening its bill to gullet-greet

the fish on its

way

down.

 

Well !

We switch devices.

Wait, I say,

in northern lore

“three” together

is some sort of claim

from the dead.

You circle,   

peer through the mist,

“I see only two,”

and extend

an arm.

 

Have these sea ravens

learned

not to fear

their dead?

What sprinkling emotions

do they shake

from their wings

in their drying prayer

to dive

and fly again?

I accept your embrace;

air and sea,

such a nice aim to move in two

elements

at once.

 

 

SUCCESS

 

Hair modeled

like a dipped cone

pace clipped

speech honed

in finely chiseled

tongue

hands flash

smartly sleeved

underscoring

well-buttoned points

 

only your eyes

sucked back and strung

with stain

betray you

like dishrags

in the drain

at home -

sticky

brittle

wrung.

 

 

SHE TOO

 

A sparsely grassed field

lays wide the campus

from the parking lot to Lisa’s class.

 

She crosses it,

car-coat, cardigan, a scarf from her sister

flapping behind her in a scant north wind.

 

Intent, her mind works a plea,

if she is called on,

to the case assigned;

she wants to give

an answer with substance,

with grit.

 

Absorbed, midfield, she is blind

to the man behind her

the man with no one’s face

or heart, but forceful hand

that grabs her scarf

and twirls her with it.

 

She finds herself

level with the glare in his no man’s eyes

and hears her blunt voice say

“See that work hut over there?

All I have to do is yell …”

 

Miraculously he is gone.

She piles the scarf onto her books

and hugs them as she breaks into a run

to class where she sits in a spell.

Lisa’s body does not shake

 

until she drops by her sister’s

where she cannot (can  she?)

tell about the scarf;

not now, not -

when she is handed a mug of tea

to warm her hands, not -

while such ethereal chords of Cosi come

from her sister’s player, not -

when she is the elder

and must be strong (but when?)

 

“Listen,” she says, “I thought up a really strong plea

today for my prof.”

 

“Was he impressed?”

 

“Oh, I wasn’t called.”

 

Not called to that.

VIETNAM WALL

 

Alsonso, Bobby, Charles,
reduced to charcoal rubbings
of the names their mothers gave,
red and white bouquets
propped with blue-ribboned beer
and a laminated photo or two
streaked from humidity,
thick with visitors’ accents
in Washington -
the wall gets taller than those
who walk it.

Short gray ladies
with green memorial shirts
tucked round their roundness
like altar boys on ladders
point at James or John
who lay only yesterday

it seems
with the widows in the folding seats
waiting for the service
and crumpled now from a different heat,
or brushed their christening lips
along a daughter’s forehead
that burns today with migraine
as she traces the wall

with her eyes
pretending her father’s not a ghost.

Morgan horses and park police
salute
the Three Fighting Men
while on the edges
with same sad boots and heavy stare
clusters of vets
“hey buddy!” each other

 

and the planes fly
what do they care
these Infantry “Tropic Lightnings”
and regiment “Wolfhounds”
they faced their shadows
long before
today’s low clouds
keep reflections out
of the monument pool.

And somewhere in the flags and tents
a started service ends.

 

 

DROUGHT

 

Long slow spate

of breezeless summer

uninspired trees

bow and curl

to no water

falling free

no white birds call

the unidentified me’s

only

under-churned bubbles

of river head

popping in the sun.

 

I float, smooth and raw

like dry sticks

children skin

and fling

from little middles

to the river -

 

Grace

is more

than a swimming thing.

 

 

JINGLE DANCE

 

White buckskin dress
long fringe hanging
from outstretched arms
fifty rows of beads
above her dancing feet
toe toe toe heel toe toe,
the dress is fashioned
after a great grandmother’s dream
her lost warrior
paint dried across his face
ax fallen from his hand
and 300 bullet shells
now rows and rows of jingle
flashing silver across the dress
toe toe toe heel toe toe
to the thunder drum
and lightning stick
she dreamed the otter strip
woven in his braids
long before jingle
when all that fell was rain.

Women surround her
drawn to the sacred dress,
turns out the pounded silvers
are tobacco lids from cans

folded
light as foil
yes, says Miss Crow Nation
eyes lowered under beaded crown,
it took
a lot
of chewing.

 

 

THE MONUMENTS AT DARK

 

I met a man

who is his own cousin

by a certain sleight of parents

early on

we told our stories

as sightseers do

under cover of night

summer humidity

and well-writ stone.

 

He was calm and knowing

Buddha-knit pacific tongue

I laughed and ascribed his balance

to the cousin

who undoubtedly gave

a lifelong counter

point of view.

 

We pulled each other

along the inchy rim

of a long reflecting pool

surefooted

as Vivaldi’s seasons

and close

with a scent of orange

and that urge

you get near ponds

to push each other in.

 

I thought I saw a serpent floating

but we knelt to find a tube

that’s no snake, he laughed

so handsome in the monolithic light

and stretched his hand

to dredge a frond for me -

if I push him now

this gliding bodhisattva

will the cousin up-merge

and what form would he

be?

 

 

PINK RIBBON

 

To neutralize my crying palms

I clench this marble egg

with its cool veins (how does it stay so cool)

before it was polished

before I held it

someone must have hacked it out

of a uterine fold in the calcium earth

but it remains so cool

as you must too

waiting for your results

while I

clench this marble egg

the stupid sweat in my lifeline making it

too slippery to reach out

and ask

or kiss

 

this marble egg

(I have another at the office)

I will roll it around my desk

and neglect to call you

from there too

our windows face the same north

and I wonder if your view is as cool

as this marble

and which caves make such metamorphic rock;

your films might show

only a mottling

a merest Plato shadow

and you could remain cool

couldn’t you

I am clenching the marble egg for you

if only I could unclench

the egg for you

 

brave

even when you think you can not

beautiful

even when you think you are not

better than this

will I tell you

as soon as

I get my hand to drop the egg

and all you can do is chalk it up

to fear

 

and wonder

 

of your calcified friends

bones, shells, leaves

which of us

will cave in

first.