Poems I wish I'd written - selected by Samuel Peralta
by Joy Ann Jones
There’s a little grey snake most cunningly faced,
It’s only as long as a tailgunner’s song
only as thick as a Semtex stick
but it bites to the raw with a jaguar’s jaw
then tucks its head down and keeps drilling.
Sometimes it slithers outside on warm fingers
disarming observers with its plastic display.
Others the poison tongue drips out and lingers
soaks through the lace in a green disarray
to the sponge in the core
that echo’d reservoir
the little grey snake’s slowly filling.
There is an art to drowning
If you tie yourself to an anchor
better make it tight, chain upon chain
the body will fight for
dying is not natural
before its time
Liquid inhalation in-
fills, tiding out images
of what once was, compressed
into short films, flickering light
skipping here or there along
the time line -
bar nights with friends, first kisses
faces of intimates like sirens
seducing you back to breathe
fresh air, fresh air
Panic : Thrash : Spasm : Inhale
Death is meant to be permanent
but then again, it is
A covenant renewed daily
when my first breath gutters out
bubbles dancing to surface like stars
in the depths of your lips,
i find life.
The face of the girl on the bus. The smell of ripe peaches
rotting on wet grass. Asphalt shredding skin
on a knee fallen from a wobbling bicycle.
Products on random aisles in the supermarket.
Pages of math problems. Waffles for breakfast
three years ago Sunday. Every person
who ever passed you on the street stepping aside
to make room for your baby’s first laugh, the feel
of a tiny hand clutching your finger, the weight
of a new life cradled quietly in your arms,
its memory blank as a white flag of surrender.
As the skull come forward
As the ghost ship
Of the cranium, floating
In its newborn ferocity, forces through,
We are in no doubt; the helm
Of death and the helm of life
Are the same, each craving light.
- Tess Gallagher, Dear Ghosts
And I never knew the small ghost-ship
Of your skull or felt its hardening
High up, in the sanctuary of my ribs
I needed to be emptied of you
As palest sanguine water, or some
Common effluvium, quickly
Before I could conjure your eyes
For there to be no remnant
Even, of what you might have been
To me and I to you
And although I was weeping
When the scalpels were prepared
on the blank blue sky of paper cloth
And the doctor shook his head
I gave the thumbs up
And as I faded, you were swept from me.
I woke, still and forlorn to myself
A nurse peered around the corner
Like an owl
A glass of water in her hand
Are you awake?
No, I said.
I am the sea.
She checked the line of salt water
Into my veins
Have you made me a mermaid
I asked her
Am I in the deeps
And then I remembered
My pentothal dream
I was a dolphin, calving
In the gloom and depths of coral
You fighting your way from me
Both of us heaving ourselves
To the surface
Your mouth relentlessly searching
Nose bumping along my belly
Then you locking on
Lashing your tail in jubilation.
This is what I missed
When I told the rose I could not
Let it bloom
Tearing its dark red petals loose
One by one
Until the baby-skull of its hip
Radiated a hungry light
From the middle of the flower.
When Death is all grown up at last
you’ll find her clothes in swimming pools,
some threads unraveled, returned to spools,
night colors bleached, bone buttons lost.
Don’t call her name or dare to ask
if she’s the thief who stole your cool.
When Death is all grown up at last
you’ll find her smoke in billiard halls,
sweet-scented shawls misplaced in cabs.
Don’t look her up in address books
or send a box of licorice pearls.
She’ll not forgive your curdled past
when Death is all grown up at last.