The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Jane Blue
A spider hangs in the laundry room window
methodically slaughtering a beetle.
Tatting, like an auntie, she stitches the insect
into its shroud. Time slows
for the beetle, eternally stroking diminishing air.
Fascinated and repelled,
in one hand I'm carrying deadheaded roses,
in the other, my shears.
I think of an Agatha Christie mystery
in which a nice old lady becomes a serial killer
with the logic that if the population were pruned
in the manner that keeps her tea roses strong, the garden
of the community would be much improved. All day
at intervals, I follow the beetle's fate.
In the afternoon I stop at a coffee house
where the barista, on break, is reading Dune. The bleak
future is now, but the world is not yet laid waste.
The mother-baby club meets here today,
the infants about a year-and-a-half old.
They climb out of their strollers and stare
openly at one another. They peer
into the buggies of the younger ones.
A sustained drum riff shakes the speakers,
culminating in percussive applause.
THE NATURE OF A CITY
A sea of green parasols on cafe tables all over the city:
with an extra flap of canvas under the knob
they look like pagodas. Umbrella-shaped
cherry trees line up in boxes on the balconies
of a government building. Vines tumble down the tiers.
The pear trees at 5th and Broadway
are snowing--dirty snow off-white in sidewalk cracks.
Mournful doves speak throatily. Mulberries
leaf out big yellow hands from the gnarls of joints
where they've been pruned; flowerless, but feral
in the heat of summer, they sometimes drop
slippery little berries on the dappled sidewalk
for someone to clean up. People say, "how messy!"
They distinguish "nature" from "the city"
but wherever we live we live in this world. I mean
Earth as we call it. Redbud brought from the hills
in its seed-case blushes an intense purple, leaning
into the yard the same way it steps out at every bend
in the road to the lake. It is covered not only in flowers
but in the bean-pods of its children.
In Kabul they cut down all the street trees for fuel,
but they are creeping back.
Their gravid blooms lie down on the sidewalk.
I think of places I have never been. Their heaviness
like the wild past, weighted, domesticated
by gardens, by photographs, by the ellipses of talk.
The flowers may not be yuccas, may be aloes
or something else from Africa, or China, with
a name I can't pronounce. I have been to the desert.
I have seen the proud yuccas of the hillsides.
We travel to the past, thinking it is possible.
It is like visiting any country.
You know only the names of the streets
near your hotel. You have so little grasp of the language
you must speak of everything in present tense.
The yuccas fall down in the driveway,
if they are yuccas, fecund, silent, blinking their many
discrete pink and yellow eyes.
I don't even know how to ask them their names.
They are too tired, anyway, to tell me.
I love the feral tendencies of the cat,
crouching over the toilet bowl to drink
of Sacramento river water. She waits
for me to leave the room before lapping,
as though I shouldn't catch her at her real life.
Usually she speaks mildly, but an alien
language exits her pink, fanged mouth
when confronted with another of her species--
yowls and screeches which the other cat
understands completely, slinking away.
I am stymied by her gestures, her infrequent
inarticulate mewing, a kind of pidgin-English.
At her feeding bowl under the philodendron,
jungly in filtered light, she scurries away
when my shadow looms: Eagle! Hawk!
How is this? She's lived all her life in houses.
She had a human woman for a mother.
Once in deepest night she shape-shifted
onto my pillow and I extended a hand
to displace her. I couldn't see very much
but she could. Her diamond pupils widened
and she struck like a snake, shrieking,
a specter in a haunted house. I have
a ragged, tooth-shaped scar, a purple tattoo.
She has branded me with her wildness.
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