Hosted on my other site. See it here: https://inspiringmuses.wordpress.com for the whole month of April.
She sees your pale blue eyes
and knows it is your first time.
She seizes your dolsot bibimbap,
out of your reach,
and starts whipping the stone pot
with the metal spoon.
She chants over your stone pot
of cracking rice, vegetables and
hot chili pepper paste.
Trapped, she commandeered your plate,
and you and your fellow patrons
nod and cheer her frenzy on.
As the silver spoon scrapes the pot,
her tongue talks to the concoction
like one of Macbeth’s witches
until the stone pot and the chili
pepper paste mixture are one;
the batter, just the right consistency.
Finally, she ceases to a smile,
surrenders the spoon to the novice
with a bow, and retreats to the kitchen.
Thank you, you nod and smile,
knowing nothing you do or say
could ever top that act.
This one was published in Alaska Women Speak
The samovar placed on the kitchen table
is a poor replica of babushka’s samovar,
the silver one with the tiny teapot at the top
that held the strongest tea,
the tea she cautioned your tiny hand
not to touch,
not to hold.
Just watch, my devochka,
she would say,
as she poured the concentrated tea
into tiny china cups:
for you a little; for her a lot.
She would exhale the steam off her cup
like she was blowing off a potion,
like a spell casting you both back
to the old country,
the Good Russia of the tsars,
not the bad Russia where Lenin lived,
in the stories she would tell.
She takes you to the Samara of her youth,
when the tsar still lived
and the grand duchesses were the most
beautiful girls in the world,
as her tea cakes disappear
and your tea runs cold.
Today, your middle-aged hands fill
the teapot of your own samovar, far
less beautiful than babushka’s and made
of brass from new Russia.
You hope she doesn’t mind the cheap
imposter as you set two ceramic cups out,
and babushka’s spirit takes you to the
banks of the Volga just one more time.
This one was also published in Dead Snakes.
She gyrated against the pole, but not
to the beat of the Kylie Minogue song
that played in the background
in the juicy bar, as her eyes zoned out
beyond the drunk American airmen
and Korean businessmen, the layers of
smoke and watered down shots of
cherry soju she had to sell later on,
beyond the walls and dirty streets
of Songtan, South Korea to the Odessa
she had long left,
but not forgotten.
The black wrap dress squeezed
the tops of her firm breasts and thighs
as the Korean flagged her to his table,
palm faced inward as it waved.
Later, the American beckoned her to his lap
with a crook of his index finger.
His ten thousand Korean won bought her
warm buttocks and watery lemon soju.
His wallet was thick and the airman
lonely without the wife from Georgia.
The Ukrainian with the gray eyes
and golden hair who patted his lap,
as she dreamt she was dead,
was good enough.
She had a son named Volodya
whom she wanted to see again
run across the green fields,
catch the ball and laugh,
and to see her mother’s eyes once more,
even if mama would not look
her in the eye ever again.
Before the local mafia took her visa
and the female Korean bar owner bought
her servitude, she dreamt of college
and life outside the shoe factory,
but the gentleman sold her life
and dreams to another land.
Her boss gave her the nod,
the bar fine had been paid,
and she was to leave the bar and
give the airman something she had
stopped feeling a long time ago.
But, he was too drunk to notice
the open window in the dingy apartment
he rented blocks down from the bar
and allowed her to close the bathroom door.
Beyond the square of the open window,
she saw Volodya’s eyes
in the street lights off in the distance.
Squeezing through the darkness,
the black knit dress ripped,
shredded and scraped raw
against her skin as she glided
through the hole like a diver in the open water,
before falling like a fish to the ground,
where she flopped naked, and ran,
ran to Volodya,
ran into the dark night,
until they wouldn’t let her run anymore.
This one was published in Dead Snakes.
raises a black flag over your consciousness,
taunting you with a battle of bands:
a cacophony of Doc McStuffins
and the counting of sheep and other fluffy,
nonviolent animals that dance over a ravine
to a playlist of 80’s music
you can’t recall later when you are awake.
It teases you with R.E.M. sleep.
No, not the “It’s the End of the World” type,
but more the “Losing My Religion” type as images
of self murder and falling off of bridges grow
intertwined with children swimming at a lake.
Instead of surrendering,
you plant a picnic in April,
when the Midwest winds are cool enough
to remind you of the cold past,
but warm enough to give you hope
of the indulgent heat to come.
As you twist your toes over the cotton
plaid blanket beneath you,
your forearm covers your eyes from the sun’s glare.
The buzzing of honey bees
and the hum of a lawnmower rock you a lullaby:
as you hope it is
more than just a dream.
This one was also published in the now defunct 13 Chairs.
You resisted Eve’s temptation
for far too long, passing
by the crabapple tree each day
with the stroller filled with the overtired,
but never passed out, fussy toddler.
The fruit hangs low,
red with a bit of yellow,
that by the day is eclipsed
by the growing red.
Each day you long for a bite
Because you think
it will remind you of Sky Queen,
the blue bike with the cloud seat
and the white straw basket
with three plastic daisies
of pink, blue and purple.
In the Midwest of your memory,
the crabapple tree reclines like a “y”
in your babysitter’s backyard.
In the summer, you rode
Sky Queen through the grass and crushed apples,
making your own sour applesauce on the ground.
For hours you gazed at the “y” and
from its branches, took the green apples and
threw them at the neighbor’s kid.
From its leaves, you sought shelter
from the July heat before you took bites
from the dirty apples
until your babysitter’s old finger shook
and sentenced you inside.
In Alaska, as the clouds spill low around the mountains,
the September morning frosts over the tree,
yet the fruit still stands,
inviting you to take it in like an old friend
who shows up at your doorstep unexpected.
So, you invite it in without looking,
and just as the child once did,
your now mature hands reach
over the stranger’s fence to pluck the reddest fruit.
Taking a bite, you are looking at the “y” again
and Sky Queen is your ride,
but now the fruit is bitter,
not tart like you once remembered.
You hear the buzzing
and see the yellow jackets
as they sting your feet
and suddenly, you notice the present world,
and you toss the bitter apple into the street drain,
and bid the uninvited guest to go away.
Originally published in the now defunct journal 13 Chairs
The Fireweed Dies
a slow death in the dwindling Alaskan sun
surrounded by its closest family of weeds.
As the daylight shortens
and the August rain comes
the fireweed, once admired for its magenta beauty,
its petals that set the roadside aglow,
fades, growing white with age.
Its fragile cotton sways in the wind
until the rains come and its days are labored
as life draws to a close.
In its last breath, the final puff leaves its lips
and takes flight with a gust of wind,
before falling to the earth and decay,
leaving its skeletal stalks to survive
the fall solstice only to be buried in the winter snow.
Originally published in the now defunct 13 Chairs journal.
The Fragments You Carry
One box always carried
is a cardboard Ziploc container.
It could be the quart size,
the gallon size,
or even the sandwich size.
the plastic sealable bags,
are not the important things.
With each military ordered move—
seven in fifteen years between
five states and one foreign country—
it is among the last boxes
removed from the house or apartment
that was your base,
where you celebrated Christmas,
away from your family,
for two or three years.
The bags are mostly gone.
They were used to secure the toiletries,
the mint toothpaste,
the lavender scented deodorant,
the red and green toothbrushes,
and the overpriced pumpkin spice body lotion
you wouldn’t dare throw away,
even if it is only one-third full,
in the suitcase that sits by itself
by the door with the cleaning supplies and oils
the movers would not take,
the glass cleaner you used yesterday,
the full bottle of rubbing alcohol,
and the half used olive oil
you will need to discard
in the overfilled trash can at the curb,
after you close the door one final time.
The cardboard box remains to pick up
the rest of your things:
the permanent markers,
the bottle of Tylenol,
the loose change,
the card from a friend wishing you a safe journey,
the receipt from your favorite pho restaurant
and the cheap vodka you had last night.
The final physical fragments of your former home
that will be emptied and thrown away
first at your next destination.
Originally published in Three line poetry
earthquake shake book shelves
café patrons lock eyes
a brief sip paused
This one was originally published at Eskimo Pie
The lead guitarist’s butterfly collar
framed the half opened polyester shirt
exposing the sable chest hair that
matched his fuzzy head.
Shiny silver dress slit high
up the lead singer’s
thigh as she begins
her scorching rendition
of Gloria Gaynor.
I will survive
Oh, as long as I know …
It reminds of my mother’s obsession with
All oldies – all of the time
Songs that tormented my youth
with a quick rotation of the radio dial.
Love, love me do…
The lyrics of one Beatles song or another—
nothing but a good oldie would do for my mother.
As I sat watching the misfit 70’s band
leave the stage at the dive bar of my college existence
where I often drank after creative writing workshops—
sometimes more than others, sometimes harder than others—
the thoughts of the funky polyester pants dissipate
and memories of my mother’s radio fade
giving way to another time when I was young,
and Duran Duran’s “The Reflex”
made everything seem so much easier.