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Poets’ Basement

Exquisite Corpse by BOOMA & Friends

 

The Fourteeners

by GWEN STRACHAN, SHANNON ONGARO, ADAM HELLMAN, JESSIE SMITH, MICHAEL EARL CRAIG, KRIS KING, VICTOR DeLEO, GENNIFRE HARTMAN, KIM McKEEHAN, MAX HJORTSBERG, MARC BEAUDIN, DAN McCANN, MARLEE McCAHILL, and BRAD VAN WERT

 

(This poem is the result of a variation of the Surrealist game “Exquisite Corpse.” Each poet saw only the final line of the preceding poet’s passage as a prompt to write the next passage. The original passage was prompted by this randomly selected video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=reqk0wQxVRI. The poets names are listed in the order of their passages, which are divided by ellipses.)

 

I am a dancer as well.

 

Having been a person that was forced to dance by gunshot, I can relate.
My brother actually shot the gun at my feet and commanded me to DANCE.

 

This sort of torture has not sullied my want to dance.
Obviously you are not otherwise affected by the shooting.
You are, in some way, celebrating it.

 

Perhaps you,
as I,
had a mother who hit your brother in the back of the head and forced Him, at gun point,                                                                                                                                          to DANCE.

 

At the time, I was perhaps a little embarrassed by my mother’s enthusiasm.
Now, I see she has done me a huge favor.
She freed me from the horror that was being shot at.
She allowed me to add dancing to my list of things that make me feel good.

 

She was a good mother.

 

She also made my brother wear her underwear on his head for a full day.
Just another hilarious/ humiliating payback for some other atrocity he committed.

 

 

But karma has a way of spilling things: hearts and hands open cautiously
And the cool German attitude threatened to chill his affections once again.

 

Yes, she agreed, karma has made a mess of things and minds, and
A paralysis stems out of the worry that we will fuck up again.

 

On the contrary, this action exists in a void and this action exists in a void,
Or so she hoped to someday believe. Till such time,

 

She attended many parades and the occasional car accident in simultaneous
Hopes of overcoming her fear of fire trucks as well as her desire to find a man.

 

No, love and grief live not in flesh and skin
But in the stone of her bones and the bump of mountain air.

The wave forecast calls for highs and lows and that’s no surprise,
Unless of course one believes everything the tarot predicts, or

 

The sayings of a tender-hearted old man, leaning in as he’s about to pinch your ass

 

 

Refuse to warm the soul; they serve only to heat the ire.
Product of a replaceable society and searching to replace himself at the earliest opportunity.
His pre-dawn wanderings cut short, pillow clutched under one arm, lost.
D.N.R., do not ramble, do not rebel do not rankle or wrangle or wrestle.
A society of Philistines gone wild.
More interest and work put into a structure of limitation, of inhibition, than is given to consequence and ability of exhibition.
What ever happened to the ten-dollar word?
Stored underneath and behind the buzzwords, hidden by connectivity and super-                                                                                                                                           slickspeedocity.
My words, our words, list and limp to the forefront like a lotus-eater.
Slow to rise to the occasion and hesitant to show themselves for fear of not being recognized.
Today, is their day, a day to brush themselves off.
Today is our day, our day to return armed to the teeth with ten-dollar words, onomatopoeia, and knowledge of what a prepositional phrase might be.
Today is a day to eschew the use of unnecessary things and praise the use of unnecessary                                                                                                                                                  words.

 

n
Put down the paper and quit this hullabaloo
n
s
e
n
s
balderdash through the door to crisp, cool air.
Fire lingers down the way.
Sidewalk rolls up, over and around to a kaleidoscopic golden green path of dirt.
Sunlight dances through the remaining leaves while I wander on.
Friends familiar; Monilifera, Querus macrocarpa, Betula papyrifera, Sorbus sitchensis                                                                                                                         and Pinus ponderosa.
Sage seeding.
Field open.
Clouds roll on alone.
Take a moment.
Take a breath.
Rejoice!
Our Mother, whose art surrounds me, howled be thy name.
My thinking gone, my will undone, of earth I am in Heaven.

 

 

(let’s pull the plug on these iambs…)

Dale’s description of the Rapture burnt a small hole in his diary.
Amber tom-toms rushed the rectory.

A kind of meat milk was served, unsteadily.
Stupendous cans could be seen on the Sherpa.

We felt a field should be replaced with a rubber mat.
We sensed a dismissal of dirt, of turnips…

The peak foliage was menacing, a provider of headaches.
The days bounced like bingo chips, like guitar picks.

[two lines scratched out here]

Dot was brushing her teeth. She sort of flipped
her hair (her mouth full of foam)

and turned, and hiccupped, and said “c’est moi.”

 

 

Another hiccup made her feel at a disadvantage. So she raised her chin and said loud and crisp, “And it is I alone. No one else here to vouch for me, whose name I carry, whose blood flows through me, whose body I carried in mine, whose body comes within mine. C’est moi, et j’ai seul.” A sudden blast and howl of wind arrived – a cliché on cue – to emphasize her declaration if not aloneness itself. But severity is harder to pull off in French than in English and the “seul” softened in her mouth like a warm caramel. She worked her jaw around it, imaging a pliant, salty caramel and dredged her tongue along the furrows of her mouth as an antidote to hiccupping. She took a deep breath in through her nose and the dank, rich spice of fall leaves decomposing became the taste of the imaginary caramel. And abolished the humiliating hiccups. She dug the heels of her wellington boots into the ground to stir up the heady smells of dirt and crunchy leaves and looked at him through the hair blowing across her face.
“Leaf,” she whispered, wondering if he’d hear, “Leaves. Leave.”

 

 

Most seasons are predictable.

Winter brings ice.

Summer brings sweat.

Spring brings drizzle.

Autumn, however, doesn’t give a shit.

It’s the season that spews an auburn pall, and kills leaves that end up polluting the front                                                                                                                                                    yard.

If it were a car it’d be an El Camino with sidewall flames, orange fuzzy dice, underbelly                                                                                                         neon lights and blaring the horn.

“Leaf,” she said again, but louder this time, the way she’d say “NO” to a dog peeing on                                                                                                                                            the carpet.

Her feet hurt in those heels.

The cold pinched her exposed ankles.

Even the season itself, with its unpredictable character and chaotic splash of colors,                                                                                                                             somehow, hurt too.

She didn’t care what he heard.

She stepped on that leaf with great satisfaction, the way she’d stomp out a cigarette on                                                                                                                                       the sidewalk.

 

 

Jesus. The rage. In her barefaced youth, she was the one carrying an “Exxon – clean up your act!” sign at gas stations after the Valdez drunkenly vomited on a fantasy ecosystem. She chained herself to trees and lay in the dust before faceless bulldozers to link herself to a higher purpose. She thought that was rage. Raging against the rape of the wild. Though, as an adult, she declared it a valid form of fury. When did her rage toward injustices against nature begin to rot? Like an old tree, she felt herself slowly decomposing and putrefying as her frenzy ran gently into the earth. A bitter pool of one-sided affection and deflated motivation. From the pool, her salty rage blossomed again as a sharp vengeance against those she once loved. Of course, she had once loved. She reluctantly remembered when they had dissolved in love before loathing. Delicately. With a gentle whisper as her hand sifted softly into her young lover’s palm. Gently converging. Pulses chanting in unison. Now, that was calm. She felt the peace of young love when recalled from the other end of a natural life.

 

 

A longing like that illuminates
renders
distance and time
Is the only true offspring
of space and eternity
makes a vessel of the breast
which remembers the sound
of a crying baby and
the swell of victory
In each cell
the wrapped paradox unravels
the original terror
Sudden knowledge

 

 

“I believe you’re wrong, if I do say so myself.”

“Oh, why don’t you just go and stuff it. You old windbag!”

“Fine, you leave me with no other choice, I’m going to have to pull out the Bard.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked!”

“For heaven’s sake, you are such an ass.”

“If to be old and merry be a sin, then many an old host that I know is damn’d.

If to be fat be to be hated … umm … yes … ahh … banish Peto,

banish Bardolph, banish Poins, but for sweet Jack Falstaff,

kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff,

and … umm … old Jack Falstaff … 
Banish not him thy Harry’s company …”

“You don’t even know the lines you sodden old fool!”

“Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.”

 

 

Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.
Banish the nostalgic aroma of earthworms
after an early autumn rainstorm, banish
a single curl of wheat field hair becoming
a crescent moon upon the pre-dawn sky of her cheek
banish the crackle of gravel beneath tires
rolling slow along a maple-flanked road, banish
the music of stars strumming the chords of the river
banish every thought of redemption or revenge,
regeneration, reticence, recognition or Reno
but remember this:

Plump Jack will win in the end
because without him, the universe closes its eyes
and the long night of whispering snow begins.

 

 

The snow carriage arrives at the opera, and the royal couple
dismount, steam rising through their black fabrics,
their footprints burning the carpet with crushed hot coals.
Mr. Frosty and Pecan Bunny sit high in their box-seat
balcony tonight.
Candied pears and toffee are available for purchase.
The Mariner awakes on shore, his lips black, wailing without sound
about the invisible tragedy.
Perhaps you too have something to say.
The sago palms sway strangely against a backdrop
of dunes at midnight. The shepherd is laughing but not in a healthy way.
Try massaging your temples.
In a sense the end is all goodnight.

 

 

Peregrine ponders this notion alone in her room. She bid good night countless times in her long life; blowing kisses to applauding audiences with her lovely hands. Her days on stage a distant memory, she studies her hands – the elasticity gone. She reminisces being a starlet, lost loves, and her youthful ignorance of mortality. When she was young she travelled the world, wore red lipstick and carried a tune stronger than a canary. When she was old she settled west, wore red boots and sang to her roses. Now, she ruminates her farewell song as she knows her end draws near. Outside stars hold fast in a boundless sky. Opening her window to winter she exhales into the fast wind flowing over snow covered ground, gaining velocity between strong mountains aloft and heading north. Might her last breath live forever here, caught in the current, whistling and howling out her sublime song of everlasting bids? What words would that melody hold? Words of place and time, people and legends? Closing her eyes for the last time she finds peace knowing:
The wind carries songs eternally over the land in abiding breath.

 

 

We seldom stop to respect the breadth
The words can encompass while voices from far apart
Are brought together, so many becoming one heart
And I was stuck in the sand and the sand was stuck in me
A chance to feel free.
Opportunity for one to become all and all to become one
A shared voice born under the sun
One plus one plus one to become
13
or more, or less. And then we wonder what is in a word
or a line
Something so fine that finite becomes infinite and back again
Back again to the place where we feel at home, working alone, to be together

 

These 14 poets live and write in Southwest Montana, mostly in and around Livingston and Bozeman. The majority of them are loosely organized as BOOMA (Benevolent Order of Mountain Artists), http://www.facebook.com/pages/BOOMA-Benevolent-Order-of-Mountain-Artists/201603664530. 

 

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

To submit to Poets’ Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at counterpunchpoetry@gmail.com with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work).  Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where.  For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights.  Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx).  Expect a response within one month (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).

Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.

For more details, tips and suggestions, visit CrowVoiceJournal.blogspot.com and check the links on the top right. Thanks!

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