I realized the other night as I was falling asleep (that hour when I remember important things and ‘write’ my best poetry) that I hadn’t officially announced my latest good news. I got a call in late January or early February from Joan Cusack Handler, Publisher and Senior Editor of CavanKerry Press, asking if the manuscript I had submitted six months earlier was still available and, if so, CavanKerry would like to publish it. Long story short, I signed a contract a couple weeks back for a projected 2018 pub. date. Truth be told, I really hope that date can be moved up by about a year. I’m terribly impatient when it comes to seeing my work in print. I published my first book when I was 40 and I feel like I’m making up for lost time. CavanKerry is a great press with an impressive list of writers, of all genres, on its roster. I’ll be joining poets January Gill O’Neil, Ross Gay, Nin Andrews, Celia Bland, Annie Boutelle, Baron Wormser, Dawn Potter and Cusack Handler herself, among many talented others, on the CavanKerry imprint. Check out this interview poet Nin Andrews conducted with Cusack Handler about the press and its vision. As I get closer to the pub. date I’ll share more about the collection, which is tentatively titled See the Wolf. I’m thinking the title will have to go because my other two collections have three-word titles as well and they sound, and look, odd together. For now, here are two poems that have found there way to publication and appear early on in the manuscript. These poems are single spaced, but WordPress has its own ideas on lineation.
You Are Not Grass
The last wild passenger pigeon was named
Buttons because the mother of the boy who shot it,
stuffed the bird and sewed black buttons for eyes.
People with Ekbom Syndrome imagine
they’re infested with mites.
It’s possible the entire Buttons family
developed Ekbom, an aspect of which is
Folie à Deux (madness between two),
where a person in contact with the sufferer
develops symptoms—as in an actual infestation.
All wild things have kleptophobia:
the fear of being stolen, as well as cleithrophobia:
the fear of being trapped. I did, after
the divorce and my mother began dating—
fear of being adopted by a man
wearing slacks and old fashioned shoes, (automaton
ophobia?) who winked at me and promised to return
my mother at a decent hour. Whose accent
was southern, who pronounced his R’s
so long they became words in their own right,
words at the ends of words; his R’s
like grappling hooks, like a crocodile-
purse with yellow eyes.
Why is the fear of being trapped a clinical phobia,
while the compulsion to slit
and stuff a thing not listed in the DSM?
Nature permanence is the healthy acceptance
that you are not grass but human, beneficial
if you suffer from hylophobia (fear of trees)
not so helpful if you have Cotard delusion
and know you’re not only human, but a corpse.
Related to Cotard is xenomelia: the feeling
that one’s limbs don’t belong to the body,
chirophobia: fear of hands. And worse,
apotemnophilia, where a person disowns
the limbs, yearns to live life
as an amputee. Why the insistence
that an animal have black buttons,
yellow marbles, key holes for eyes?
that its entrails be replaced with horsehair
and rags? that the peppery dots
swarming the blanket aren’t mites? What are the chances
that a man who flashes his teeth when he talks
doesn’t bite? To fear is animal.
To create out of fear must be human—
slits to let the mites out,
steel shot like beautiful beadwork
studding lavender breasts. Phantom limbs
when real hands become too dangerous.
(first published in Fourteen Hills)
Sometimes they’re Cabbage Patch plastic,
sometimes figurine porcelain, Shirley Temples and cherry
nail polish on New Year’s Eve. Always awake
when the ball drops. Sometimes there’s three,
sometimes two when the mother one decides
to be mother, clean house; dust and wash the floors
on hands and knees, the rag and dragged pail behind her.
When she lights the potpourri burner
they know what that means. Alone,
the sisters eat all the groceries, the carbs
they call starches, grow into their swear words;
one fat and quiet, the little one mouthy.
They develop their neuroses with help
from the mother’s boyfriend, the smug vice
principal who’s drawing the line
between them and college material,
the father, his girlfriend: always his girlfriend.
Not late to the game, she created the game.
Sometimes they’re Cyndi Lauper,
sometimes Cindy Crawford, the glittery stickers
in the sticker collection, the scented:
Aqua Net, Aussie, Baby Soft.
They’ve been watching Three’s Company
since they were seven, General Hospital since eight
and though one is four years older,
in the apartment alone after school,
they’re the same age. They know
what it means when creepy Mr. Roper makes eyes
at Jack and poses his hands like birds.
They know that Luke was Laura’s rapist. Everyone does.
Woman-raised and like certain dogs, they don’t trust men.
They carry the key for the bolt lock.
They let themselves in.
(first published in Fugue)