Join us in celebration of our dialogue.
Out of a call and response of poems,
a partnership, a friendship,
a body of work emerged
between Alice Pero and Anne Silver.
Two distinct takes on the world.
Two styles come together
to harmonize on humor
and in the art
of putting words,
Here are some excerpts from our recent dialogue:
Praise be to ceilings
and the spiders' feet
that walk them.
Praise be the smell of flies'
heads that entice spider babies
to gnaw and to spin their threads.
Praise be to the net they cast
that catch my dreams,
and the dust motes swimming
through the air.
Praise be to the spiders who spin,
spin, spin their threads
above my bed. Do they think
my hair cascading the pillow case
is just another web?
Feet tangled in pond weed
do not get confused
they love pond muck
Feet that find small webs
in wet grass
are smooth and curious
Feet that let flies flicker over them
are tickled, start to giggle
Feet moving quickly in squishy moss
Know something deep and full
Feet that thump wooden planks on old docks
make peeling paint a place to jump from
Feet slippery in clay mud
drop their troubles
leaving long cool sighs in mountain streams
Feet that swish on musty floors
think thoughtful thoughts
make poems appear and disappear in dust
...round toes are pink peas
perched on the baby's foot.
waxy talons on the old man's
feet that used to patrol the museum.
Night - and the infants
painted in oils
and the nudes painted
in the loneliness only an insomniac artist knows.
I used to walk through pastel rooms
with lilies floating on ponds
that posed just outside the city
for the smocked man at the easel.
Ponds here frogs walked across,
fast and quick as if flies
were inviting him to supper.
That's how fast a frog walks
on water, Jesus, he can glide
the surface wet and slick and
never slip on the moon's reflection
Moon, my lover's face tilted
tilts to gaze at my wild toes
that left wet prints
on the hard wood floor
from the bathtub clawed.
Almost in a plainchant, harmonizing,
we cross the wide Missouri
as the practice-hall doors part,
and Beauty strides in as a young man.
He unbuttons his plaid jacket, eddies
it around the shoulders of his chair,
then settles next to the balding bass.
My riverbed stirs at beauty
unmarred by loss or selfhood,
and my shadow loosens from flesh,
drifts to him, rushes her hands beneath
his thin shirt, swirls his chest.
The song slows into a rallentando,
and others gaze at him as we
sail the melody together.
I cannot look away. He does
not know Beauty will leave him,
as it has left us all to sing of it
beautifully, and as one.
Like the Whale Rider
I cling to a song
while the ocean current pulls
down down down
Like the dolphin
though few understand
through powerful wind
Time, the slasher, demanding blood
Like the poet
who wings it
through the sour interview,
the interviewer bringing up politics
instead of her beautiful poem
throwing darkness on a bright energetic soul
We grab at straws
Hold on to something
only we can see
while worldís mad energy
tries its best to drag us down
we keep singing
If there can be one thing blue,
let it not be your eyes,
not the berries baking in this kitchen
drenched in golden light.
Let that blue be our sky.
Let it be the one lapis-hued thing
that any Bushman, hula dancer
Navajo, poodle and penguin
can behold and know that
pigment is what we inhale
and is everywhere,
yet cannot be touched.
Yet let blue be as rare and lovely as you.
I have forgotten how blue really is
a vast expanse
where I can put a flying castle or
a perfect doormat
This blue is as clear as the thought
that brings a poem
It cleanses like a confession
a rare extract
It carries the sun in it
but is not stained
This is the blue I knew before dawn
just before waking
I stretched in my sleep
a delicious unfolding
just barely recalling the dream
I folded the map of your green landscape
as if it were my own
and realized dawn was backwards.
I was emerging from my father,
not my mother and the sun
traversed the blue west to east.
What does this mean?
Is that the right question?
I remember losing my mother once
in the A&P and calling out
because I didnít know
sheíd know my voice
and all women over five feet tall
are mothers, arenít they?
In the last dreamscape
is my mother lounging in a chaise
waiting for me?
And if I spread the map
on the conference table
will it be your mother or mine
with her toe on Florida
and her hat hanging on
Father Michiganís upper pen?
If my love for my mother
was a shirtwaist dress
on a clothesline
I would pluck the collar
from wooden clips
and let the wind
that grabbed her
take the dress as well
and be done.
I would walk in a white slip
into this strange
new motherless world.
But my love
has a million arms
with no friend
will see and know
me so utterly again.
I know this,
take the black dress
from the line,
let it fall over my similar
face, neck, breasts and hips,
let the winter storm
whip the skirt against my legs
while I stand here
remembering her face
when it was framed in the mirror
next to mine
before I would cut her
gathering at our feet.
Who can move through
to the other side
where the wind
is just a whisper
the beginning and
the tiny crack
in the cement
the person they once
in baby's eyes
Who can move through
knows death is a float into life
this slow dance downwards
a circle back around
like the ride
on the inner tube
across the pond
the sun behind the cloud
for an instant
then out again
in its fullest glory
Late at night
ink smells strongly of poems
I must squeeze out
it used to be candlelight
to make a mark on a white page
notes that are living
even after the brief sleep
they call death
the rhythm, the quick heartbeat
in between the spaces
when one jumps through the hoop
notes, the passion of wit
Late at night
dark becomes transparent
it used to be a single light bulb
as words flow
in an attic
a rinkydink piano
with broken keys
that can still make music
My pen leaves a corrugated line of ink.
Hyperventilation, my way of breathing.
The scentless scent of Stargazer lilies
drives me from the room.
Maybe I should take some tea,
take a walk, shampoo the car floor mats
but that dream last night replays
like the networks run promos.
In my dream Iím being dressed
at the thrift shop on Venice Boulevard
in a white business suit.
No buttons, it folds like a robe
black sashed at the waist.
To one side thereís a closet of used books
and I can see exposed spines -
some of these Iíve donated.
But before I can browse and take
some back home the curtain shuts.
I turn to see a woman in the mirror
wearing a karate gi. Even on red,
spiked heels she looks dangerous.
Sniffing the air for a used clothes odor
I find no scent but clean.
Whoever wore these threads
readied them for my new skin
to slip into and use.
I am standing in the shallow pool
of light on the green linoleum
in this Jewish Womenís Council Thrift Store,
alone and scared knowing
whatever will happen will happen,
if Iím ready or not.
I spied on Evie, the girl
next door, cool in her penny
loafers, rough cotton socks,
cool in her slouch, shoulder
blades stretched to let her
arms hug her loose-leaf
shield closer. I ached to
see her bare chest. What
did nipples look like as they
turned from dots into pennies
of flesh? How did flat swell into
the smallest of hills? I could not
wait to see what would happen
to my own skin stretched over my
xylophone of bones, yet scared my breasts
would balloon into my motherís unmanageable
melons. I just had to know, but Evie didnít want a
ten year old Nancy Drew flopping on her bed. And when
she heard the click of her draw-pulls ping their metal face-plates,
I was caught holding her slingshot trainer bra to my chest.
She yelled; I ran, red as a Delicious, skimming the banis-
ter with my sweaty fingertips down my neighborís stairs,
bolted across the street to my yard where I gangled my
arms around the rusted chains of my swing, my knees
kissing each otherís face.
These balloons, once mosquito bites,
now must be lifted, like my ancient mother,
and restrained, lest they flop, like a bad joke
They no longer flow milk
and the dream where the baby sucks on dry tits that suddenly
begin to miraculously fill his hungry mouth with sweetness
comes more infrequently
as does the dream of the completely painless birth
Why do women have these things?
They should be inflatable, smaller for dancing,
larger for a hot date
Apparently they are extremely valuable
as a tiny glimpse of one on TV during the Super Bowl show
caused more comments on the radio, TV and print media
than a major war
They aren't kept covered up in Africa
No one seems alarmed,
they are on display for all to see in The National Geographic
No one is photographing mine
Maybe they are too pale and shapeless
I do not promote them, like my poems
They have begun to believe that I am middle-aged
They like it in their little cages
waiting to be washed
waiting to sleep
waiting for his gentle hand and tongue
like the plump cheerful sheep they have become
The riverís tongue laps
the sides of this canoe,
lolling me to sleep.
The willowsí scent,
like a comma
holds my place as I nap
on my back.
Away I drift to a picnic
with my dead. We bite
into our smiles
of watermelon. The pulp
melts on my tongue
cool, no seeds.
The breeze breathes on my face,
and everyone is happy
not bringing up
old bruises and Iíve lost touch
with the willowís earthy perfume,
so I wonder if this
is my paradise.
I would like to think
that after I make
the leap from this life to the next,
that all is not forgotten
though my past is washed
and swallowed like the fish
a raccoon got
That after I slip out of this
narrow body shell,
I discover memory,
the endless ribbon
wound and rewound on
no beginning or end
seen again in pieces,
soft patches of silk
woven in some small
I WORRY ABOUT EVERYTHING
breaking off the shorter twig of the wish bone,
a fish bone lodged in my throat,
broken glass hiding in my carpet,
car parts falling out of my engine,
gin spiked with that date-rape drug,
smug hosts whom Iím sure
didnít mean to invite me,
that my thinking will cause a spastic colon,
cancer, acne, an ulcer,
that no matter where you plunge
the thermometer in the globeís carcass,
itís hotter than the penguins
or dodos can/could endure,
that my stuffed animals will outlast
the species for which theyíre totems,
that cows will eat us when they run out of corn,
Aquarius afflicting my nervous Mercury
in the eight house, mercury in my molars,
my Ford Mercuryís muffler,
my mercurial emotions,
that might not work: the ATMs in Spain,
my Spanish but not my English,
my travel insurance,
West Nile virus but not hepatitis,
being poisoned by my make-up
but not the Los Angeles smog,
that my filtered water isnít really filtered,
that Pilates is a hoax but aqua-robics isnít,
my bones might disintegrate before the rest,
ditto my life savings, flash floods in the desert
or being dessert for a bob cat or falling off
a catamaran in Catalina and no one to save me
but a serial killer with eyes like that guy
I saw at my bank, that the velvet ropes in the bank
could kill a tugging toddler,
that all the mean eyes of the customers
hammering the one teller will hurt her feelings,
that the red-faced man stabbing his pen
into his deposit slip might be a killer,
that my biceps are bigger than the snoozing security guardís,
that this stage coach-themed bank lulls customers
into an everythingís groovy state of mind,
but this bank abuts a drug ghetto, not Disneyland,
that we could be sprayed with an AK 47 at any moment,
that everyone can hear the alarm going off in my head
telling me my diet of brown rice, lettuce and vitamins
was for nothing, and I wonít get my death bed pizza?
And that my sister will lose her chance to sit starboard
at that bed, practicing my signature.
The ultimate worry is that I won't find
anything more to worry about
Everything is fine, a cloudless day,
the wind from the southwest,
just the right temperature,
the children playing quietly in the yard,
Five journals wanted my last poem
I was sure I had a little worry:
the pimple on my chin wouldnít pop,
but damn, it did and now it seems to be
healing over by itself, before I can worry it
into a new pimple
The is the worst:
My computer is working perfectly
My bills are all filed and because I handled
all my callers, the phone doesnít ring
I am like a doctor who has cured all his patients
or a ballet dancer who hasnít got one rival,
a concert pianist who played every concert
without a single dropped note
I donít have to practice
My book was proofread forty times and thereís
not a comma out of place
An enviable position, no doubt
but Iíd rather be facing a hungry lion
be forced to walk across the desert to a tiny oasis
or figure my way out of the dungeon with a rusty nail
Too much worry, perhaps
but not as bad as none at all
© 2004 Alice Pero and Anne Silver