— After Carl Philips
After grief had left my body to find another,
or—set loose so—found no other
who would harbor, no
body so given to its heavy rest,
candor, maybe grace, like a shaft of dust
illuminated to be at once light
How does Earth’s atmosphere, more
residue than container, contain
so much that is
ceaseless? The surf
like static that day, pulling
your feet from beneath you. Bones
of volcanoes, of seacoral colonies:
broken, breaking in the water—
yet somehow such pleasure in it. Even you saw this: you
who’d been so much grown, given
to the work of goneness,
and so we let sometimes the old feeling
return, mother and child, that
simple kindness. Who can see?
* * *
When I say
you are missed, I do not expect reparation—
my misanthrope, betrayer, song.
The old land we’ve steered away from,
those unremembered uncounted days you call
childhood and I call something
entirely different, happened…. though
not the same.
Still: over ocean
sounds it is as if I hear you saying
that was a world
Putting things away
on the high shelf,
unsteady on chair, awkward reach
past my usual self, I clip my knee
so fiercely on the counter-edge
that the cry strangles, strains my throat.
I chew my lip, feel pain-sick,
stand stone still, leg bent, a snapped stick,
perched like a bird on the kitchen chair,
won’t even call for help down.
Later I slide my jeans around
my knee’s new rosebud bump.
Pink flaw, secret ache and swell:
something new for only me to know
about the high shelf.
Ode: My Mother’s Mixer
The curve its neck makes:
negative space in a shape like a mouth
eating the white bowl.
The white bowl, ridged at the edge.
The chipped enamel, the heft
of the black handle.
The sound my mother’s metal
measuring spoons make
against the bowl edge,
ticking in the cinnamon or salt:
taptap like a cracked bell
rung. I cried once to hear it: stood
bent above what I’d put in the bowl,
one metal spoon stopped still, still
in my hand; the rest
nested, hung and hanging
on their fine chain.
Ode: Rind of Melon
More than skin, less than shell,
taut gradient, a becoming.
If I have you it’s only as metaphor
for some unseemly toughness.
But melon — that sweet, different flesh,
soft, seeded — requires you
in your variety of forms:
smooth or pebbled,
green-streaked or pale cream,
A child with a melon wedge will
eat down the sugar to leave you
like a little pink mouth,
to smile or frown depending
On how you are tilted or turned.
This morning I slice through you,
I feed myself holding you, biting
the fruit-color away until you are
more like a curved spine.
I like the fine bone you make,
how taking all of you in seems possible
only at first, as sweetness turns
to tartness and you let me decide
where you really begin.
Jan Bottiglieri lives and writes in suburban Chicago. She is a managing editor for the poetry annual RHINO and holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University. Jan’s poems have appeared in december, Rattle, DIAGRAM, Willow Springs and elsewhere, and she has led poetry workshops in the Chicago area. She is the author of the chapbook Where Gravity Pools the Sugar and the full-length poetry collection Alloy (Mayapple Press, 2015.) She loves movies and baking and probably you.