(after a painting by Jackson Pollock)
She wonders what would it feel like
being a snake. Under which rock
would she hide, which dead branch,
on a hot day, would cool her? Because
in this life she is harmless, in the snake
life she’d like to be fanged and forked,
with a venerable rattle. Snakes are known
to gather in tight bunches; they are also
many-colored. Although she admires
its smoothness, she would not want to be
a rosy boa; she’d rather be a smeary blue,
yellow and orange striped. Sometimes life
hands you a plate of vipers. If that happens,
pretend someone’s given you a rainbow-
patterned afghan. Sometimes the deck
you’re on is slippery, slithered. When
every card you’re holding is a serpent,
be patient as they morph to frogs and fish.
Easy as Pie
they say. Was anything ever? I Can Make That!
the craft book screams in green, red, blue,
bright and jolly yellow, while we struggle
through the steps for making Eensy Weensy People
from twist-ties, yarn unraveling from the head, the feet,
their tiny waists, googly-eyes ungluing, going south;
and speaking of pies, ours always sink, the pan
too big or else a kid repeatedly ramming
his remote-control Land Rover into the oven.
Beside the illustrious pumpkin, the stately
Coconut Crème, our sad cherry
like a wan school girl who’s taken a short cut,
lost her way, considers crossing the railroad tracks
rather than retrace her steps (or if noticed
“Oh, a tart!”—despite the circular tin, the lattice-top).
Or should we say except for Sherry Derigotis
who grew up surrounded by pie-makers,
not only mother and grandmother but uncles too,
an unprecedented ease with flour and lard,
like the sister who knocks off,
in a couple hours, a pair of thick wool socks.
Forms the dough into flaky, flawless strips,
whereas for us the trip to deposit a check’s
a closed branch, a half-hour drive further south,
the blinkers mysteriously conking out
so we’re idling at 167th & Henderson,
simulating the intermittent flashing, pushing
the lever up and down, trying our best
to replace confoundedness
with a new-found regard for things that happen
without our will—lungs when we’re asking the 14th time
where’s your coat? Heart while the husband explains
the pot scrubber always lays sideways.
When the trampoline showed up unannounced,
I got giddy when your big toe kept finding
the stitching’s gaps. When you lose the James Beard Award,
10,000 teaspoons short of the Clafuti Galaxy, it isn’t a reach
to guffaw. Paprika, in fact, has always been a favorite,
especially when it’s simmering in a soup of tarnished trophies.
I’m happy when Jupiter’s storms sputter out; I’m happy
when the cowboy loses his bowlegged gait, trades in
his chaps for khakis. I hope your gumption’s out of gas,
broken down on the side of Sad Sack Road; I hope
your razzle dazzle’s fizzled, your best broomstick
parked in the closet. When your last ex settles down
in Texas, that’s my cue to smile. When your ball lands
in a trap, I pickpocket the shiny tee, work it like a toothpick.
Inscribed on my gravestone: loved every minute of watching
your win-win go double loss, your happy horseshoe morphing
to a hex.
Poem in French
After Paul Hoover
I have one son and two wishes.
One is the kind you blow out.
I have one bad dream,
two cups for my morning tea.
Once I sat on a beach, the Siuslaw
slamming the Pacific, twice I rode
a silent, silent boat. I had never before
been two people: my outbursts, my longings,
his train pulling away: A bientot!
I have two thoughts and one of them is ugly.
At night I’m a thorn in your thorny side,
two feathers sticking sideways
from a hummingbird’s glowing gorget.
–from Blue Positive
Made Pure By Her Intercession
Because no one could locate her file.
Because sometimes it was thick
like the abdomen of a moth, thin
like a golden-crowned kinglet’s thin song.
Because, O gate of the saints, God elected her
with table divine. Because a stranger brought the key,
the path to the Tadpole Galaxy, a fire pit
of rain. Because the credenza was her pillar
of clouds, her stapler a star of the wave.
Because there was glitter, a Big Bang, a backward slant,
a blue dish blooming with soon-to-be-struck matches.
Because she wouldn’t crawl through the big bay window
of bicker. O light of the grave! O hope of the guilty!
Even if she wasn’t the brightest star
in Coma Berenices’ wild hair cluster
she gulped down the welcome;
her brutal found a home on a diadem.
–from The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception (forthcoming in 2011)
Martha Silano’s books are Blue Positive (Steel Toe Books, 2006), What the Truth Tastes (Nightshade Press, 1999), and The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception (Saturnalia Books, forthcoming 2011). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Cincinnati Review, Paris Review, Poetry Daily, TriQuarterly, AGNI, The Best American Poetry 2009, and elsewhere. Martha has been awarded grants and fellowships from Washington State Artist Trust, Seattle 4-Culture, the Arizona Poetry Center, and the Millay Colony for the Arts, among others. She teaches at Bellevue College.