Carol GraserCarol Graser lives in the Adirondacks and is the author of The Wild Twist of Their Stems, Foothills Publishing, 2007. She hosts a monthly poetry reading series at Saratoga’s legendary Caffè Lena the first Wednesday of every month and has performed her work at various events and venues around New York. She runs poetry workshops for teens and at-risk youth.

POEMS

 

IF SHARON OLDS HAD ACCEPTED THE INVITATION TO READ AT THE NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL AND DINE FINELY WITH LAURA BUSH

Sharon’s long gray hair hangs
over the back of her chair and begins
to grow imperceptibly faster than the speed
of normal hair. She takes a full sip
of bitter wine, adjusts her glasses and chats
honestly for a moment, with those
on either side. Under the table her foot
rests against her clunky writer’s satchel
meant to hold books and papers, a teacher’s
wallet. Inside are hordes of greed eating
fairies, buzzing against pleather, bulging
the dark edges and Sharon’s hair is growing
a shade faster. She reaches down as if
she’s dropped her napkin and unzips and frees
the barely visible beasties. Ravenous
they agreed to come, ravenous they swoop
into ears, down necklines, slooping in
strands of this crowd’s greed like
long, oily spaghetti

Hundreds swarm the president, fly in
through his pores. The president sneezes
feels suddenly sleepy as they gorge
He blinks at the bottoming out
of his sense of purpose and notes
Sharon’s hair is sweeping against the carpet

When she reads for the crowd of 85,000
she begins with poems written by eighth
graders, then takes out her own like a flute
From her lips a rapid jet of air across
the words vibrates into an eerily soothing
whistle. This has been synchronized
and as Sharon’s hair billows out against
the darkening sky, all over the continent
poets are blowing across the embouchures
of their verses. A humming wind
is whipped up, flocks of conscious tornadoes
that discombobulate every greed soaked institution
O what a hangover the country will have
what cavernous vacuums created

 

ECOLOGY

I keep the baby’s white towel stained now
with arcs of gray; the fear that clung
like cobwebs, the cloying black mesh
volcanic ash I scrubbed into sooty foam
wiped from the trembling floors

I keep widowed socks, pile them
in basket heaps, beseech them
to find some new one to roll up against
to side-by-side cover our striding feet

I keep his name when all else of him
is thinner than mist. His name
I keep like historic jewelry
wear it hidden against my throat

I keep old jars, peanut butter and
mayonnaise, line kitchen shelves
with their clear, expectant rows
their lidless wonder

I keep the spatula
whose plastic handle
broke off, use holding
by the shorter metal
I flip closer to the pan

I keep tangles of ribbons
toss them in boxes marked crayons
or glitter, pull them out for child projects
they’re never right for, use them
in snips of glue and thread
bag the remainder

I keep the student dresser
she and I quarreled over, $20
bottoms threaten to drop
but every day the drawers open

I lost his ring because
it unnerved my finger, it
lives hidden in my bedroom
like a thriving escaped hamster

I keep the afghan she knitted
trace the snaking cables like
the maze of her Irish past, keep it
through their complaints
at the stiff acrylic

I keep the plastic bucket his
sympathy fruit came in, load
play-dough toys colored like
oranges and bananas into the
cracking cylinder

I keep pictures
of my relatives that have died
in an envelope wedged at the top
of three rough shelves. When the
morbid letter is finished, my demise
is mailed, package I’ve waited for
have practiced opening

I lost the flea market watch
she gave me, slipped it off
my wrist clicking through
these rooms, held it up
with a flip until I could feel
the vanish

I keep standing at the edge
of a globe of beating golden
threads, pulse my own life
into the thick of it

I keep records filed in buckets
of compost, heap the varied rot
into questionable piles
turn the black food into this garden’s
eager plots. When called on
for an accounting, I cook dinner

I keep the black cat
because she cried at my new door
tenacious gypsy hunting a fatter life
Her thickened paw questions my pen

I keep spiders, halloween bugs
all manner of six legged and crunchy
they creep into my rooms as part
of the landscape

I keep angels, a catholic habit
they seep into paper moments
compelling me to write angel
angel, to breathe their blue and white
to imagine a benevolence that even now
is plotting interventions

 

SPEECH DEVELOPMENT

We’ve popped you from the mold, 3 year old
Your jello self wobbles on the plate
orange slice words hang suspended
tellings seriously told
We can’t quite believe the flavor of your speech
the black crayon outlines
that map for us your moon mountain brain
Your milk teeth words seize bits of world
your head shakes with puppy snarls
your playful pointy why
grabs our pedestrian shoe and gnaws

O, the primordial mother
who slips her foot into slimed, gnarled shoe
walks to the poetry reading
(chairs set in a circle, feet to the center)
The poet is stylishly gray
her short black skirt and silk blouse lovely
She drops a Lamborghini into stanzas
of prized yellow lamps and high-hedge neighborhoods

Your drool stains the carpet with a poem
that in the future is rejected
lickety-split
by the Paris Review

 

ALBANY ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE US WAR AGAINST IRAQ

Morning was a fresh born colt
nose held to the informing wind
brown velvet coat a soft reflection
light of all past moments of newness

By afternoon horses hold
the inhuman police, flesh
ensconced in rigid black, power
of equine muscle, the height and weight
diameter of hoof. They menace
the puny crowd, placards of peace

If you want to play blue soccer at the edge
of this road that runs in front of the FBI building

If the police tell you to stop and you imagine arrest
imagine the swooshing ball behind bars

If you laugh beneath your knitted hat and kick the ball again
they surround you, three on foot, hands behind your
back, body bent forward, sweat pants flapping loose
against your legs, the battered ball rolls into a neutral street

If the small crowd pushes in to protect their son, voices
and arms startled, weak but for their eyes, the horse
immediate appears, a stomping barrier, the fourth
police fortressing you against the press of friends

Behind the rally, while you sit
with angry handcuffs in their back seat
two other sons wrestle the wet snow
Ceaseless bright play
they meander the field, galloping
through their own spring

After you’re driven to the police station
the lawyer following with bail
a young woman joins the demonstration
Her thin shoes disdaining mud and snow
she walks up the edge of the road
past the row of mounted police

 

TO A PIECE OF PAPER

Here is the white lawn my dandelion words take root in
Here is the gruesome hand rising out of graves, gripping
my wrist (where the horrible truths are wrested and shaken
wet from their hour of creation). Here is the rocking boat
Here is the ticking face that blinks unconcerned
Here is the tower I climb fishing for lightning
that ecstatic jolt, when the inky insubstance
breathes life

 

POETRY LEAVES THE WATER

rises dripping from the sea
pops from the pilot whale’s
hidden ear, darts from the fins
of coral reef fish, dizzy
with color, rises bitten
by lemon sharks, crescents
of punctuation, is smartly tossed
by octopus arms, floats up
in disguise, rescued flattened
on tops of dolphin heads
taken for glistening rides, glows
from the inescapable dark
asking to be eaten, blooms
with the moon jellies, feeding
on error, is caught in seaweed nets,
hauled and discarded.  Poetry calls
from the deep spit of a trembling new ocean
salts your hair and skin, evaporates
from your blue green towel

 

N PLUS 7 OR SO PRAYER

Our Fatling who art a heel
Hallowed by thy nanny
Thy kinkiness come
Thy willy be done
on easy street as you are a heel
Give us this deal; a daily breakdown
and forgive us our trestlework
as we forgive those
who trestle against us
And lead us not into tenacity
but deliver us from ewe’s
For thine is the kinkiness
and the prattle and the glossary
now and forever
Amen

 

LAID OFF SUMMER

That July the raspberries grew
like slow fireworks, long arcing branches
that tangled into fruit. I scratched
my way to the red globes
ruby princesses, shy
smilers dangling with thorns
It was the over-pruning two years
before that caused the explosion —
that wealth. I’d squat in the wet grass
and peer into brambles, spying
out ripeness, reach in for the light
squeeze that, if ready, pops
them off with no stem. Scarlet
shades piled in the bucket. Those
delicate plumps, those seedy drupelets
I struggled not to complain at abundance
the daily, hot chore of collecting
and storing. I’d pour cold raspberry
sauce over the gray folds of my brain
let the sweet tart soak and stain, flavor
me bright red and less bitter