February 2015 Poetry Feature

At The Common, we’re celebrating the shortest month of the year with new poems by four contributors to our print journal.

 

MACEO J. WHITAKER

Lott’s Wife

Myriad poems about Lot’s wife, yet
Few poems about Ronnie Lott’s wife.
And for good reason. Hall of Famer,
Hard hitter, Lott could shatter a poet’s
Bones with one tackle. Monster safety,
Lott doled out percussive blows every
Sunday. Lot’s wife (Ado?), unnamed
Biblically, serves as a feminist icon
In Genesis. The old Sodom to sodium
Routine. The Old Testament. A green
God—Omnipotent Papa of Hyperbole.
Lessons punitive, penalties gratuitous.
It was not a good time for wives.
This myth a Eurydice remix, though
The metamorphosis is more merciful
Than being pursued by Number 42.
Think of the brains: these fatty things
In vats (concussed by Ronnie Lott)
All rattling around in skulls with little
Cushion, while Lott’s jersey’s in Canton.
Headaches + scars for the Bavaro crowd.
Ickey Woods? Now his shoulder shuffles.
All-Pro or no, hope it’s only a fumble.
As Akhmatova grieves for the nameless,
As Wisława gives voice to the ineffable,
As cities crumble, Sodom to San Francisco,
As city lights give way to stadium towers,
As glory days give way to San Jose, we
Look back and exalt this stalwart,
This defensive anchor, this pillar, this
Mentor who backed up ten righteous men.
One might notice this poem isn’t really
About Ronnie Lott’s wife after all; rest
Assured, I value my breath, face and bone
Structure, as I fear concussive Scripture.
I see no need for my weak brain to bleed.
If I spot the Lotts, I’ll avoid eye contact.

Maceo J. Whitaker has new poems forthcoming in North American ReviewJukedPANKThe PinchPoetry Magazine, and The Florida Review.

 

 

CAROLINE KNOX

That Escalator

That escalator at O’Hare where you go flat along the floor

forward without moving your feet from the granular surface

without moving your suitcase or satchel, instead of inching

jerkily upward at Union Station New Haven say

with two railings to hold onto as you block people

gracefully trying to get where they’re going—

that escalator, which doesn’t escalate, makes you feel like

a confused duck, you might tip over. Clueless feet

in elevator shoes or stilettos (left and right, one for each foot)

support the crocodile of passive humanity, and are now off

to board and take flight for ultimately Nome or New Bedford

—toes, taps, mukluks; in mary janes, jellies,

wellies, trainers, brogues—take flight for where? My husband

occasionally taught a class at O’Hare, his students flew in

from field work in Wauregan or Pierre to exchange thoughts,

and then flew out again. But you might not, you might stay

right on the belt, as part of an installation.

You can make the ending first and then let that tell you

what came before, in traction there where we “stood”:

frozen in a frieze that moved us along often

and constantly, among Hoosiers, high-profile Assyrians.

 

Song

Down come the yellow tickets

The mower makes dust of the leaves

Tears spring to the eyes

brushed away by snows.

 

La la la la snows

La la la la eyes

 

I gave my love a copy

of The Education of Henry Adams

He gave me a subscription

to The Journal of Fonzarelli Studies

We went beside the river

in the snow sleet snow

 

La la la la Adams

La la la la Studies

 

There is a tree in the park

They call the hackmatack

Its other name is tamarack

Its other other name is larch

Calling all birds, it’s time, birds

time to go wheeling south

 

La la la la tickets

La la la la south

La la la la yellow

La la la la river

Caroline Knox’s eighth book, Flemish, appeared from Wave Books in April 2013. 

 

JEN JABAILY-BLACKBURN

Grand Hotel

Given quiet,
I exchanged it.

There were nights,
are nights—

I cast
the grand

Canadian
hotels tumbling

across the North
jeweled dice:

die of beauty
Banff Springs,

die of power
Queen Elizabeth,

die of money
Frontenac,

the Frontenac
where I found

a hundred
pastel bills

fanned out
in an elevator

Where my
first words

(nice
wallpaper)

to the delicate
blue room

called the god
of trifles

who clapped
his gold hands

and
claimed me.

When my body
leaves me

I hope we
part friends

in the lobby
of a grand hotel

where the elevator
cable sings

welcome, welcome
welcome—

Jen Jabaily-Blackburn’s most recent work has appeared in Sycamore Review,Cream City Review, Unsplendid, and Subtropics.

 

ROBERT CORDING

Looking Up in the Backyard

Lowering the paper, I look up at the news
the wind’s brought to my dog. It’s the fox
that appears in the field from time to time,
and, fox-like, seems to know the invisible line
of the electric fence my dog won’t cross.

My golden retriever runs to that line, stops,
and barks, and will not stop barking
when the fox lies itself down in the sun,
its red fur setting fire to the grass, and looks
at both of us from the solitude of being itself,

nothing human in its make-up. My dog,
halfway between the fox and myself,
seems pissed off at the fox’s wildness,
or the slow twitching of its tail, or maybe
at not being able to reach beyond her reach.

Something about this scene gets me
remembering those ancient tales in which
birds and animals became human, and humans
birds and animals, and the transformations
were quick and fluid, the blue heron folding

its wings into a fisherman casting into
the clear stream winding through a meadow.
Now my dog is acting just like me:
she seems to recognize the huge gap between
what might happen and what will happen,

and she’s trotting back to the house
where there’s a dish of food and a bowl
of water and someone who will pet her
before he turns back to the newspaper,
missing the fox rise and disappear into trees.

Robert Cording teaches English and creative writing at College of the Holy Cross where he is the Professor of English and Barrett Professor of Creative Writing.

 

February 2015 Poetry Feature

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