Three Poems, by Claudia Grinnell.
Directions for Use
Living in troubled times has brought us an unending supply of sun
You don’t know when the downstream shrivels up to drop every Sunday
On the third one in May. It wouldn’t be seagulls screeching; I wish
It wasn’t their screeching, it’s bad enough to accept professional women
At the banquet—we always have to make special allowances—and bow
Down to at least your knees. I’m socialized properly if nothing else. I don’t chew
With my mouth open and I don’t speak when I chew. The first victory
Is over anything that melts. That was prophesied, after that we’re more
Or less on our own
We lost the signa
The more precise word
Has been stealing
We’re not sure
There are conflicting
The engine hums
That’s a good sign
We love this car just like everybody said we would. These people are
Goods. Any competent bookworm with effete hands and laundry
On his minds: fill to overfilling because there is down and there is down,
And we blessed the absence of K. We still bring the rocks, small ones
Now, still nervously jingle them in coatpockets
In the now five minutes from now the ringmaster will appear
Briefly, hewantstospeakbriefly. I don’t know. Something about a reprimand
From up high. Dereliction of duty. Consorting with the enemy. The mechanical
Turk keeps pulling pieces, accidentally and on purpose, none of the players
Are dressed, they forgot their instruments. Maybe we’ll hum. Or barking always
Seems to soothe the dullards’ children who moan about the small
Letters, the missing knives and other instruments of hope in confined spaces
I don’t want to know nor do I want to want
The old man stares into the camera —kitchen, wallpaper—brown and striped--a man on a wall with a rifle across his knees—all that is the old man’s background. Comes a time in every man’s life to sort it all out: listen, I left my employment with the best wishes of everybody. The happiness question has to be raised with everybody. My wife, for example, never liked life in the country and couldn’t wait to move back to the city, first chance. Much of what was said between the two is forever lost. We can’t re-create the hours of conversation; she’s passed and he’s often not focused on telling the story. There’s frustration on both sides, even as the morning coffee fills the air. He talks about business—those who failed and those who didn’t—and I pick lint from the Persian rugs in the dining room. It gives me something to do. I don’t smoke, besides I can impose order on square inch large feudal areas which is more than most people can say. He’s talking about god, my lack of faith—which I blame on my father or mother, which ever one will be more resilient to the discovery—yet there are some things I believe in: I believe in the power of good ice-cream. Not random store bought stuff, of course, but really slow churned, no skimping on the vanilla. Good ice-cream can transport at least the interior of your mouth—and god knows where you put that thing all day—into a fire free ice zone. And I’m always on the side of ice over fire, not ever a decision, just a reaction away from the burn.
Making The Light
It’s the beginning of something, out of darkness, off course, on a sleigh
two years late and mutating toward absolute null: the natural bent
to keeping domestic chaos in check and telling anybody who’d listen
they’d better line up to the right and recite uplifting verses. Part of the training
can be tax deductible and some of the chicks in clickety-click thongs
do double duty. It’s a timely tale of revenge, confusion, resolution through
talking prior to hostilities commence. In none of the previous versions
does any common messiah admit to much more than manhood. It’s a positive
development, recent but not surprising. Perhaps a break in the action is due.
A sufficient moment of happy thanksgiving will circle the globe. Refreshment
before Monday, and that means, must mean, we will small talk about
anyone a substitute covers. It is secret day. This day does not exist. It’s made up.
It’s exoteric nature forces unnatural rituals: belt-tightening, rib stuffing and patches of
sweat between thighs. There’s a natural grace arising from these offerings
of forbearance. Labor problems wait for Tuesday—not that it’s any better, just
scheduled for Tuesday, not touching, not gay, not deviating from the mean,
not one. Catch a glimpse of the Götterdämmerung over Bayreuth and not
a whiff of the finest Kobe ribs. Some call it faith. We have that on Wednesdays.
The cut, the color, the adjacent sheerness of this is good and willing
to stand on the right, face forward, chest out a little, just so.
Claudia Grinnell was born and raised in Germany. She now makes her home in Louisiana, where she teaches at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Cream City Review, Exquisite Corpse, Hayden's Ferry Review, Fine Madness, The New Formalist, New Orleans Review, Mudlark, Logos, Minnesota Review, and various others. Her first full-length book of poetry, Conditions Horizontal, was published by Missing Consonant Press in the fall of 2001. Ms. Grinnell was the recipient of the 2000 Southern Women Writers Emerging Poets Award. In 2003, she was a finalist in the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize Competition. In 2005, she received the Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship in Poetry.
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