When I was born
they had just gotten
the hang of it.
Mass production was the key,
industrial soap an unexpected bonus.
So they ashed the fields
of Auschwitz, four feet deep
around the chutes.
Busy with my new voice
and far, far away,
I never heard the cries.
The smell, like burnt chicken,
some say, diffused before
it reached me, raptly
experimenting with gravity
in a crib as big as a house.
Yet those days became my Grimm
and Andersen, subliminal
and magnified from the originals:
my ogre eats whole towns,
my wicket witch puts neighborhoods
of children into her oven,
and my brave woodsman arrives
too late. When he cuts open
the wolf, he finds only mountains
of spectacles, hair, and winter coats.
Kids in sneakers squeaking across
the Eek School gym floor, streaking towards
baskets. Or else sneaking out of class
to steal a smoke, or a peek at an uncle’s
or cousin’s sleek new Arctic Cat. Meek kids.
Cheeky kids. Rural-chic kids. Geeks.
Kids that speak weakened Yup’ik
and village English that leaks articles,
the and a in particular, making
language go creak so nice. Eek winter days—
not quick, not slow, just a dark freaky trick
like the snaky bow of a rogue bachelor gussuk
playing fiddle those decades back. Unique Eek.
Where weeks pass in a day. An hour lasts weeks.
Times as wild as any Dr. Seuss might seek.
by Rhina P. Espaillat
Dusty and brown on some forgotten shelf
a century hence—or two, let dreams be grand!—
this wry and slanted gloss upon myself
has slipped into some stranger’s browsing hand.
A woman, maybe, growing old like me,
or a young man ambitious for his name,
curious about my antique prosody
but pleased to find our motives much the same.
He cannot know—nor she—what this one life
from the late twentieth craved, or cost, or found;
he will forget my name; but mother, wife,
daughter, has struck a chord, sings from the ground
a moment to his ear, as now to yours,
for what is ours in common and endures.
I. Du Kum Inn
After the Shriners’ kiddie cars
drive off eccentrically into
the distance, James, Jimmy, Bob,
Felix and I decide to peruse
the Du Kum menu and escape the heat.
The youngsters order pop; the grown-ups beer;
cheeseburgers, onion rings, cajun shrimp
and tacos readily appear.
The jukebox plays some random tunes
(Neil Young, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, the Stones);
James and Bob compare digital photos
trying to decide which ones
to keep. Ohter images slumber
in their non-digital rolls delayed
until developing, both black and white
and color, carefully reframed (even staged)
glimpses of small town life, state
representatives and democrats,
clowns and beauty queens:
all the standard cast that
grace parades like this across
America in every little ‘ville today.
Still, this one’s our own rendered
especially in our own way:
lots of candy and throws for the kids,
making it more like Mardi Gras
than Independence Day; the smart ones
bring buckets to collect it all.
Everyone gathers at this potlatch:
the kids get their swag, the shutterbugs
their shots as they blast their rolls,
politicians garner votes with hugs,
merchants customers. What do the
beauty queens get in exchange for royal
waves? An assurance, perhaps
that their admirers are loyal.
II. My Front Porch
The sun sinks down. Grown-ups relax
while Felix and Jimmy
seek the big tents with mammoth stacks
of fireworks for pennies:
bottle rockets which can attack
passing motorists on this day
of patriotic pride.
Bob shows them how to lay
the toss with a steady stride
to inculcate the best display.
There are close calls. A driver swerves
in anger at the boys
after one missile’s smoky curve
explodes by him with noise
that jangles his haut bourgeois nerves.
Their antics make my street unsafe
for both the cars and those
on foot. Each red moment they’ll strafe
unwary ones who choose
to wander by and risk their life.
These big booms surely mean something
as we perform such rites
each year. It’s part of why we sing
anthems on baseball nights:
we still work to slough off the king.
III. City Fireworks
As the sky slowly turns dark,
we hastily must gather
and look for a place to park
while all the townies scatter
with the randomness of the Mat Hatter
in search of the tell-tale mark
of a trajectory from a launch
of the city’s fireworks display.
The jiggling Jello of their paunch
reveals this task’s no play:
they want the best vantage on this day;
when they find it, a bunch
will gather and watch the sky
for bursts of purple, magenta, gold—
Chinese genius’ lace tracery
of fire, a spectacle as old
as the Great Wall, controlled
amazingly by their carefully designed
layering of chemicals which seldom fail.
We behold these results with delight.
and adults gasp on this noisy night;
the heavens turn with all this light
as in our starry dreams we sail
to gather silver apples of the moon,
not forgetting to swig a beer.
The show has ended all too soon.
Now we must get out of here
by finding a road that’s somewhat clear
listening to a traveling tune.
For my guests this day’s in quotes:
living the small town vida loca
for a few days denotes
a break in their routine, a hookah
of rural leisure, tres pukka,
not a bad time by their litotes.
A transom made by me, with English muffle glass, red roundels and a centre blue flashed glass piece that has been etched (still has a piece of protective vinly on the back). Helpful hint this keeps the white etching clean during the cementing and patina stages.