Howling at the Sun

Challenge was to write a Beat poem, and how appropriate, since this week we are studying the Beats on ModPo (Modern & Contemporary American Poetry via UPenn on with Professor Al Filreis and friends.

Something about Ginsberg‘s ashcans struck a chord, and this riff on Ginsberg was the result. Certainly not a long rant by any means, and I did a combination of found poem and original phrasing.

Howling at the Sun

The ashcans of America rise up and rant out of their dark alleys of broken glass,
beat and battered and brilliant through the stale beer of doom
floating out of the hydrogen afternoon in Brooklyn, lost conversation
on the windowsills threatening to jump screaming
and vomiting eyeballs disgorged from subways
endlessly ridden beneath neon blinking lights fueled by benzedrine
clattering past cemeteries where bodies locked in bone-grinding dance
of ashes wander at midnight in the cosmos of Idaho
amid visionaries in limousines of winter illumined by the streetlights
and washed in rural rain, spattered in jazz riffs, hopeless and incomprehensible in the light of morning
at the bottom of a river bloated with orange crates and gibberish, coughing out the skeletons drifting down towards New Jersey in the animal soup of alchemy in a metered timeless unknown, naked and bleached, the suns of a thousand Augusts.

Carol A. Stephen
October 15, 2013

Out of Love with the Frog

I’m posting this poem in response to a challenge on dVersePoets about rebellion. Since the prompt is quite broad, this poem seems to work for it. Comes from my first chapbook.

after Claudia Coutu Radmore

American Bullfrog Rana catesbeiana Side 1800px

American Bullfrog Rana catesbeiana Side 1800px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure the exact day
I fell out of love with the frog
Rana catesbeiana…
was it the toothless mandible,
the way his eyes retracted
through roof of mouth
the fenestrated skull with its rows
of tiny teeth on maxilla?

I became prey, my every motion
a spur to devour me,
first my thoughts, then my character,
leaving me thoughtless and merciless.

Each strike his eyes would close,
then lunge, mouth open,
mucous tongue upon me
jaws continuing forward
clenching, grasping me in tiny teeth.
As we sank into swamp,
the frog tried to break my defences,
hold me under until I asphyxiated.
Obstinate as always, I broke free.

Carol A. Stephen

Originally published in Above the Hum of Yellow Jackets, Bondi Press, 2011

I enter the Museum of London expecting the usual mummies

So the prompt for Open Link night over at dVerse suggests city poems, the unexpected.

And I am thinking about my visit to London. I’d travelled a lot by then, seen a lot of cities,

British Museum

British Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

but this was the one where my father was a child, where his ancestors had settled upon emigrating from Belgium (and before that the Netherlands). I had visited the British

Museum, overwhelmed by the antiquities stacked up like so many boxes of inventoried goods. I’d never even heard of the Museum of London. But as soon as I entered, something was different. Well, here’s the poem, written years and years later, and the memories of that visit still so vivid.

Roman mosaic found in London, Museum of London

Roman mosaic found in London, Museum of London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s how strongly I was struck by this place.

I enter the Museum of London
expecting the usual mummies

Greek gods cast in marble,
friezes that capture a moment
centuries ago. But here is a
clear glass pillar, its core is
geology’s construct revealing
layer on layer; sediment
marks eras, detritus trapped
in soil, grave markers for past
lives of the city.

Chill bathes my arms in wonder
so strong I catch my breath.
Here are roots of family and
history: this place, this city where
ancestors walked. Connection.
My shoulders soften into the
sense of yes, of coming home.

Twenty-five years have passed
yet I still see the diorama
of a Roman villa, plates on table,
banners of kings and princes,
red glow, crackle of the Great
Fire of 1666, the frightening
sound of air-raid sirens:
World War II in a bunker
under the streets.

This is not a place of dusty
bones and broken bits of
bygone days. Here the old
city lives within new, here

above the graves of ancients
are papers scripted in flowing
hand, great-great grandfather
David’s petition of naturalisation
to George Grey, baronet
whose family name graces
packages of tea.

David died here:
I hear his voice,
I can almost touch his face.

Carol A. Stephen

A Button Poem

button collection: detail

button collection: detail (Photo credit: chronographia)

Today’s poem challenge from dversepoets is to write about buttons. So, here’s my little offering.

Closet Buttons

High on my closet shelf,
a box of buttons. With care,
I matched them, colour-coded,
size-sorted, in little plastic pouches,
and an odd collection of singles
from years of new jackets, pants
and blouses, each came with one
replacement button and that mysterious
inch or two of thread.

Yet as I write the poem the mystery
resolves, the thread’s not for matching
colour, it’s for attaching button to cloth.

But it’s always thick and sturdy,
that thread. To coax it through
a needle’s eye, would tax my own,
my fingers, grown too clumsy, and me
without the required pound of patience.

Carol A. Stephen
July 1, 2012