Rock River Poetry Contest selections
This week, The Rock River Times presents the following selections submitted to the Rock River Poetry Contest.
To Greg, September 17, 2001
They call them Les Petits Blancs
of dough pressed into balls
pale as flesh,
lined in rows on baking sheets.
These are the Days of Awe, my Teshuvah.
I bake in reparation
for my late bearing,
which brings you to nineteen, a soldiers age.
I shape this dough to alter a decree.
We listen to the news.
Jets plump with fuel transformed to missiles.
Gruesome rains of legal briefs,
a Chinese menu with burnt borders,
a foot, a desk, a resume.
Its been six days,
still ash sifts gently down.
One batch has burned.
I scrape charred bottoms
with a small sharp knife
and think of verbs like smite and cleave.
Theres barely time to scour
and rinse the mixing bowl,
white and round as a skull,
and layer cookies in a tin
before you leave.
Five boys who would be engineers
are packing up the car
heading for Urbana
to learn trajectories, combustibles.
The old blue van
sags with guitars and laundry bags and physics texts.
And some new freight.
I send you off with cookies for lean years.
They wanted to find out about battered women, they said,
so they put dogs in cages with floors wired
so the dogs could be shocked if they wandered to the door.
Then they shocked the dogs randomly and gradually the dogs
learned to stay put even when the doors were open
and the shocks no longer came. See, they said, this is why
the battered woman stays with her beater. I write a letter.
Mr. Scientist: You dont need to torture dogs to understand
battered women. Come to my shelter and talk to them or me.
You wont get dollars to do this, so you probably wont come.
But if you do, I will implement the plan I have prepared
especially for you. I look forward to seeing you.
Imagine this comedy
(can you dig it?):
A gray sky fragile
As grandmothers crystal,
And rising up behind
The domes and rhomboids
And rectangles, pentangles,
Slashing obliquely, madly,
The bridges, spanning dubiously,
Scaling, circuiting the hovels,
The tenement roofs a lifetime past,
A Monkish off-minor chord repeated,
As the remnants of the Public Orchestra
March out of tune,
Travelling out of time,
The tuba player clad in a red coat
From a long-forgotten war,
Toys scattered by a white flash
Down from the sky
Painted just this morning.
J. G. Mark
In the schools white-ceramic tiled cafeteria
Bare-legged pom pon girls queue up
To rehearse their routines
For upcoming basketball game halftimes.
As their music whines raucously
From the tinny school phonograph,
The girls perspire after unison,
Kicking their toes out and up
And down step, point step, point,
Whirling and jiggling
Their arms, their heads, their torsos,
Up, down, around
To a dancing beat.
At peripheries, just across boundaries of their inhibitions,
Sophomore wrestlers loiter,
Peppering empty soda cans
In fade-away shots
Into a large white trash barrel.
Intermittently they jeer and swoon,
Mostly gaze in bemused wonderment.
Inside their taut puberty-burdened bodies
Carbonated juices profusely effervesce
Into limitless-seeming energy.
Outside, the thick gray sky drizzles on cars,
Parking lot blacktop, telephone wires,
Glazing surfaces with glassy indifference.
Up since five oclock this morning,
Studying, writing, teaching equivocally,
Hanging on, he ponders the notion
To bicycle home his aging, aching body,
Pleasantly enervated from straining through a full-days toil
A sullen November afternoon day before Thanksgiving.