(On Discovering the Life and Work
of Georgia O'Keeffe, artist,1887-1986)
In the beginning was life and death,
Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot:
first limp, then cold, the stiffening flanks
and eyes scarfed frosted white,
blind to see what promise, prizes,
rosebuds might yet fall at her feet.
Was it fear rushed in, a howling wind
to echo in the hollows in her head?
Whatever it was, she could paint no more,
that blank canvass of her future shrinking small;
the stink of turpentine offended her nose,
prompted her to blanche and heave,
her bowels to growl and curdle
and the yellow bile to rise.
Yet, later, through a mirror, came
pale hollyhocks, green spikes of pain;
skulls and seeds and irises
as dark as midnight's eye;
then, all was fruit and fruitfulness:
her blossoms pulsed and swelled;
found ripeness and completion
through the power of the lens;
yet she could not, or would not, say
what all such shapes might mean.
And, later still, came rocks and bones
from off the desert floor and then
a mile of elephants, the pale sand
curving down, a life marked out in black and
white and silver, pink and grey:
an aria of silence sung to praise
most perfect death.
You teach this rag how, fold in
its corners, edges, to close
and afterwards wood is everywhere
lies down inside you
as if there is still a place
no longer rising to the surface
though all dust is patient
smells from dried-up riverbeds
one above the other
the way these shelves
were left behind to bathe you
with roots and harbors
–you teach this rag
time, cover each board
lowered slowly into a floor
that is not years later
–for the first time its brightness
turning to footsteps and further.
In a hundred years, I’ll be 160 years old
and no one will remember me.
The last person to remember me will have died
25 years earlier
and toward the end
they will only have a vague recollection
of who I was.
I had this third grade teacher named Mr. Zable,
they will say
as part of a longer story
they will tell to a great grandchild
who will yawn and say,
it was good to see you Great Grandmother,
take care of yourself,
I’ll see you again soon,
nodding to his mother
as they walk out the door.
My God, what have we done?
No ordinary bomb, it’s a window
into hell we dare look through,
a mutant sunrise, a second sun,
the lotus and peach trees burning.
One world is ending, this war,
for all intents and purposes,
has just been lost. It’s over.
Time now to cast shadows
onto stone, to light the air on fire,
Enola Gay banking sharply away.
Below, a post-apocalyptic zero.
And poised off-camera, the folly
of man, of man the monster.
August, 1945 - Bruce McRae
Jeffrey Zable has published poetry and prose in many magazines and anthologies throughout the years. In the late 70’s and early 80’s he headed a poetry, drum, chant group called Silverdog with the late great San Francisco poet Tom Cuson. He recently retired after 30 years in teaching, mostly at the elementary school level.
Abigail Wyatt lives near Redruth in Cornwall. She left a career as an English teacher to concentrate on her own writing. She is the author of two poetry collections and, most recently, ‘Old Soldiers, Old Bones and Other Stories’. One of the three editors at Poetry 24, an online poetry journal, she may be contacted there or, alternatively, via Facebook. She blogs at abigailelizabethwyatt.wordpress.com.
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” and a complete bibliography, please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.
Richard Luftig is a professor of educational psychology at Miami University in Ohio, and now resides in California. He is a recipient of the Cincinnati Post Corbett Award for literature. His poems have appeared in journals in the USA, Japan, Canada, England, Thailand, and Hong Kong. One of his poems was nominated for the Pushcart Poetry prize.
Reading the Morning Paper
First he goes to the obits
and if he’s not in there
pours a second cup of coffee.
(The old jokes work best don’t you think?)
Then on to the weather map,
checking the highs and lows
in the lower forty-eight:
Needles, California and Embarrass,
Minnesota, then to Fairbanks, 59 below.
(if you ask him that’s just showing off).
He reads the classifieds, all those jobs
that have passed him by when he grew old,
and condos for sale in Florida, desert lots,
swap meets, mobile homes and those
business opportunities promising
to earn him a million in a month.
Then finally, down to the boxed-in poems
at the bottom of the page; sad,
rhymed anniversary odes written
for wives, mothers, lovers,
in bad couplets and end-stopped meters,
all those things he wished
he said while she was still here.