THE PROSE POEMS

PAGE 1 PROSE POEMS BY: Harley Crowley, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Genevieve Fitzgerald, Howie Good, Gail Griffin, Christian Harder, M. J. Iuppa, Stephanie Kraft, Amanda Earl      

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FOUR by Christian Harder
[City Planning, A Collection]

The City

We came to the City by a bridge that spanned a river of perfect
design. The banks had been trimmed by a straight blade of
enormous heft. Riverine shrubs of agreeable form were permitted
to burst and blossom in convenient spots. The citizens swam: 
A child cried on the riverbank; a father used pristine meltwater
to chill his beer; a crew cut down a sycamore in the road's way. 
We knew then that the City presented either a happiness swelling
to burst, or an expensive exercise in suffocation.

 

The Holy Place

Every street took us to a domed structure of impossible rigor.
Eventually, we had to look. I guessed words the City might use
to name gods: Anterior, Misalign, Concupiscent, Quill, Carouse.
A guard struck them quickly from the record. The inside of this
dome called Holy Anticipation had kneelers rather than pews.
Citizens were paid five dollars an hour to worship ideas of their
own making. A child — the riverbank crier? — tugged your sleeve
and said: "God is just a mispronunciation of Guide." I fell on
my knees, right into a kneeler designated: GG.6. What had the City
done to us? I considered the architecture — the crystal work cysts,
doves winging it, vaulted gold — but I could only make out lines. At
the exit, a guide asked us if we had a ticket. He charged us again.
 

The Office

Behind the Holy Place, a skyscraper stood like the temple on
Capitoline Hill. That's The Office, said some passerby. You
and I devoted ourselves to labors of a mechanical nature. I
cranked a winch regulating the river dam, while you pasted
letters of enormous size to billboards that no one would see.
Soon, we switched places. A man — the Boss? — arrived at
intervals and spoke like a metronome. Someone must
understand this, I said. There must be some reason. At the
end of the day, we earned no money and went away hungry.

 

The Houses

We followed lines of people returning to their houses enfolded
in personal twilights. I would give anything for a house, I said,
but then I saw them. One had no roof. In another, a front door
lay open for whoever walked past. Smells of either food or burnt
leather took to the air. Clouds licked panes; squeals condensed in
closets; fires lapped the eaves. Most of the walls — painted ocher
fissured on plaster — had decayed. The others had been built
of glass. Human love became an endeavor of embarrassing means.
We could see Holy Anticipation on the horizon. We sat in someone's 
living room and decided: It would not be terrible to drown in this.

- Christian Harder

 

Gail Griffin

[from Four or Five Witches]

4.

Your children are in the woods. I didn't bring them here. They wandered away from you, bored or curious or full of themselves. I am trying to make the most of this, and it isn't easy. I build candy houses for them while I survive like my sister the crow on the crumbs they drop along the way. I leave signs for them, stick figures and scrawls on trees, the smell of sugar and little songs on the wind. I make them cover the same ground over and over until they get it right. I bend the river back to meet them. The boys fatten on their own importance, the girls starve and apologize. I prod them with sticks as they sleep, trying to stir the right questions. I encourage their mythmaking, their moviemaking, their mapmaking. I would do the same for my own, if I had any. Which I don't. They are horrible, really. So hungry. They'd have eaten me out of house and home. So I came to the woods, knowing sooner or later they all come here, thinking the trees belong to them, it's another Wilderness Experience. I let them get good and scared. I make sure they smell death in the rotting leaves and logs. I want them humble, shaken. But they are never lost. I find them.

 

Stephanie Kraft

Late in the Day

At five o'clock the water is a carousel of surface currents, a wheel of blue and olive glass and white fire. On a narrow beach across the pond the sun drenches the sand until it glows like a swimmer's tanned shoulder. Green maples flank the tongue of sand, shaking off light in the wind as a dog shakes off water.

The tiny beach waits, its far side whiskered with bright lime grass, the edge that meets the water licked by shade. What is it waiting for, bare to the sky? The hieroglyphic of the heron's shadow? Or is the sun enough, striking the sand like stage lights on brass, a fanfare of glare? There are children on that beach and their small hands reach out, offering me things long lost  — gifts from my past or someone else's, gifts I cannot name.

 

FOUR by Amanda Earl

[from a longer work entitled All the Catharines]

1.

Catharine possesses a macabre collection of stones, skeleton-shaped, black and red in a box made of bone. Through the open window, Catharine hears the sporadic clack of the wooden chimes, the wind ruffling the peacock feathers in the vase she has set on the floor.

 

2.

Catharine has a temper. She squirms. Her throat tightens. Her mind conjures whirlwinds, flying knives, whole houses crushed by her anger. She is arming a tightly strung bow with sharp arrows aimed directly at your heart. Catharine inherited a set of antique China dinnerware, which she loathes because it is yellow. Smashing it pleases her. Catharine's hate is sulphur, burnt matches, gunpowder. Trembling with fury, she'll carefully extract a dish from the battered brown leather trunk at the bottom of her bed, unwrap a plate from its delicate pale yellow tissue paper, yank herself onto the roof and let fly, smashing sunshine against black tarmac, rejoicing as it shatters into tiny shimmering pieces of vitriol, breaking the hate and leaving her feeling somehow whole again.

 

3.

Catharine remembers the earthquake. The clock fell off the church steeple. The shaking for days after. She ate sardines and prawns, enjoyed pulling off their heads, their beady dangling black eyes.

 

4.

Catharine is drinking red wine again. Straight out of the bottle, she chugs it. Takes a big gulp, lets it spill onto her white muslin blouse, now dotted with red. Catharine bleeds wine. If she's going to drink like a sailor, why not white, at least? She says white wine is for the passionless, the numb, the newts who crawl around and adapt to the colours of the walls but have no colour of their own.

- Amanda Earl

 

 

Harley Crowley

Go About the Day

Shreds of grass fly from the mower blade to coat the front of your bare ankles and shoes with moist green film. Watch the moths fly up startled, and be grateful, be grateful for a day and a field and the things that will come next, the storage shed with the implements of beauty on the shelves, pruning shears and pots and the rake in the corner with its fan of tines spreading out and folding under at their tips, the hoe with its shiny beveled edge. The wicker chair on the veranda, the footstool, the cold glass of beer. The lull of the afternoon, the cows across the road gathering at the fence to greet the late mail bringing catalogues fat with beautiful things that will go un-purchased because there is nothing needed. The peace and satisfaction of nothing needed, everything accounted for, each belonging happy in its spot, no confusion, no profusion of things to weigh down life. The book waiting to be read, the Shakespeare that will some day be comprehended, the Bible with its beauty and its horrors, the poems and stories that call to be read again. The life in the objects that illustrate your life, so that when you are gone an image of you will stay behind, some essence of who you were in the shadow box of your house, your shed, still lingering in your belongings to be examined and picked up and set down in understanding, you no longer in the way of comprehending you. If you could come back, even you might see who you were, might be surprised by a magnifying glass or a piece of wood gnarled in the shape of a dragon or a felt bookmark or a box of hardened Spic and Span at the back of the space under the sink, might see yourself as others could without the distraction of words and glances and touch, the things you offer now to explain yourself.

 

 

TWO by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Housewarming

The day we arrived the birdfeeder swung violently empty. The swamps yawned with ice. The sky frowned grey and hurried upon us.
The day we arrived the wind whispered small prayers or curses. The grass was lost beneath crust of snow. The geese departed in careful choreography, their voices echoing against the sky.
The day we arrived we rubbed our minds raw with sandpaper, afraid our belief would shine through. We bound our arms and legs in scraps of worry and shame dreaming of winter melt, and blue skies.
But no matter how careful we were, no matter how bound, in the night, the starlight and the moonlight crept on tiny white feet into our room gathering our whispers. And every morning we would awaken to our gossamer truths strung along the tops of the hemlock trees, jeweled with dew. We would awaken to a dawn chorus — a shock of red cardinals in the white doubt of snow — singing the truths we could never forget.

 

The Blue Egg

This morning, a great blue heron rose from the swamp like the second coming. I'd never seen the high nests in the far off trees until he rose. Green buds are pulsing out of the fingers of trees and the long sleep is shaken from our bodies as we stumble back into the spotty light. All winter in our borrowed home my son has been collecting egg cartons. Every week he stores another cardboard carton beneath the sink. "For the chickens, Momma." He says. "When we raise chickens, we can sell the eggs." The sky sits above the trees — blue as the heron. Blue as a dyed egg. Blue as a promise. When the bird rose this morning he brought what was land bound (our hearts, our eyes) up to the possibility of sky.

- Iris Jamahl Dunkle

 

TWO by M. J. Iuppa

Nearly, Invisible

A glass of water sits on the kitchen table. The table 
is set for three — set for four — set for two. A week 
passes between sets, but the glass stays in full view. 
Tiny bubbles, like fine beadwork, stick to the inside 
of the glass. No one says, Is this your water? 
The glass disappears, but no one notices.
 

Turtle Shell

Camouflage green, water stained carapace, bleached
helmet lost on the shoulder of the black dirt road.
Coughs heard twice in the woods — bursts of sound 
beg for the soldier's head to return — beg for his hair's
greasy warmth to press loose layers of parchment 
to its dome. Arctic air dissolves everlasting
bits — paper blown apart like moths swarming —
soon the road will be covered in snow.

- M. J. Iuppa

 

Genevieve Fitzgerald

This Is a Berry

On a cold morning, as you walk up the path, you hear a mockingbird in the bush.
On a cold morning, as you walk up the path, where you have left breadcrumbs all season, you hear the mockingbird's fuss.
On a cold morning, as you walk up the path, the bird drops his berries, drops them at your feet, as he flies to the telephone wire above.
On a cold morning, as you walk up the path, the bird drops his berries again, flying only as far as the uppermost branch. The ruckus is louder. The berries fall grazing your head. This is not an accident happening. This is All calling. This is door open. This is you and the bird passing through.
You tell me and I hear it too.

 

TWO by Howie Good

Incurable

1
The moon is only thirty-seven percent full. Who do I blame? Which of my forefathers wore a long, black cape as if hoping to hide a deformity?

2
Fortresses and hiding places, everything has its shadow, a mysterious, pregnant traveler in Bavarian hotels, dark half-moons under her eyes.

3
The world is so overloaded with ordinary human things that it sometimes leans precariously to one side, and I feel the dead eyes of pawnshops and check cashing stores on me and the dingy sky scattering just about everywhere incurably dingy blossoms.

 

 

The Corner

1
The devil is dancing in the aisle. Or maybe human ignorance makes mysteries where none exist. Someone you never met may have tired at last of waiting around the corner for you with an ax. I only perceive the fiery crackling of bees crawling on the head of a sunflower.

2
The ambulance comes screaming around the corner. Up on the top floor, the fat, out-of-shape detective pretends to be able to tell from my bored answers which crimes I have witnessed and which I have committed. The dead body in the next room keeps forgetting to lie still.

- Howie Good

 
© 2012 The Prose-Poem Project
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