Lee Ann Roripaugh

2

“How vulnerable we would all be if longing shone through our bodies,

if our skins were translucent
lanterns flushed with yellow flame

leaping in the strange
and unpredictable winds
of our desire, like

the neon Morse code fireflies
use to brazenly flick the night.”

— Lee Ann Roripaugh, section 3 “Lumen” from “Bioluminescence,” in On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009)

cleaning out my folders:  people + light

 PEONY LOVER

A thinnest sliver of moon, and caterpillars
gather in their bodies
with the wiry, circular precision

of a rice-paper lantern
folding back down on itself, colored
patterns collapsing into

denser, indecipherable forms. Rabbits
leave lacy teethmarks
rimming the ragged edges of lettuce,

and I am like the opossum
who stares up with glowing, hungry eyes
waiting for persimmons to fall.

All night tree frogs throb and thrum
with the numbing pulse
of a discotheque, and fat, lacquer-backed

cockroaches creep in shiny
bumper-to-bumper lines toward the promise
of food, drawing a zigzag

connect-a-dot from garbage can to can,
hub to hub, the way your flight
now circles another city, talons outstretched,

like a blinking, red-eyed
bird, while the damp of your sweat fades
from my pillowcase.

Because I let your hands undo me
like an origami crane,
fold by fold, fingers easing out creases,

because I let the ink
of your brushstrokes seep the whiteness
of my paper-thin skin

and mark me, I could call this love,
or maybe delusion.
And when I creep barefoot in moonlight

with my hair undone,
reach into the sky to pull you back down,
there is nothing

but heat, and sound, and dizziness,
only a handful
of peony petals crumpling in my fists.


Lee Ann Roripaugh, from Beyond Heart Mountain, 1999

Things I Would Do for You

Let me gather together a radiant cache
of jewel beetles for you—lapis lazuli blue
speckled with red and white; shimmering
green hammer-plated with yellow metal;
dapper copper pinstriping; a softly polished
celadon like glowing, apple-green jade; blue-
green lacquer lipsticked with an opalescent
hot-pink swirl; and the ones that seem cast
in the lush, buttery luster of 24-carat gold.
I will string them together with small, bright
seeds and make a necklace to warm your skin
like a dapple of sunlight burnishing
the cool, pale shadows between your breasts.

Keep reading

Octopus in the Freezer

by Lee Ann Roripaugh

What could you possibly have been dreaming of
as you slumbered coiled there, tentacles
furled about your large soft brow, bashful
and pink, ruminating in the back corner
beneath an arched shelf of antelope ribs–
snugged between headless-bodied broods
of sage grouse, the icy bright pillows
of Shur-Fine lima beans and the buttered
currency of carrot medallions? What were
you thinking down there in my parents’
basement, blue blood’s pulse stilled to a wiry
tangle of navy ribbon, the syncopated bongo-
drum thump and thrum of your three hearts
on break between sets and resting silent
on the stage? By what unlikelihood
were you frozen solid in this tightly-wound
pose, like a multi-limbed Hindu goddess
in lotus position, riding the plains by freight
truck to Sakura Square in Denver, where
my mother admired the brawny circumference
of your arms, the snow-white firmness
of your inner flesh, the rubbery erect grip
of your suction cups? And what were the odds
that you’d be packed in dry ice by the ojii-san
behind the counter, tucked into our avocado-
green Igloo ice cooler and driven home
across the state line to Wyoming? You remain
frozen in time in my parents’ freezer–totemic,
statuesque, infinite and apocryphal–even though
you’ve been eaten many times over, one arm
at a time, sliced thin into cross-sectioned slivers
for sushi on birthdays and holidays. As a child,
I used to think the dull muffled thud and clunk
of the furnace firing into life at night was the sound
of your head bumping up against the freezer lid,
the cold grate and clash of meats shifting,
scraping against one another in the wake
of your thrashing tentacles’ lash and whip.
What error in judgment took you from your cozy
niche, your eclectic garden arranged with such
compulsive precision: the slender-necked
and lush-hipped wine bottles, the shiny winking
bits of mirror startling back your placid mild eye,
the pickle jar whose lid you loved to screw
and unscrew–dangling in a tapered arm,
your exquisitely sensitive, ganglia-rimmed
suckers quivering, to check for tasty things
to eat? Did you become snarled in a fisherman’s
net, or clasped tight in the steel embrace
of a lobster trap–caught in the careless
kleptomania of your endless lust for crustacea?
And did your chromatophores pulse first white,
then red, to semaphore the blushing flush
of fear flaming to anger? Were you caped
in a smoky swirl of spewed blackness dispersing
the way sumi-é ink curls away from
the tornado whirl of a horsehair brush
being twirled clean in water? Today the snow
just falls and falls, and I think of you
as the relentless volatile wind lifts the flakes
into blinding, shimmering white veils that spiral
and mist–so cold the fine spray delicately
burns for one moment against the skin,
and frozen feathery etchings are flung up
against the windows like splayed bits
of goosedown. Cars and trucks cough and come
to a halt, my back door freezes shut.
The barometer drops and empty wine bottles
line the kitchen counter like bowling pins.
How odd, I keep thinking to myself
as everything around me creaks and groans
and shivers, then stills to ice and frost.
How odd that it has all come to this.
And then I wish for someone, anyone at all,
to dream of me, if only for a moment,
to unfurl my rigid aching limbs and melt down
all my hearts, taste my salt on their tongue,
let ice transubstantiate to breathing flesh,
and resurrect me back into the living again.

_______________________________

Text from the University of North Dakota’s 43rd Annual Writer’s Conference. Originally published in The Year of the Snake.

laterovaries amatasera freudensteins-monster mizz-vincent wine-o-clock-somewhere maxwell-demon marvelousmindloki icybluepenguin bluebirdtweets whittyonernc smittentomkitten lokiofmiddleearth larouau12 hornedchick ophelia-tagloff crescent-moon-rising leeroripaugh

Intriguingly, one of the most active sites of mirror neuron systems is located in the ‘Broca’s area,’ an area of the brain crucial to language processing. In 1998, Dr. Michael Arbib, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, discovered that language itself appears to rise from the same syntactic understanding of action generated by our mirror neurons.
—  Lee Ann Roripaugh, “Poem as Mirror Box: Mirror Neurons, Emotions, Phantom Limbs, and Poems of Loss and Energy," jubilat 21
"Happy Hour"

I always forget the name,
delphinium,
even though it was the flower

the hummingbirds
loved best. They came in pairs—sleek,
emerald-bright

heads, the clockwork machinery
of their blurred wings
thrumming swift, menacing engines.

They slipped their beaks.
as if they were swizzle sticks, deep
into the blue

throat of delphinium and sucked
dry the nectar-
chilled hearts like goblets full of sweet

frozen daiquiri.
I liked to sit on the back porch
in the evenings,

watching them and eating Spanish
peanuts, rolling
each nut between thumb and forefinger

to rub away
the red salty skin like brittle
tissue paper,

until the meat emerged gleaming,
yellow like old
ivory, smooth as polished bone.

And late August,
after exclamations of gold
flowers, tiny

and bitter, the caragana
trees let down their
beans to ripen, dry, and rupture—

at first there was
the soft drum of popcorn, slick with oil,
puttering some-

where in between seed, heat, and cloud.
Then sharp cracks like cap
gun or diminutive fireworks,

caragana
peas catapulting skyward like
pellet missiles.

Sometimes a meadowlark would lace
the night air with
its elaborate melody,

rippling and sleek
as a black satin ribbon. Some-
times there would be

a falling star. And because
this happened in
Wyoming, and because this was

my parents’ house,
and because I’m never happy
with anything,

at any time, I always wished
that I was some-
where, anywhere else, but here.

by Lee Ann Roripaugh

Lee Ann Roripaugh on

DANDARIANS (Milkweed Editions, 2014)

Dandarians was written largely between 2008-2011. The title poem of Dandarians, “The Planet of Dandar,” is the first in a series of five lyric flash memoir pieces that explore what I like to think of as “word betrayals”—words (mis)transmitted to me from my first-generation Japanese mother that took on their own powerful signification and became richly connotative and symbolically fertile or even, at times, dangerously toxic. Dandarians (dan-dare-ee-uns) was how my mother pronounced the word dandelions, and for me, the word sounded like a science fiction alien, hailing from a radioactive yellow planet, struggling in the diaspora of otherness.

I feel as if in many respects the book is about vulnerability, alienated others, and the possibilities/impossibilities of language—both the ways in which we are inscribed by and contained, or even caged, within language, as well as the lovely ways in which we so desperately yearn to connect and (mis)communicate with one another through language.  

 

“Your Ghost” by Kristin Hersh

Language, too, can mark us as vulnerable and other: either through naming, categorizing, and thereby symbolically “mastering”/controlling our difference, or through making us feel raw, and mollusk-without-a-shell-ish when we disclose our desires and needs; when we “talk back” and say no; or when we name the traumas that we are haunted by. When Kristin Hersh sings:

“It’s the blaze across my nightgown / It’s the phone’s ring / I think last night / you were driving circles around me”

in her voice of pure raw honey, it’s the swirled boa of fog that parabolas the empty small-town street, the chilled glass spin of marbles on hardwood floors that keep the speaker of Dandarians awake and obsessively in dialogue with her anxious ghosts at night.

“Subterranean Homesick Alien” by Radiohead

I grew up as other in small-town Wyoming, in a home treacherously land-mined with emotional violence and silenced secrets—a landscape I feel can be captured by the dreamy melancholy of Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien”:

“Up above / Aliens hover / Making home movies / For the folks back home / Of all these weird creatures / Who lock up their spirits / Drill holes in themselves / And live for their secrets.”

“Earthcrosser” by Veruca Salt

At age 9, I was molested by an 18-year-old boy who lived across the street from me and continued to live across the street from me until I left home for college. My parents blamed me, shaming me for what happened, saying that I should have been able to identify that his gun wasn’t a “real” gun, and later on saying that I shouldn’t ever tell anyone what had happened to me. And even though I outwardly continued to dutifully perform in the all the ways upon which my parents’ love felt conditional (winning piano competitions, excelling in academics) after that, no place felt emotionally safe for me, and I felt further marked, silenced, anxious, and isolated.  Maybe the soundtrack for that self, in that time, would have been Veruca Salt’s “Earthcrosser”:

“Sleep little flea, / little boy me. A freak. / Am I clean, flea/ I feel like men, / (flea, little flea, little boy) / I feel like boys, think I’m peeling. / And the ringing in my ears / from playing too loud / I hear the ocean / I hear the crowd.”

“Red Planet (Live)” by Eric Dolphy

I dreamed constantly of escape, maybe back to my home planet of Dandar, or perhaps to the fractured, envelope-pushing, weird spaces of Eric Dolphy’s “Red Planet.”

“Black Hole Hunter” by Rasputina

Or maybe of escaping to somewhere darker—spiderwebbed with a lacy self-destructive edge, more of a voyage to the inner radioactive core of repressed self, as in Rasputina’s “Black Hole Hunter”:

“The remnant of a collapsed and molten core / A curious breed of galaxy never seen before / No longer able to support its mass / It’s unleashed ten thousand-trillion watts of noxious gas.”

“Riding on the Rocket” by Shonen Knife

Or perhaps even escaping by hitching a ride onto the mod retro kawaii punk spaceship of Shonen Knife’s “Riding on the Rocket” from Let’s Knife:

“Riding on the rocket, I wanna go to Pluto / Space foods are marshmallow, asparagus and ice cream / Blue eyed cat said, ‘Let me go with you’ / Let’s go let’s go let’s go with me”

“Crane Wife” by The Decemberists

Summer 2008, and I’m driving to Wyoming to visit my parents in the home where I grew up. It will be the first time I’ve gone home in over seven years. As I descend through the foothills, silver-bellied rainclouds move sleekly and rapidly across the mountain range, occasionally broken through by spears of sunlight. I’m listening to The Decemberists, and something about Colin Meloy’s open pure voice, or maybe it’s that I read somewhere that he’s originally from Montana, suits the enormous scale of sky, clouds, and mountains. I love the song “Crane Wife,” because it’s based on a traditional Japanese folk tale, an animal bride myth, that I remember from my childhood, in which a hunter rescues an injured crane, who then appears on his doorstep in the form of a woman. They are very poor, and so at night, she shape-shifts back into a crane and makes beautiful blankets out of the feathers from her breast that he can sell for money. When he discovers her secret, that she is really the crane that he rescued, she disappears. Perhaps this is a story about vulnerability, false selves, and secrets. I also associate it with my mother: the bags of Tsuru-Mai rice she buys, the fact that as I child, when I saw the crane logo on her Japan Airlines ticket, I thought that she traveled to America on the back of a crane.  The visit is devastatingly disastrous and I haven’t been back since:

“There’s a bend in the wind and it rakes at my heart / There is blood in the thread and it rakes at my heart”

“Artichoke,” by Cibo Matto

Shortly after I return from this trip, my sweetheart, Bruce, who I’ve just met, sends me Cibo Matto’s Pom Pom as a gift, after I confess to him that the artichoke is my totem produce. Thistled and prickly on the outside, but with a soft, creamy heart. I am trying to learn to be vulnerable in my life. I am trying to learn to be vulnerable in this book. Plucked petals, plucked feathers scattering the floor: “Are you gonna keep on peeling me?”

“Iron Man” by The Bad Plus

I’m drawn to the hybridities and fluidities of Iron Man: the way in which he’s cyborg, how he’s both human and alien because of the way he can independently rocketship himself into outer space, that he’s a mollusk with a removable shell, not to mention his broken, glowing, vulnerable-making arc reactor of a heart. I’m drawn, too, to the hybridities and fluidities of jazz trio The Bad Plus’s cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Iron Man.” Opening with some random out-of-tune piano noodling that evolves into flight of the bumblebee-esque passage work, the original tune is then introduced, tongue in cheekishly, with all of its kitschy, lugubrious grandeur—pianist Ethan Iverson’s intricate keyboard filigree becoming increasingly elaborate, like a thousand fleet-winged bees attempting to launch an iron rocket. Toward the end of the song, the key brilliantly, and improbably shifts from minor to major, and through the playful and virtuosic keyboard work, darkness is transformed into the sublime. I love that! Maybe I was attempting to aspire to a little bit of that myself in Dandarians.

 

Author page

Irezumi, or Tattoo You

What happens when someone indelibly marks you, and you become invisibly inked, like the ultraviolet that tattoos the petals of certain flowers?

In the dark, you phosphoresce.

Honeybees read your mind like a neon sign.  They swarm, clatter, and hum about you like a cluster of lovesick grapes.

The song you’re usually so careful not to sing out loud now chorused in harmony¾a swelling of sound and polyphonic counterpoint, lyrics prismed into infinity as the graffiti scored onto your body is read through the multiple facets, the ommatidia, of curious, compound eyes.

And really, what will the crickets think of this insurgent, cross-species mating call, when their ears—tiny swollen drums in their knees—begin to throb in response?

Once, a man I thought I loved with all the awful rasp and moan of a Billie Holiday song, even though (or maybe even because) he belonged to another, pulled an apple from his book bag, offered it to me in his office behind a shut door.  Simple as tapping a chocolate orange to fracture it open.  Simple as peeling off the shiny rind of foil.

(Even though I prefer the flecked grit of pears—especially Japanese pears, that miscegenation of the apple.  Their round bottoms cushioned against bruising at the grocery store in white Styrofoam fishnets.  Spiral of freckled skin curling in even, green coils onto a quiet plate.)

Once, I left an apple out for the squirrels, and later, it reappeared on top of a nearby telephone pole—red, emphatic point punctuating an upside-down exclamation mark.

Word problem:  An entomologist accidentally spills an eyedropper’s splash of moth pheromone on his knee and he’s marked forever.  Wherever he goes, he’s trailed in a skirl of moths, skittering and flickering around his kneecap like a three-dimensional tattoo.  As in most cases of mistaken identity, he’s mildly embarrassed.  The moths, though, remain resolute.  In light of this given, is it better to be (a) the marked one trailed by a cloud of moths, or (b) one of the moths … so absolutely fixed in your certainty about who and what you wanted?

~  Lee Ann Roripaugh

Ennui

Sometimes I feel I’m on an island
in the lake of lost connections,
where insects buzz and hum
their electric song,
and the metronomical blink
of the cursor’s eye is a beacon
to the shore beyond. I keep
starting and restarting letters 
to people I once knew, but I feel
brittle and strange, and can’t find
the right words, or at least
the ones I need. Autumn tightens
its crisp band of air like a tourniquet,
and the man-size sunflower across
the alleyway from my back door
dries on its stalk and becomes 
a ghost. The cats sleep closer
now that it is cool, their bodies
heavy and round, the oddity
of their cat thoughts self-contained.
In the morning on the bus
I see the same woman every day
outside the Shell station, wheeling 
her grocery cart that holds only 
a green street sign reading “Emily Way”;
and the man who clasps a plum-
colored Igloo lunch cooler
with such formality, chest level, 
using both hands palms up, as if
offering up his own heart. I wear
my anonymity like a scar and consider
it an excuse for voyeurism.

On the way home, behind the coffee
shop, I pass the skeletons of a sparrow,
licked clean over the course of a week
by clusters of black ants, whose
nervous, rippling activity reminded
me of television static. Now
the bare, delicate architecture
of the bird is almost fetal—tiny
skull compact as a cowry shell,
the empty curl of the ribcage,
the vertebrae of the spine linked
together with the intricate precision
of an expensive bracelet.

All evening long I keep checking
on the praying mantis
who came to perch on the lid
of the trash can. I am lost
between one thing and another,
and can’t remember which. Absinthe
green, with its backwards-pointing
knees rising in stiff peaks,
it swivels around its triangular wedge
of a head to gaze at me
with black pinpoints of eyes
each time I step out my back door
onto the stoop, and it seems as if
she is saying to me, Have you ever
eaten a pomegranate? I buy one
from the Big Bear grocery
on the corner, and the seeds
are brilliant, clear as rubies nested
in the fleshy concave hollows
of pulp. And as I pluck them out
one by one to eat, each one
leaves behind an emptiness, each
one making me more a thief.


Lee Ann Roripaugh
from Year of the Snake, Southern Illinois University Press, 2004.

Things I Would Do for You

LEE ANN RORIPAUGH

I know that I am strange, and poor, and prone

to daydreams, melancholy, and compulsions,

that all I have to offer are these crumpled balls

of paper scattered across my desk, these words

obsessively embroidered together with insects

used as sequins, beads, twinkly bits of decoration.

But perhaps, in the silky gray light of dusk,

they might look something like the nuptial gifts

of Balloon Flies, with their live tiny spiders

and aphids wrapped in intricately woven, iridescent

skeins of silk, white, shimmering balloons

tightly clutched in the feet of the flies, sparkling

enticingly in the half-light like a paparazzi

of minuscule flashbulbs exploding in the dusk

during their aerial mating dances. Perhaps

you might be moved to pick one up and unwrap it,

and while you were busy with crackling paper,

smoothing out wrinkles, and reading, I might

quietly come up behind you, stroke the small

of your back, slide my arms around your waist

and hold you, my mouth in the nape of your neck.

Ennui

Sometimes I feel I’m on an island
in the lake of lost connections,
where insects buzz and hum
their electric song,
and the metronomical blink
of the cursor’s eye is a beacon
to the shore beyond. I keep
starting and restarting letters
to people I once knew, but I feel
brittle and strange, and can’t find
the right words, or at least
the ones I need. Autumn tightens
its crisp band of air like a tourniquet,
and the man-size sunflower across
the alleyway from my back door
dries on its stalk and becomes
a ghost. The cats sleep closer
now that it is cool, their bodies
heavy and round, the oddity
of their cat thoughts self-contained.
In the morning on the bus
I see the same woman every day
outside the Shell station, wheeling
her grocery cart that holds only
a green street sign reading “Emily Way”;
and the man who clasps a plum-
colored Igloo lunch cooler
with such formality, chest level,
using both hands palms up, as if
offering up his own heart. I wear
my anonymity like a scar and consider
it an excuse for voyeurism.

On the way home, behind the coffee
shop, I pass the skeletons of a sparrow,
licked clean over the course of a week
by clusters of black ants, whose
nervous, rippling activity reminded
me of television static. Now
the bare, delicate architecture
of the bird is almost fetal–tiny
skull compact as a cowry shell,
the empty curl of the ribcage,
the vertebrae of the spine linked
together with the intricate precision
of an expensive bracelet.

All evening long I keep checking
on the praying mantis
who came to perch on the lid
of the trash can. I am lost
between one thing and another,
and can’t remember which. Absinthe
green, with its backwards-pointing
knees rising in stiff peaks,
it swivels around its triangular wedge
of a head to gaze at me
with black pinpoints of eyes
each time I step out my back door
onto the stoop, and it seems as if
she is saying to me, Have you ever
eaten a pomegranate? I buy one
from the Big Bear grocery
on the corner, and the seeds
are brilliant, clear as rubies nested
in the fleshy concave hollows
of pulp. And as I pluck them out
one by one to eat, each one
leaves behind an emptiness, each
one making me more a thief.

–Lee Ann Roripaugh

I first read this poem in Roripaugh’s collection Year of the Snake in graduate school when I was finishing my thesis. I remember this poem, but it didn’t stick out to me then. Today, however, I was browsing through the collection again and this poem grabbed me because it completely describes how I’ve been feeling lately.

I’m not going to discuss the poem a whole lot, but a few things to stick out to me: 1) the profound sense of loneliness in the poem rocks me to the core; 2) while the poem is lonely, it also seems to give a voice to the mundane, to the every day way of things, and how we can get caught up in that; 3) I love the image of the pomegranate seeds as brilliant rubies.

-S

Lee Ann Roripaugh

She is one of my favorite poets. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet and hear her read last semester in my Poetry II class. Read, On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year, it is fantastic.

Objects in the Mirror

I’m tired of being like the bee who’s duped into mating

with ophrys orchids mimicking winsome

female bees, only to discover a bee’s not a bee,

and I’m nothing more than a glorified pollinator.
Isn’t it better to be an insect
who pretends to be a flower, like the delicate-petaled

Malaysian orchid mantis, who entices crickets, flies,
locusts, and moths into her pink embrace?
(Ambuscade of bewildering mandibles, necks severed

in a single, guillotine-like strike. Such fierce clarity.)
Or how about the complex stratagems
of the Maculinea butterfly, who lays her eggs

inside wild buds of thyme? Her caterpillars hatch, eating
their way out of thyme until they become
steeped in it, sweating a spicy milk crazy-delicious

to red ants who, in a gluttonous haze, carry the soft
fragrant sultans back to the nest to be
bathed and groomed by worker ants. Then, like con-men in a heist

movie locked in the bank vault at night, the caterpillars
eat the stored hoard of ant larvae and eggs
before fleeing the scene of the crime in a sly disguise.

Or consider female Photuris fireflies, who copy
the intricate mating signal flashes
of other firefly species⎯the same way child prodigies

can play back, note for perfect note, an entire sonata
after no more than a single hearing⎯
in a performance so authentically compelling that

male fireflies respond to the coded flashing come-ons
as if they were one of their own, only
to be killed and consumed. Nothing really is as it seems,

and no one’s really who or what they say they are. Hawk moth
caterpillars pass themselves off as snakes,
while deliciously-edible Viceroy butterflies robe

themselves to look like toxic Monarchs, whose stained-glass orange
wings are spiked and windowpaned with poison
Milkweed leaves. Everything’s masquerade, subterfuge, and soap

opera, revealing only that it’s arrogance to think
we could ever really know exactly
what it is we’re getting into. Imagine tropical

male ants who chemically disguise themselves in the sultry
perfume of virgin queens⎯slipping past more
aggressive males to insinuate themselves into the quick

pulsing heart of the nest where, cross-dressed in female scent,
they, with their gentler art, are allowed to mate
with the queen. Please, just think of that should you ever find my

owlish decoy eye-spots unconvincing enough to wish
to tear into my wings. Take a moment
to think of that before you shame me for my illusions.

found on:

http://runningbrush.wordpress.com/2007/08/18/objects-in-the-mirror/

Happy Hour

Happy Hour
BY LEE ANN RORIPAUGH

I always forget the name,
delphinium,
even though it was the flower

the hummingbirds
loved best. They came in pairs—sleek,
emerald-bright

heads, the clockwork machinery
of their blurred wings
thrumming swift, menacing engines.

They slipped their beaks.
as if they were swizzle sticks, deep
into the blue

throat of delphinium and sucked
dry the nectar-
chilled hearts like goblets full of sweet,

frozen daiquiri.
I liked to sit on the back porch
in the evenings,

watching them and eating Spanish
peanuts, rolling
each nut between thumb and forefinger

to rub away
the red salty skin like brittle
tissue paper,

until the meat emerged gleaming,
yellow like old
ivory, smooth as polished bone.

And late August,
after exclamations of gold
flowers, tiny

and bitter, the caragana
trees let down their
beans to ripen, dry, and rupture—

at first there was
the soft drum of popcorn, slick with oil,
puttering some-

where in between seed, heat, and cloud.
Then sharp cracks like cap
gun or diminutive fireworks,

caragana
peas catapulting skyward like
pellet missiles.

Sometimes a meadowlark would lace
the night air with
its elaborate melody,

rippling and sleek
as a black satin ribbon. Some-
times there would be

a falling star. And because
this happened in
Wyoming, and because this was

my parents’ house,
and because I’m never happy
with anything,

at any time, I always wished
that I was some-
where, anywhere else, but here.

~ From Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004).

UNSPUN NOCTURNES

You dream your feet are tender and cold and bare. It is winter. You wear an ember-colored blouse. Someone is reading poetry. It isn’t like you to take off your shoes like this.

(Prism, nacre, calcite, aragonite, abalone, mother-of-pearl, spiral, whorl.)

Coin ricochets down in a metallic clatter, ropes shudder and creak, velvet shimmies up, and you slow dance in your clear glass fishbowl with your eyes closed. Center page for eight minutes, all languorous swirl and trope: sequin scales’ illusion, allusive fan of silk sleeves. Idee fixe with nowhere else to go.

At night, you shut the blinds against late afternoon’s too-early dark. You want to hold all the light inside. You don’t want to become a silver top unspun. You don’t want to be unribboned.

(Prism, nacre, calcite, aragonite, abalone, mother-of-pearl, spiral, whorl.)

Wait for morning, wait for the wind to please stop blowing because you are brittle paper palimpsest with words you can’t quite make out pressed down by a too-hard pencil on a torn-away top sheet: vastuaryunrindedbromeliaphilian-ache-r? Wait for morning, wait for the wind to please stop blowing, wait for your chest to unclench enough to take another breath, wait for the weak-tea November light to come and lick the stubble fields into a quiet burnishing.

(Prism, nacre, calcite, aragonite, abalone, mother-of-pearl, spiral, whorl.)

 

Lee Ann Roripaugh

Fall back.  Spring forward.  What’s been saved?  What gained?  Why does my body feel tricked by invisible divisions, indivisible subtractions, the shell game’s too-smooth bad trade?

*

from “Daylight Savings Time: An Interrogatory” by Lee Ann Roripaugh