One Dozen or So From the Archives: Episode 4

Another installment of poems still waiting in the archives to be heard. Finishing up loose ends.

If you want more details, here’s the Big Long Explanation. Otherwise, just read as many or few of these poems as you’d like. And thank you, as always!

These poems are all from Pink Chalk, published 2018.

Is He Really

The autonomous man
he who was in receipt of
a lot of money
from ancestors

he had his freedom
a comforting fishbowl
a wholly respectable life

when confronted with
the mysterious
their work and

he made sure to step back
the world machinery at work
from a safe distance
and at no risk of entanglement
in the gears or pistons or nuclear fission chambers
late bill payments and school dance recitals
he did not miss any of it

he appeared
perfectly at ease
sipping coffee at a small table
in the sidewalk café at noon.



The vast orange moving van
the size of a house
of course
because it contains a house
laboring up the hill this morning
through a tunnel of just-leafed out trees
Traffic is stacking up behind someone’s living room
and we are patient with the pace but hoping
oh yes thank goodness
the whole first and second floors are
turning into a side street
the orange-encased worldly possessions
crawling off further into

Perfect upscale suburbia
this way
a guidebook might describe it
and now the truck knows
its role in the interlude between addresses
is almost over
it picks up a little speed
The rest of us resume our rush

I press my foot to the gas like everyone else
but I wonder how the dining room table
will stand its legs on a new carpet –
with conviction?


With Ceremony

Her Highness
Ermine Serene
I comb my fingers
along her head
her pink nose
she sneezes
with a grunt
turns around three times
lies back on the pillow
the ego of her
it’s my bed
or so I thought
closes her eyes tight and tighter
asleep just like that


It’s Diligence
Combined with a Certain Approach

Time per nude
I wonder as I paint
this skinny lady
the third try today
how much time per nude
will it take
before my painting
any of my paintings
looks like a person
any person
even if not necessarily the one
in front of me? These classes
are not cheap
and so far
I’ve issued a stay of execution
for none of my subjects. Out they go to the curb.
I can’t imagine what the garbage men think.
No. It can’t go on. I’m killing
time, that’s all. Look. What ails this painting
that it has turned so green
and mottled? It seethes.
And does the left arm
look sort of like a mop?
Is there any way
I can turn this painting into
a nude housewife
with a serious skin disease
mopping a kitchen floor?


At the Courthouse on Monday

Courtroom i.

Jury pick session and
you reject a
a blue hair with a neat perm and
so that old lady
she went to the beach instead of serving on the jury
why not
she was plenty old enough
you knew that already and that’s why
you said no
You will come to think maybe she would have been better
than that young guy with the holey jeans
you did choose
hung the jury he did, you’ll know that next week,
but too late too late
that old lady
she’s slathering on the sunscreen
as we speak.

Courtroom ii.

I sat there in a nice navy-blue dress
I listened for twenty minutes straight
then denied it all
so let’s say
your whole life has taken a real turn for the better
you don’t need to confess to me I know
you did do it
now that you’ve been acquitted and I sure do deserve
some thanks for the alibi and
how about something like
I sincerely appreciate your testimony
You call me again
I’ll remind you of this whole episode
not to mention
You owe me and I will collect.

Courtroom iii.
Jury Member:

Assembled in the hall outside the courtroom
twelve of us. New group of acquaintances
We met last week
at selection.
Now we will decide
something about an old lady and
the apartment complex
Don’t know what the problem was
yet. They don’t tell you anything. Witnesses
standing over there
three ladies dressed in black suits.
Plaintiff looks one hundred years old
her lawyer, twenty-one.
Defendant and his lawyer
both sweating.
We file into the jury room
we wait. It is past nine o’clock when
The judge
sweeps in. The parties settled.
No trial. We clear that jury room
thirty seconds, tops
blow past the marshalling room on the way out
take in a panoramic view of
today’s crop of involuntary adjudicators
quiet and restless and waiting.
A few look up. Most don’t.


Career Choice

It seemed that
the job was suddenly available after all but
Don’t take a seat
you won’t be staying long
That’s what I heard the floor tiles say
the chair in the waiting room explain.
So you see
It’s that simple
how I ended up here instead of there.
I took a hint. I listened to what the air vents whispered.
Get fired? No. I was afraid I wouldn’t be.
couldn’t take the chance
I’d still be sitting there at that desk
forty years later
the fifth- generation of the original potted plant
I brought to work on my first day
set on the corner of windowsill that I could call mine. No.
The elevator knew. It rushed me to the lobby.
I ran. Chased by opportunity turned inside out. I ran.


Courtroom Two Nine AM Thursday

No one cheats me
and gets away with it
I sure don’t cheat anyone
even though everyone lies
everyone keeps secrets
but not me
I don’t. I fight fair and I kick hard
You know it’s coming.
I resented the greed
the arrogance
the financial haircut
this witch wanted to administer
and so
the time came to say
hey wake up and sue this feline barracuda wannabe
so I did and I am. And by the way
Fair warning.
The white gloves are off. I’m not standing here
in my pantyhose
high heels
better quality navy-blue dress
just to lose. All right.
Let’s get things started.


Vision of the Beginning

The high windows
squared the top of the large room
a band set just beneath
the ceiling that today
above an overcast featureless sky
pale gray and pressing in against the glass.
No depth no scale to it
but a solid insubstantiality
the inrush of blurred air
forcing the walls out
the roof up
the concrete and steel enclosure
made nonexistent in an instant
I sat in its ruins.

I looked down at my hands
I clasped them tight
stilled them
I counted
the metacarpal bones under my skin
I did not look up again.



The pastry chef
mullet hairdo hidden under his hat
health regulations a source of chagrin
being the only flaw in a perfect job because
he is almost as proud of his hair
as he is of the flawless
latticed apple pie
in the case.


Relatively Speaking

Everybody wants to worry about
soap operas
and french fries
being madly in love
bathing suit butt coverage
too much hair
weed-infested front lawns
nobody wants to worry about
being dead forever
or worse
whether any of this other worry is worth it
and then there is that other thought that follows
which is
sometimes just the idea of getting dressed every day
for another twenty-five years or so
seems like a lot of effort
doesn’t it? You’ve got to stay away from thinking like this
And it’s why
everybody jumps in fired-up eager to worry about
plastic bottles
dressing to disguise a pot belly
fabric softeners
spiderwebs in the corner.


The Again of It

There is a pattern
and the pattern is
a sphere held inside cupped hands
full of the time that spirals in spirals out
a stretch of slubbed yarn
in long thin sections connecting
short bulges of thick fat color
the pass through the fingers
again and again

There is a pattern
and the pattern is
a hallway of black and white squares
reaching the length of your arm
again and another time and multiplied
side doors crowding along it
entrances and exits and returns

There is a pattern
and the pattern is
a few square yards of this earth
wound around in green matted-down paths
worn in thick grass that will grow up again
to be tread upon again
and the again
is the pattern

The pattern being memory. The pattern
being location. The pattern being the small beads
woven tight and no scissors
that can cut the pattern apart

are found in the drawer.
The pattern is the one thing.
It accommodates.
It contains.
It comprehends.
Again. Again.


6 thoughts on “One Dozen or So From the Archives: Episode 4

  1. These are all excellent poems. The one about painting the nudes ended in a way that made me think it was “so Claudia” because of the way you can look at something that isn’t quite fulfilling its promise and then be struck by inspiration and transform it into something so original.

    Two of the poems really spoke to me on a personal level. As someone who has moved many times, the removals truck poem really resonated with me because I have often thought about that contrast between the definitions of house and home and what makes the former feel like the latter. The idea that the furniture and other possessions might experience that sense of dislocation too really struck me.

    The other poem that personally connected with me was ‘Career Choice’. Several times, when I was teaching HS, I went to interview for jobs I thought I really wanted only to have an almost uncanny sense that the environment was not right for me after all and that I really hoped I would not be offered the job after all. I, therefore, really like the idea that the uncanny feeling came from communications from the actual space itself.

    • Thank you. I really appreciate how thoroughly you read each poem. And your conclusions always make me see more in my own work than I knew was there. Thank you. As I look over this set of poems I remember writing them, and the experiences that brought them about. I love it that others can find themselves in them too.

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