Read some of Joanne’s poems


 

In the Poets’ World

 

in memory of Tony Mares

and inspired by the camaraderie of those who seek

to view life through the eyes of a poet

 

in the poets’ world

spiders dance on the head of a pin

and princesses sleep in tangled underground caverns

where spider-milk is a delicacy

 

in the poets’ world

black clouds come in all shapes and sizes

to be worn as designer clothing

along the runway of latest fashion

 

in the poets’ world

imagination feeds the common people

rocks them to sleep where,

untouched by time, they can dream in Technicolor

or black and white if it suits them

 

in the poets’ world

seamless transitions between life and death are the norm

and time bends around, twists and turns

into one dimension where water flows uphill

and where tsunamis’ stop off shore and drain

into tide pools filled with marine life

 

in the topsy turvy world of the poet

the human experience is retold in quick slices

of metaphor where linear time serves only

to reinforce the secrets and lies that underline

the stories we are told as children

and where gallantry rests with the common people

on the blood-soaked cobbled streets of history

 

Three Ring Circus

after Roosevelt died

there was still war

black and white newsreels

flooded movie screens

while humanity was

on the brink

of the nuclear age

in a carnival world where

sticky cotton candy

obliterated reason

and politicians postured

toward the absurd

 

she came into this world

unaware

and when Chicago heat melted

her mother’s spirit

she only craved the breast more

soon she’d become

accustomed to the clink of

glass bottles boiling in metal pots

on the stove at midnight

too much for her mother

to bear alone

 

her father still overseas

in love with an English woman

the War Labor Board

relocation camp project

then, vinyl recordings of his

deep voice would arrive

like thin slices of licorice that

spun the truth deeper into

the hollow of her mother’s despair

 

storybooks with Winkin, Blinkin and Nod

only compounded the incongruity

when he returned from war

to find a toddler dancing to

Disney records in

blissful ignorance

 

seventy years later

the President is alive

and has launched reaper

and predator drones

against the Islamic State

of fundamentalist thugs,

not unlike Hitler’s furor

of pure genocide

where her father witnessed

not beheaded bodies,

but the truth behind

untold secrets

too horrible to share—

yet within the realm

of carnival lore

where the bearded lady

becomes the norm

and where the three ring

circus goes on and on and on

 

Aromas

color deprivation
washed out hues, dreary tints
on stitched hems of one way
roads to nowhere

today’s aromas, in color
wash away the gray
a sensory feast
roasting chili in permutations of
anticipation of another
New Mexico autumn

odors of pollutants
mixtures of air particles in still-born
pastures near Mammoth Lakes
where her parents ashes are scattered
near Devil’s Postpile’s obsidian shards
sharp-edged reminders of her mortality

she continues to crave color
orange, her favorite,
cloaks her in pumpkin skin
she ponders the aroma
of roasting chili
harbinger of time passing
like footprints in seasonal snow

 

Maroon

(published in The Rag)

maroon

that sassy combination of

reds and purples

a mixture of longing and melancholy

maroon hides in shadows on hot summer days

where dark secrets unwind like tendrils on snap peas

evoking a smile from the crawly caterpillar who tends

to munch on maroon berries in winter

 

Smell of No Return

shades of sonar dream into her subconscious
while her children sleep sandy-eyed and unaware
she skates away her childhood
on urban fantasies written on chalky sidewalks
an egret lifts one leg, flaps its milky wings
and in pigeon-coup flight
she wakes to the smell of no return

 

Two Dimension

she hovers above reality
never knowing why the shoreline
along her beach has no waves
like a child’s painting in tempera
she is boxed inside her insular world of dreams
where primary colors of red, blue, and yellow
protect her in the absence of shadow
she collects beach glass
places it in a clear jar on her dresser
waits for shadows to reappear

 

I Think I Understand Fishing

(published in New Mexico Mercury)

when lakes glisten with shallow ripples

and crows cry from distant pines, echoing late summer

when cicadas’ clamor breaks afternoon calm

as autumn approaches

the fisherman stands along the shoreline waiting

sentinel-like, dressed in kaki pants and shirt

sunglasses and broad-rimed brown hat

he contemplates the moment, then another in simple succession

while fish dart under glassy water avoiding the bait

the fisherman watches white billowy clouds form in the East

and seems content to follow moving shadows along

the mirrored surface of the lake

ripples shift gently at whims of breezes

smells of Ponderosa Pine remind me of

what it means to fish in lakes that go nowhere

from moment to moment to moment

thunder clouds and lighting  break the silence

upheaval of torrential rain along the

smooth surface of lake now dotted with

millions of tiny rain drops

but the fisherman doesn’t move from his spot

he casts his rod into uneven swirls of murky water

one last chance to find his catch before lightning strikes again

before he must return to the other side of the mountain

 

La Llorona­­

(published in La Llorona Anthology)

maybe she had a reason for drowning her children

a reason only she could justify

to save them from a worse fate, of servitude

of the hollow stares of those who

would surely see them unworthy of

their rightful place in a divided world

of cast and class

but a mother protects her children at all cost

is she to be revered or is she the phantom banshee

who floats above glassy surfaces of lakes and

rivers to terrorize our collective unconscious

warning of our own vulnerability, our

inevitable destiny with death

 

her legendary tale has survived centuries of

scrutiny, has twisted and turned into fanciful

rituals of fairytale lore in dreams and nightmares

of children who stray too far from home

a warning not to let their imaginations lead them

into temptation, defiance, exploration

or La Llorona will surely find them

snatch them up as her replacement children

 

so beware of La Llorona

she lurks­­ in the shadows of night

in still waters of rippled souls who let her

brush against their cheek with seductive stillness

her specter lifts us out of dreary mediocrity into

mythological realms as we sensationalize

her story, make it our own

her shrieks, her wails, her angst

resound in sync with the melodic beating of own heartbeat

so that our children can dream of crystal clear waters

starry nights and mountain tops covered with sparkling snow

 

Knowing

she hangs upside down

listens to rocks laughing in

cave-echoes while she

cocoons in bat wings

a chrysalis protected by darkness

and unknowing

 

contrasting shadows flicker moonlight

toward the cave entrance where

layers of sediment have built memories

she can relate to, even in hibernation

 

falling out of sync with

the natural order of things

the shroud she wears begins to dissipate

when cave-echoes hone their way

into the fabric of her reality

and bounce off hardened rocks below

 

forcing her to glare directly into

ancient pools of underground water

where her reflection becomes unrecognizable

and where  limestone stalagmites

pierce the darkness in conical pillars

of knowing

 

The Desert: A Sestina

 

What is it about the desert

that beckons her with its open spaces

and distant vistas that meander

along dreamy horizons making the edge

of her reality a reminder she hopes

will keep her from disappearing?

 

A nomad in her mind, she’d disappear

from one place to another while balancing on the edge

of imagination and reality in hopes

of finding the perfect space

where her thoughts could meander

freely.  In winter, her desert

 

takes on special meaning. Desert

wildflowers fade away to stark edges

of bare foliage that often disappear

when winds howl through spaces

where even she could not have hoped

to fit. Spaces where her thoughts could meander

 

showing her exactly why the meandering

was so important. Always the hope

of finding ways to disappear

from constriction that would edge

her back, away from open spaces

that filled the orange sunsets of her desert

 

with the passage of time.  It is the desert

that calls her. She’d go each weekend, disappearing

from her world where city-life spaces

kept her  always on the edge

of hope

but the long road out of the city, the meandering

 

black ribbon toward Desert Hot Springs where meaning

and sanity held her captive, in the hot mineral waters where she’d disappear

and collect her thoughts, until one day her edge

faded away.  Her world filled with open spaces

and when she returned to the city she knew it wasn’t hopeless

anymore.  She’d always be able to find her way back to the desert.

 

No longer on the edge, she can disappear

into the meandering spaces

of her hopeful desert.

 

Coiled Serpent

(published in Shadow of the Snake)

coiled serpent soaks up sunlight

sees its shadow

then returns to

the shaded boulder

waiting for night-prey

its sustenance on this stark mountain

 

archetypal and steeped in tradition

symbol of rebirth

transformation

immortality

healing

eternity

sexual desire

 

potent guardian of

sacred temples

and Aztec treasures

 

embedded on the Gadsden flag of the

American Revolution

coiled and poised to strike

 

protector of the Buddha

who sits under the Bodhi tree

of Enlightenment

 

coiled around the staff

of shamans, around the Rod of

Asclepius and the staff of Moses

opening the door to healing and magic

 

the Rainbow Serpent who rules the

underworld and makes

fruit trees bloom

who drinks lakes empty

and causes earthquakes

 

a feathered serpent-god

to the Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl

a monster with a hundred

heads on Gorgons

protecting ancient Greek ritual secrets

 

alone in darkness

on this barren mountain

coiled serpent

engulfed in shadow

waits for another day

of full sunlight

 

while we, oblivious to its presence

walk the same path

only to find an occasional piece

of molted skin

along the rocky trail

 

Cracked Mirror

Pauline looks in cracked mirror

but smoke in mirror images don’t

covers crow’s feet lines around her eyes

once, queen of the carousel

her circus world let her wander

earthen fields with elephants from Tibetan jungles

while she sat atop as queen of perfection

yet, somehow Pauline prefers her black lace mantilla

that covers her dark, thinning hair

when the mirror asks her,

“Why do you shiver when the sun is out?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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