one more from Rodney Gomez

In my recent microreview & interview of Rodney Gomez’s Citizens of the Mausoleum (Sundress Publications), I identified a manner of listing engaged with throughout the collection. One thing that such skilled listing points to is a poet’s capacity for attention. In lists, attention works in an almost syncopated manner. In “Cartography” (below), this attention is given free range to develop a more fluid metaphorical framework that honors the human scene portrayed.

frau mauroGiven the opening push of the title, the poem begins by mapping the emotional landscape of the speaker’s being by his dying mother’s bedside, and does so by braiding technical language with image and the language of feeling. The opening image of “a pair of nebulized hands / twitched their telemetry of regret” sets a tone of urgency. This tone is deepened through the images of “lightning” under skin and “the bed held her like an eel behind glass.” However, between these two moments the speaker notes that “The mouth asked to be studied / and then forgotten.” These lines do a dual gesture in that they acknowledge the fleeting nature of the moment but also the equally urgent need for attention.

This attention continues to be pushed against as the poem develops. The sharp imagery of the mother described as “Stumbling along that bundle / of concertina wire and a hospital gown,” for example, is tested against the speaker noting later that “Except for the thud of the rolling pin, / I’d hardly known she was there.” This braiding of noting what is there and what keeps changing evokes the speaker’s emotional turmoil. By the poem’s end, the visual world gives way to sound, at which point the speaker himself is resigned to one final admission of being unable to hold onto more than this moment caught in lyric attention.

Cartography – Rodney Gomez

In the tundra of the very last day
a pair of nebulized hands

twitched their telemetry of regret.

Lightning pulled itself like a pearl
necklace from under the waxy
skin. The mouth asked to be studied

and then forgotten.

I quickly unfastened a yoke from her neck.
Still, the bed held her like an eel behind glass.

Stumbling along that bundle
of concertina wire and a hospital gown,

I found a mother folding a paper cone.
Except for the thud of the rolling pin,
I’d hardly known she was there.

She begged my father to pull
the trach tube from her throat:

as easy as dislodging a leech
from wet skin. She did it herself

when we’d fallen asleep. Pretend

I’m not here, she mumbled through blue
lips. The first time I noticed how

they resembled cracked cement.

How the sound of their grating
was a map for all visible things.

I’ve never been capable of cartography.


Citizens of the Mausoleum can be purchased from Sundress Publications.

unraveling with Gregory Orr

One thing I’m always reminding myself to do when revising a poem is to open up to what’s already there on the page and push beyond what I see to what else could be there. Usually I’ll write a list of images or words that the language of the draft as-is inspires. While I have no insight into how this week’s poem – “Song: Early Death of the Mother” by Gregory Orr – got written, reading it is a lesson in a similar unraveling of thought and lyric.

Briar_Rose_prickles_(3438080014)From the image of the “last tear” made of glass, the speaker begins an inventory of comparison images, each with its own metaphoric charge. The glass tear becomes “ice” that “doesn’t thaw”; then becomes a tooth; and so on. The eleven lines in which these images travel through pass by with such urgent enjambment, one is shook at the end by the rush of meaning and significance. This rush and tumble evokes the emotional tumult beginning for the boy in the poem, who himself is having to catch up with what has passed.

Song: Early Death of the Mother – Gregory Orr

The last tear turns
to glass on her cheek.
It isn’t ice because
squeezed in the boy’s hot
fist, it doesn’t thaw.
It’s a tooth with nothing
to gnaw; then a magical
thorn: prick yourself
with it, thrust it in soil:
an entire briary
kingdom is born.

from The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press)

* Onions & the friday influence

This week on the Influence: Onions!

Seriously: in keeping with last week’s post, I have decided to share this poem of mine, “Onions”, which was also revised after publication.  The original of this poem found a home at The Windward Review.  It came out of a writing exercise where I wrote about something I hated.  The original focused mainly on the graphic nature of chopping up onions.

What I feel is better in this revision is how the poem takes on a human element by becoming an elegy.

The line “dish I was told you liked” was in the original but wasn’t fully developed.  In looking back, I realized – Whoa, there’s a person in this poem completely unacknowledged.

Another revision: I have since made my peace with onions.  Bring on the pico de gallo!

split personality...totally
split personality…totally

Onions – Jose Angel Araguz *

The bulb, hard and heavy as a fist,
The slivers that unravel like the wings
And body of an albino cockroach,

The sharp stink
Of its flesh spitting
Against the blade —

I could do without
This unwelcome act of reducing
A ghost to paper shavings

For a dish I was told you liked,
That I persist in making
Despite your absence,

Except that I believe
That what gathers
And falls from my eyes

Is a part of you
Hungry to come back
To this table.


Happy tabling!


* originally published in The Windward Review.