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Poems by Grace Cavalieri

Garden Party

This isn’t so bad I said two days after you died, Everything’s the same. You’re just not here. Look. I get up and make tea and you’re just not here, that’s all. I go swimming. I shop and I can carry groceries in with just one hand now. I can keep the house tidy and I don’t have to cook. I watch movies. This is the life. Then I called you at 4 for tea. And you didn’t answer. No matter how many times, you still didn’t . Then the cat grew into a dog with pink eyes and shaggy matted fur, the grass already sodden with rain was watered all night with the hose. The people who came talked about the wrong books. I couldn’t make them understand it was the young librarian not the movie critic. You said you’d take the cat to the vet, you said you didn’t care what it cost you’d put new sod down, you said you’d make everyone understand what I was trying to say but then you went so damn far away. I kept calling and calling because I know the dead have memory. I know you remember my name. Everyone is here waiting.

Big Mama Thornton

Last time I saw her
she wasn’t so big. Actually
she was downright skinny,
singing the final time
in Washington, D.C.
 
Backstage she drank a
quart of milk
mixed equal parts with
gin—
Seagrams, she told me.
 
Then she got the idea.
Could I contact the Seagrams
people and then she could
advertise for them and
they’d like her for
drinking a full quart a day—their gin.
 
I said no, I didn’t
think so, and I didn’t
think the milk people
would like the commercial so much
either. She still felt bad
about Elvis stealing “Hound Dog,
The way he did, even though
she was much too much of a lady to say so.
Once she talked about it, long ago,
before she started milk with gin.
 
I guess the drink left a
sweet taste in her mouth.
 
-- Grace Cavalieri
Acknowledgement: Cuffed Frays, Argonne House Press
 

Returning to Michigan

Flat and cold. The place you didn’t
want to go. A covenant comes alive, leads you here:
a person,  moment,  event,  you’d
rather go past the door than see.
All stories have to be made to fit their
own time.
 
The loon doesn’t know anger and shame
yet the detail of her place makes you
sad. The hungry dove remains silent.
It remains still. It surely must yearn,
yet nothing burns in its chest.
How it longs to make the sound
of the loon in the lake,
a single peal lifting the frozen
air of what cannot be said.

 

WHAT I WON

The sack dress was in style then
          with a single strand of pearls.
The sack dress was designed to see
          the body move lightly beneath.
That's why I wore it to my first poetry
          contest in Philly,
leaving my four-month old at home.
          Of course my husband had to
drive, as nervous as I was
          so he waited in the car all
day while I sat in the big room, first time out
          since I found my mother
dead and then had a baby two weeks later.
          My husband stayed all day in that
car in the snow. I won first prize about
          wanting my mother but
It was said much better than this,
          as you can imagine, to win first.
It even began with notes upon a phantom
          lute, although The Poet
said what do we know of lutes now?
          But what did he know of
walking into her bedroom and finding
          her a pale shade of lilac.
That just goes to prove I guess I was talking
          about the wrong thing in the poem,
and The Poet was surely on to something.
          I have to say I looked wonderful,
gaunt with grief and colitis, 1956,
          hurrying across the street
where my husband was waiting to take me home,
          the first wrong victory in my hand.

 

Sounds Like Something I Would Say
2010
 

LEARNING FROM BUDDHA

The cat likes to lick
a piece of butter
at the end of a knife
propped up by the window
so he can watch the birds
today I forgot the butter and the knife
he didn’t care
he knows
some days
there are no birds.
 

Alternate Theories

In answering my husband I say, “I only
wonder about ideas I can use in

poetry.” He says this is may be a waste
of wonder. Yes, I realize it is not a fair

market exchange, rationing my thoughts
this way. Here we are walking

in the woods - noticing fern. He says
he can make green herbs grow all

winter long in the kitchen -
the white receptacle by the window

the constancy of a blue
Glo-light - the waters of life dripped

in every day with care.
I say I like this. it’s  lighted

up until morning. Like the moon.
Finally something I can use,

helpful  to me - while writing in the dark -
as nothing can be seen exactly as we describe it.

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