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Poems by Grace Cavalieri

Can I Count on You

(for Ken 1930-2013)
 
If I were lying in a boat in a wedding gown would you see me floating by
If I named a star after you would you lie in the grass looking up
If I lived in a white house would you come sit on my front porch
If I were caught in a bad dream would you please wake me up
If I had a plaid blouse would you help me button it
If I could jitterbug would you do the double dip
If I were a red cardinal would you hold out a sunflower seed
If I caught all the fireflies in the world would you give me a big jar
If the night nurse forgets to come would you bring me a glass of water
If I had only minutes to look at the silky moon will you come get me

The Third Heart

The first heart is made of self,
A spirit you brought with you and
Stays after you leave.
The other heart is flesh and blood,
The person you always wanted to know.
But the heart l love best is where
The two meet, overlap,
Forming a tiny center.
A heartbeat that can be heard.
If you cannot listen, who will?
And if you can find safety,
Within these sounds,
There is nothing outside you will need.
 

Transformations

for painter Erick Jackson
A rhapsody encircles his walls
without interruption,

Fate and fortune are
in a drawer filled with light,

like a pair of gloves
illuminating the ideal room,

The wrought iron is overwrought,

A striped cushion comes to life
with an occasional song,

Good luck and prosperity are
knobs shaped like a single ball,

The closet is a black box
telling the latitude/longitude
when the bedroom
              crashes to earth,

sampling a door,
sampling a window,

The fundamental doubt of dark

blisters into

red, yellow, blue,

scribbling   testifying  signifying

lofty pleasures,

I had a tiny doll house once with little chairs,
How could a house so small hold so much  love?

How can the eye so small see so much of the world?
 

1972

John Denver and Cass Elliott sing in concert
 
Before John Denver crashed his steel peg
into strands of sunshine,
and before Cass Elliott choked on a head of lettuce
her last Caribbean trip,
they sang Leaving on a Jet Plane.
She wrote it and I wondered
why it was so sad,
here she was rich and famous,
though I admit a little fat.
But before she left and he left,
and everyone I knew left,
we sang that song,  to keep fear away
and carried
records in the trunk of our car.
Trini Lopez was the rage then
and we kept Trini under cover in the trunk
so wherever we happened
to find ourselves, we could always offer up a dance.
Cass was sad. I’m sure of it. She had cause to be.
That smile was just a mask, and all the rest rehearsal.
I was there that year. I should know.

 

HERE IS A POEM YOU CAN HIDE IN

When you come to wherever
failed hopes go, turn
here  instead,
where my child’s voice is heard
in the night, still damp from dreams.

Talk of sweet surrender against the  
 February snow, and then turn inward,
where silver trims the bitter limbs.

I’m not afraid to mention
precious aspirations, and
 all we know went wrong,

 I’m here with you,
under the same sun and same moon,
above darkness,
right here, the source of prayer,
right here in my hand.
 

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
 

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