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Poems by Grace Cavalieri

Japanese Cats

In Haiku there is one rule: no cats.
They are too cute, too easy to win our love.
That is the rule.
Today
my cat saw the blossoms blow
and begged
to go outside,
but first he turned to sniff his food
one last time .
 
This is not a haiku for
I have more I want to say:
 
I want to talk about my Beloved
who left before the dawn overlapped the sky—
how first he stopped to conjure one last sight
--we’d settled to a life
that no one could dissolve --
We entered it together in a bubble
floating toward a needle ,
a second stolen
 
turning back
before the blossoms.
 

Haberdashery

I wish I hadn’t made fun of him that day at Union Station when he walked away from the tie rack with the same green and blue striped tie he had in his closet at home. Green and blue slanted stripes. “You have one” I laughed. He said maybe the stripes are wider on the other one. I proved I was right. They were identical. I proved it. “Why have two exactly alike?” Because I like that tie, he said. I always liked this tie.  Then I recalled when I was 17 and  his mother took the hat right off my head. She liked it. Actually my father did this when she said isn’t that adorable. He took it right off my head and handed it to her. I never found another. None of this is what I want to talk about. This second, I want to show you the way the sun lights up the tree, such a funny slice of light it couldn’t be made by design, the way it hits the angle of green. There will never be another moment like it.

I DON’T BELIEVE HE EVER LIVED

I see his red and white striped shirt hanging against all the others left untouched by his breath. I say Thank You to that shirt for all the poetry readings and places, and also to the Navy Dress White for Angel’s wedding, I say Thank you to each one, following them down the rack talking  to a closet. Perhaps he wanted freedom from all these but I am still in the forest and wonder about the meals we’ve forgotten and the peaches once eaten—did they exist? That sounds like some do-good-seeking  philosophy. No. It is the quick cold snow of truth, biting and cold, gone as snow.

Awards Day

She always wanted to make love to a clock so she’d know when to stop.
She always wanted to be standing in the limelight in a white satin dress,
no, make that a strapless dress. Now she was older and, no, make that
one with sleeves. She wanted to be a cat hiding in a tree to catch a bird.

(acknowledgment: Poets&Artists, 2012)

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
 

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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