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Poems by Grace Cavalieri

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.

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.
 
(credit: Casa Menendez)

Silence, The Way It Hides The Truth

Silence, wanderer, you, with your purposeful imagery --
 Nothing inflames the past as much as you do!
How many places can you lead the mind at once --
Perception?  (Oh, now you look down) – Invention?
(Now you nod) -- So much you hold, to darkness,
then to bliss.
Look at this collection of poems -- most expressive,
don’t you think? Various patterns fused together? All
with Silence. So, how many                              
different directions do you own, replenished by words?
You surround language with sensuality as if you were alive.
You want to do us in,
your ceaseless spirit, avoiding my gaze,
taking us down the road with you.
 Silence, the mother of all muses,
always the winner, in wait for us, with your cunning,
treating me to the final word.

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.

 

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.
 

Swan Lake

Having a mother who's a writer is a different grammar
from a mother who bakes cookies and measures table cloths,
That's why my children tugged each other,
after they studied a picture of me
standing on points, satin toe shoes,
a stiff tutu, with a split golden tiara on top my laquered head.
I looked like a silver string had been pumped from
hell to heaven with me in the middle.
Look at mom, they said, how pretty, perfection, every hair in place.
What a disgrace to tell them it was my cousin Marilyn
with the Stuttgart ballet who flew away like a bird to
reclusion and cancer, one lonely autumn day.
 
I, on the other hand, was the one with strangle-tied dirty toe shoes,
the ones with bloodstained toes inside
and never stood still long enough for a photo, much less a pose.
Hair frisking all over, just like now, rushing along,
For a second I thought I'd take the credit and make them all proud.
But for momentary glory, that would rub them wrong. I'll tell them
who I really am, at whatever cost, no satin, nothing to brag about,
--still going strong.
 

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