Saturday, May 16, 2009

Guilty as Charged by Carol Tarlen

I'm going to put up a poem/week by my poet friend Carol Tarlen who died in 2004 leading up to the reading the S.F. poets are doing July 10 in her honor in S.F.
Today's poem is Tarlen's poem "Small Deaths."

"Small Deaths" by Carol Tarlen

I tear my hair like the
mad queen of hearts. "What? you
used a whole cube of butter
to fry one eggs?" Leah's eyes drop;
I refuse to see the lashes cast
shadow on her cheeks, too busy
thinking, I must wipe dust
from under the coffee table, and
I'm tired, my gaze sagging on the
electric wires splintering
the pale blue sky. Her voice
trembles, "I'll go to the store,
Mommy, and buy it with my allowance."
Another small death, this time caused
by the misappropriation of fifth
cents worth of cholesterol.

Last night my obscene "friend"
called to awake me with silence.
The telephone company will charge
eleven dollars for a new number.
Friday the boss will sign my
paycheck at three minutes past
five. The bank opens at ten a.m.
Monday morning. This weekend
marks our conversion to
vegetarianism, Sunday dinners
of brown rice, inexpensive
walks on the beach to quiet
our taste for blood.
And this evening, when the bus
winds up and down city hills,
pushing me closer to my 5/6ths
psychiatric hour, when I will discuss
the hostility inherent
in my passive aggressive
overdue bill, I will be grateful
for a seat by the window;
I will be grateful for the sun's
heat on my cheek, it's light
slipping through the yellow
and red strands of hair that
I stretch around my fingers
so that I may sing
there are rainbows in me yet.
I am pulling the cord, steeping
onto littered sidewalks, furtively
searching for two-way mirrors,
hidden microphones as I slouch
on the therapeutic chair, pleading:

Guilty of screaming at my child
Guilty of stealing the office stamps
Conspiracy to cheat Landlords of Cleaning Deposits
Writing Rhetorical Poems with no Metaphorical Content
Refusing to tend my garden, instead
Proclaiming the aesthetic purity of weeds
Guilty of even the inability to fantasize rape
The nonownership of a vibrator
Yes I am guilty of
Refraining from reading the NYSE Daily Quotations
Choosing instead to watch fog seep through the heavy
branches of cypress trees, dark green foiaage weted
darker green. Yes! Yes!
guilty of the desire to raise my fist to Montgomery Street's
Skyscraped glare, shouting "Next year in Madrid!"
and most of all
Guilty of keeping my mouth shut
Crossing my legs in public
Ignoring the wind's cry as it sweeps grease
from tankers mounting the ocean's dying waves.

The doctor wipes his glasses on his
imported Italian shirt and suggest
redefining options,
acceptance of limitations,
a course in assertiveness training.
I shrink back on the cushions
and cop a please. "Nolo contendere."

I am thrusting the key in the
hole, turning its toothy blade.
Leah is linking her hands
around my belly. I flop
rag dolled on the couch as
she removes my shoes, her
fleshly padded fingers de-
manding, "Play with me."
It's no game, kid, this living,
no accident that profit
is mined from dirty phone calls.
OK, pumpkin, do I bury you
with the wasted butter
or do we buy guns? You're
right. It's too early
to go to bed. Even fifth
graders know the earth is not
a pyramid, but a porous,
shimmering egg dropped
monthly from between our legs,
giving and taking the pounding
of our feet and we dance
round and round, sweat
circling our throats, our faces
lifting to the moon dripping
juicy on our tongues flagging
cars that screech past
the window, yes, our wet, red,
throbbing anarchist tongues.


Maxine Beneba Clarke said...

'Small Deaths' is a beautiful poem. I started peeling back the layers and then realised they weren't going to end! Thankyou for posting this.

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started peeling back the layers and then golf equipment realised they weren't going to end! Thankyou for posting this.

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