“Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.”
~ Mary Oliver
Her careful hands, held apart,
fingers curved around
some unseen crystal ball,
the moth, splayed motionless
in morning sunlight,
blending with weathered wood,
as if sapping its hue and pattern—
on each hind wing
markings, round blue eyes,
blink, open, closed, open,
or to deflect,
as without touch she shepherds
away from footfall
the humble assemblage
of membrane, scale, and lymph,
light and fragile
snuffed or saved (which?)
when enfolded by the dark, for
she finds no decorative creature
awaiting her return that night.
I NEVER TOLD MY MOTHER
That a mean girl teased me
as I still struggled to get my boots on
when recess had already ended.
That a single bed taught me
and the bearded boy with long hair
the press and release of desire.
That I wept and wept because she noticed
fingerprints on the refrigerator
after I’d spent all day cleaning.
That I was elated one evening as we left the beach
carrying bunches of sea oats, and she caroled
“Bringing in the Sheaves” in spirited, 4/4 aria.
That when alone with her body
before it burned, touching her cold skull,
I longed for her to tell me anything at all.
DIRGE FOR THE JAZZ MAN
For Tom Mallison
his invisible congregants
tuned in to revel
in the puzzles of jazz:
jams, jests, jive, raw jittery mojo,
patina of old brass,
eros of a smooth chanteuse,
fresh risks of chord and discord,
improvised or songbook straight—
whatever the cats played back then
or cook up now. No notes of his own,
sang no song, our angel Gabriel:
devoted only to annunciation,
sharing of sound.
back road cacophony:
truck crashing into car
killed that acolyte.
Such harsh news struck
as ear-shattering blasphemy:
chaotic metal on metal on flesh
on bone. Then too much silence.
Then shrill sirens lacerating dark
like some tenor sax descant,
an eerie, bleak release in a minor key.
A longer silence followed.
Seeing in every split-
rail fence, barred gate,
or wires paired against blank sky
an empty staff, no clef.
But listen, he says. Listen
to what they say after
the slow march along St. Philip:
“cut the body loose.”
And we in the second line,
tutorless, suited in blue,
yeah, dig that music but no,
not yet ready
DESIGN: A SEMINAR, 1982
proportion has been around
since the fourth century B.C.,”
says Mrs. Baedeker.
So far we’re alert, here
in the Lenox Hotel’s Dome Room,
illuminated more for waltzing
than for learning layout.
Blue light rims the circular ceiling
like some big gas range burner turned low.
In this difficult gloom everyone
jots notes in the back of the yellow
course manual, except the inevitable
pair of young nuns who take
dictation in their own three-ring
binders: “The essence of graphics
is a clear message pleasing to the eye—
ideas through art.”
Mrs. Baedeker asks,
“What gives a person an idea?”
We ponder where to place
the block of text, the pull quote,
the photograph, the cutline,
the copyrighted illustration.
We strain to arrange,
as we have been arranged,
punctuating these extended tables.
You, representatives of the Coast Guard
and Harness Horsemen International!
You, from Stop & Shop, with the Greek accent!
You, the gent named Diamond
from Pilgrim Plastic Products!
If you knew this: within the year,
some software will make obsolete
X-Acto knives, t-squares, rubylith—
obliterating all these tools and lessons, all
except a few principles, observations,
as, where one’s gaze lands upon a page,
(as long as pages may endure)—
would you then excuse yourself, leap out
of the hotel restroom window
wide open to warm radiance
and run down the city street muddled
with the random yeast of spring?
Jeanne Julian’s chapbook, Blossom and Loss, was published by Longleaf Press in 2015. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Naugatuck River Review, Poetry Quarterly, Kakalak, Earth’s Daughters, Spank the Carp, and The Lascaux Prize 2016 Anthology (forthcoming). Her work also has won awards in competitions sponsored by The Comstock Review, The North Carolina Poetry Society, The Lanier Library, the Asheville Writers’ Workshop, and Carteret Writers. Two recent Nature Inspiredanthologies include several of her photographs as well as one of her poems. She was the featured photographer in moonShine review, Summer 2015. www.jeannejulian.com