A sestina for Halloween

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After watching the trailer for the new remake of Carrie, I remembered a poem I wrote eight years ago. After revising it numerous times, I think I’m finally happy with it.

Scar

Her body soothes each wound into scar
but she is never done. Memory
cuts the skin like a silvered worm,
refuses to bow down.
Her fists ache with disappointment
when the razor dulls a moment

too soon. The moment
flesh closes into scar?
More itchy disappointment
until she bloods the knife again. Memory
is carved like this. The first cut curved down
her arm. A documentary of worms

on TV as she squirmed: worms
in her head, on her skin, the moment
grown into a long second spent down
on the floor fighting the urge to scar
more symbols into memory.
She recalls disappointment

that the sting wasn’t worse, disappointment
in the too-small wound, the worm
of blood barely flown. Memory
so thin. She bandages today’s moment
with gauze and hope. She has a dozen scars
now, a hundred—her skin worn down

like hatred. Like love. Down-
stairs he damaged her. Disappointment
bled contempt with her youth, her lack of scars.
Her lack of fear. His fingers worm-
like, fraught with booze. One moment’s
miscarriage into a memory

that contaminates for years. Memory
clots like blood. She sets the knife down,
caps the antiseptic. Breathes a moment.
As usual, the new cut is a terrible disappointment.
She hunts between scars
for an uncorrupted worm

of skin, clean of memory and disappointment.
The razor will slip down so easy—the way a worm
disappears after rain. Nothing left but scar.

Autumn skies and nostalgia

As some of you know, I first appeared on the internet years ago with a website called November Sky.

November Sky website updated

That was the first incarnation of my voice on the web. Several years later, I followed that by publishing Autumn Sky Poetry.  I posted a lot of leaf pictures on that site:

What’s up with the sky theme you may ask? Truth is, autumn has always been my favorite season. The cold kills pollen, bugs, and various molds so I can breathe again. When I was a child, we had no allergy medications so I grew up looking forward to the leaves changing and a brisk wind heralding winter.

Autumn Sky Poetry 15, the Art Issue—now live!

What’s not to like about this season? This year, I managed to get outside more than usual, thanks to my homemade depression/anxiety treatment (yeah, having my kid go away to college has been stressful). I’ve been hiking. A LOT. Why? Because this is what I get to see when I go out into the woods:

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IMG_2744  IMG_2746

Of course, daytime is not the only reason I love autumn. Here’s the best way I could think of to describe dusk when the cold seeps into our lives once again. I wrote this in 2005:

Strange Violet Behind Trees

—after Wolf Kahn

The house hides in dusk’s spangled purples.
It’s hard to see such colors, capricious
tones barely there once night has almost
sucked the light from the forest.
And silhouetted trees rear up
as I walk, interrupt the horizon,
their dry leaves muttering imprecations
in the magenta gleam of twilight.

You have gone and I must be careful:
the path has faded to mere shadow
and I can no longer understand
the exuberance of a leaf twisting
in the breeze. How does autumn tangle
everything so elegantly, as when crimson
replaces the decorous sheen of green?
Such willful ambiguity. I walk steadily.
The soft retreat of chlorophyll asks useless
questions. The mother tree sleeps
and misses the violet whoop of fall,
the overlapping dive of it all.

By now night has stolen
twilight’s indescribable glow.
Our house has quietly slid
into an atmospheric blur.
There is nothing more to see.
My darling, the violet has disappeared
and I’m not yet home but I can still feel
the brittle slump of frost behind the trees.

 

First Crocus — March 14, 2013

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Today is the day! The first crocus in my garden bloomed. Of course I must post my 2006 poem in honor of the occasion:

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First Crocus

This morning, flowers cracked open
the earth’s brown shell. Spring
leaves spilled everywhere
though winter’s stern hand
could come down again at any moment
to break the delicate yolk
of a new bloom.

The crocus don’t see this as they chatter
beneath a cheerful petal of spring sky.
They ignore the air’s brisk arm
as they peer at their fresh stems, step
on the leftover fragments
of old leaves.

When the night wind twists them to pieces,
they will die like this: laughing,
tossing their brilliant heads
in the bitter air.

_____

© Christine Klocek-Lim

first appeared: About.com: Poetry, Spring Poems Anthology, March 22, 2007.

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Saturn’s moon Dione in slight color

from APOD 5 November 2012 — Image Credit: NASA, JPL, SSI, ESA; Post Processing: Marc Canale

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Saturn’s moon Dione in slight color

Dione hangs over Saturn, craters leading.
Isn’t the face always the most battered
part of the body? This is what happens
when two things are locked together:
the dark forever in front of us,
an infinity of nothing
we can predict.

This morning you said you were sad,
and I grew sad.
It wasn’t raining,
but the sun felt like grief—
her bright, cool rays too much for me. Yesterday
you said you were tired and we slept
too soon, using the long hours
before moonset trying to dream.
Sometimes stars shoot down to Earth
on nights like that, but it’s hard to see
diamonds stuck in the side of 2 am.

Last week you said you wished we could move north,
where the sky is larger than the ground
and I thought of how we would live there:
burnt twigs for warmth, hands cupped
around water as best we could,
scuffing our marks on the planet
as winter moves in.

Dione is stuck with Saturn
though I doubt she knows how long it’s been.
We’ve had decades together, finding each
other’s socks on the wrong side
of the bed. Children coming and going.
We hurtle toward death as though we planned it
that way, though we never thought
we’d still be here, orbiting
each other, never alone.

Only slightly surprised.

 

© 2012 Christine Klocek-Lim

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I wrote this poem in November, when things seemed terribly stressful. Of course, the stress didn’t last. Like fog drifting into nothing between the trees, it disappeared, and new difficulty replaced it, along with joy and discovery, and the sheer implacability of life walking on…

‘Tis the Season

xmas tree ball

Some of you may know that I sometimes write completely ridiculous holiday poems. Here they are—this year’s gem and a few earlier attempts. Enjoy!

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‘Tis the Season

The malls are insane but you have to go shopping
for ribbon and candy to fill the last stocking.
You can’t stop to cry, ’tis the season for snow
and ice covered roads jammed with cars going slow
slow, so horribly … oh! There’s a dude dressed in red
on the side of the walk. He’s clutching his head
like someone hungover. His pants are all goopy:
the knees ripped right out, the butt kind of droopy.
You slow down to stare, but then offer a ride.
He kisses your cheek as he ducks down to hide.
“What the hell are you doing?” you ask and he smirks:
“Rudolph got wasted, went kind of berserk.”
You gape, shake your head. “Oh please, you’re not Santa.”
He shrugs and explains he was over Atlanta
when someone cracked open a bottle of whiskey.
“Three shots and the next thing I knew they’d got frisky.
Comet kicked Dasher right in the——”
“Stop!” you freak out, “Just keep your mouth shut.”
He laughs and you blush, thinking this must be a joke,
he can’t be St. Nick, he looks like a hoax.
“You can drop me right here,” he says while you frown.
“Prancer’s waiting right there, at the edge of the town.”
You slow down, still dubious, but the dude is quite right:
near the tree is a reindeer, head down, fur a fright.
“I told them they shouldn’t imbibe in December.
You’d think they’d believe me, or at least remember
the last time this happened.” He wrinkles his nose
and suddenly yells, “You dumbass! I almost froze!”
You freeze, not believing that Santa would curse,
but Prancer just snorts and throws up on your purse.
“Um—” you say, shocked. The reindeer looks sorry.
You gulp, and inch backwards: Santa’s no longer jolly.
He takes one step forward and scratches his ear—
the next thing you know there’s nothing but beer
left on top of the snow. And footprints. And barf.
You sigh, somewhat pissed, enough is enough,
but as you turn around twice to get out of sight
you trip on the vomit … UGH. What a night!
Next year, Santa please, don’t let them drink booze.
I’d like to go shopping … with clean shoes.

11 december 2012 — Christine Klocek-Lim

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The 12 days of Catmas

On the first day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the second day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the third day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
nine fishy farts,
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
ten tons of fur,
nine fishy farts,
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
eleven spitting kittens,
ten tons of fur,
nine fishy farts,
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
twelve stolen salmon,
eleven spitting kittens,
ten tons of fur,
nine fishy farts,
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

24 december 2011 — Christine Klocek-Lim

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Mrs. Kringle’s Lament

They said we’d only get an inch of snow
but when I wake it’s covered up the road
and slush has pulled some branches down so low
my favorite tree looks like it might explode.

I trudge outside with gloves and scarf and salt
to promptly slip and fall upon my rear
before I even reach the curb. “Assault!”
I bitch, then freeze as something licks my ear.

I scoot away, my heart up in my throat
and think: a zombie! when the icy slop
slumps to the side like puke on glass. A coat
so cheery green it makes me want to pop

out both my eyes emerges next to me.
I groan and pinch my nose. I know that face.
Those bells. That burp. He’s grown a sparse goatee
which doesn’t quite enhance the scraggly lace

sewn on his cap. “Oh, you again!” he sneezes,
grabs my sleeve as though I’ll help him up.
Yeah, right. I dodge his drunken grasp and seize
his pointed, chilly ears. He drops his cup.

I just don’t care. He thrashes, tries to kick
but cannot get away. “Where’s the deer?”
I snarl. I wish that Santa’d get here quick
before his merry crew drinks all the beer.

“You think I’d rat out my best friends? Oh please!”
he cries, then vomits just as someone’s head
ducks out of sight behind the frosty trees
like Samurai Jack, but drunk. And wearing red.

“I know you’re there, you might as well come out,”
I call, my spirits sinking to despair
as I catch sight of antlers and a snout
crouched low behind my car. I swear.

This happens every year. No joyful bells
for me, oh no. Instead, delinquent elves,
escapees from St. Nick’s gift wrap cartels,
crash in my yard to sleep. “Show yourselves!”

I yell again, not hoping for too much.
Surprise, surprise, who waddles out? The Man.
Kris Kringle. Santa Claus. I blink and clutch
my head (I drop the elf). “What’s the plan?”

I ask. I hope he knows what’s happening.
He “ho-ho-ho’s” and sways a bit, then slips
and suddenly I feel the bitter sting
of cognizance: he’s drunk from feet to lips.

I sigh and drag his jolly ass to bed,
park the sleigh, coax Rudolph to the shed.
The elf I tuck into an extra room.
The beer, I’m sure, is gone, and none too soon.

10 december 2010 — Christine Klocek-Lim

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 Don’t drink on xmas eve

It happened this past midnight clear:
three crazy elves and two drunk deer
crashed in the yard atop my sled
then slipped downhill against the shed.

The sky was dry, the sunset gone:
where in hell did they come from?
Their groans and moans kept me awake;
I knew there must be some mistake.

In the dark I clomped downhill
and yelled my ire into the chill:
“Don’t you know it’s xmas eve?
Be quiet or I will make you leave!”

The sudden hush, like blocks of ice,
fell on my ears (oh so nice!)
as elves and deer peered up at me
like I was Nick and they: debris.

“We lost our sleigh and drank the beer;
your backyard was so close and clear.
We just could not control our stumble—
here we fell in this great jumble!”

Then their chortles broke the calm.
I dragged them home to wait for dawn.
The barfing wasn’t too severe,
but have you heard of snoring deer?

Santa owes me big for this
I thought as one elf burped a kiss
but it wasn’t till I fell asleep
that Santa came for his lost sheep.

And beneath the tree? What was my take?
Three beers, two bells, and one fruitcake.

19 december 2007 — Christine Klocek-Lim

Haboobs – an old sonnet from 2009

I just saw this post on wunderground (my favorite weather site) and it reminded me of a poem I wrote back in 2009 (never published). I have to remember to not read the news on the weekend. It’s this little pact I made with myself: weekends are for fun and family and writing and reading and gardening.

haboobs

There are so many things I shouldn’t read;
when misfortune has already come in real
life, why decipher more? The speed
at which we realize one ordeal
does not preclude the next. Another time,
another storm will suck transparency
away. Thunder sounds inside the grime;
it’s hard to breathe, impossible to see.
Why bother reading news after the fact?
Who wants to know how strangers may have died
when here at home all the walls are cracked
with loss? Except, perhaps the other side
is greener—grass instead of sand. And rain
that gives its people peace instead of pain.

ETA: oh, wow, that same photographer has a video! It’s amazing. May 9th, 2012 – Dust storms near Casa Grande and Phoenix by Mike Olbinski:

First Crocus 2012

This is the first crocus that made it to the flowering stage in my yard this year. I type this with clenched teeth as I examine the neatly eaten stalks that signify a number of other crocuses may have bloomed already sometime when I wasn’t watching. Something is eating my flowers and I would like to find those crocus-eating creatures (probably a bunny, otherwise known as a hideous, evil, toothy demon) and explain that eating my flowers is not cute. NOT CUTE AT ALL. It results in that throbbing sensation on the right side of my temple. It makes me curse in horribly uncreative ways (you stupid, damn, stupid rabbit!). I want the crocuses to bloom and then experience a natural, withered death without meeting any teeth anywhere in their life cycle. You got that stupid stupid stupid damn bunny? I don’t care if you have a fluffy white tail that makes my last remaining cuteness neuron seize up with awe. Leave my crocuses alone!

First Crocus

This morning, flowers cracked open
the earth’s brown shell. Spring
leaves spilled everywhere
though winter’s stern hand
could come down again at any moment
to break the delicate yolk
of a new bloom.

The crocus don’t see this as they chatter
beneath a cheerful petal of spring sky.
They ignore the air’s brisk arm
as they peer at their fresh stems, step
on the leftover fragments
of old leaves.

When the night wind twists them to pieces,
they will die like this: laughing,
tossing their brilliant heads
in the bitter air.

© 2007 Christine Klocek-Lim

Coventina

My dear friend Larina lost her son this past weekend. I am heartbroken for her. He was only eleven years old and though he had cerebral palsy, his passing was unexpected. Several years ago I wrote a poem for her based on a newspaper article written about her and her son. I’m pasting it below in honor of his memory.



Coventina


— river goddess, known for healing

That morning he dreamed of dolphins. Deep waves. Smooth hide and clicks against his body. The sea moved his feet as if he could walk on water and he woke sweating, afraid of the thunder outside. Afraid of the rain, but the dream remained, too, even as his mother strapped him in his wheelchair. For once, the squeak of its joints didn’t upset him. Because this was his first time at the pool, he tried not to show how much he wanted it but her face told him she knew. She knew he wanted to swim, even if his limbs disobeyed his mind. Even if that black feeling came back. And the water was warm. Buoyant. They’d painted dolphins and fish on the tile so he swallowed the fear down, almost choking. Closed his eyes. He imagined the pool was a river, an ocean. The slap of hands splashing became waves and he almost smiled as the lights flickered, buzzing electricity. When they blinked out and emergency lamps clicked on, he discovered the mural on the ceiling: a woman with butterfly wings, black hair flowing past her cattail dress. Coins strewn around her feet. Shimmering green light everywhere. He wished he had a dime to toss, but then his mother lifted him up and let go and for the first time in his life he moved by himself. He laughed, something inside breaking open like a tsunami, like an impossible dream, and then he saw his mother smile as tears slipped down her face like rain.

— for Larina and her son Zack




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How to photograph the heart

You remember how the lens squeezed
unimportant details into stillness:
the essential trail of rain down glass,
the plummet of autumn-dead leaves,
your grandfather’s last blink when
the breath moved on.
Your startled hands compressed
the shutter when you realized: this is it,
this is the last movement he will take
away from the silent fall of morphine,
beyond the soft gasp of the nurse,
past the sick, slow thud of your heart
moving in the luminous silence.
I wrote this in 2005 after I spoke with my mother about my grandmother’s death. It is not autobiographical, yet it is in the way that poems draw truth from real experiences. I’ve always found that odd about writing. It’s the title poem from my first chapbook, “How to photograph the heart,” (The Lives You Touch Publications).
-Christine Klocek-Lim

First Crocus

Since the first crocus of the season popped up last week, even with all the snow still on the ground, posting an old poem of mine seemed appropriate:
 
 

 
First Crocus
 
This morning, flowers cracked open
the earth’s brown shell. Spring
leaves spilled everywhere
though winter’s stern hand
could come down again at any moment
to break the delicate yolk
of a new bloom.

The crocus don’t see this as they chatter
beneath a cheerful petal of spring sky.
They ignore the air’s brisk arm
as they peer at their fresh stems, step
on the leftover fragments
of old leaves.

When the night wind twists them to pieces,
they will die like this: laughing,
tossing their brilliant heads
in the bitter air.

 
 
 
© Christine Klocek-Lim, first appeared on About.com, Poems for Spring, 2007