Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Marjorie Maddox, "Articulate" & other poems

Marjorie Maddox
Lock Haven University

“We Want Your Poems on Small Penises,”

the respected journal obediently
displays without pun or prejudice
in its sub-standard two-inch column
shrunk to allow room for the nine-character
web address. “Nom de plumes
accepted.” “Payment for the brave
in copies of others’ complaints
of long-term inadequacy.”
We want your poems on small breasts,
on lack of climax, loss of libido,
inability to find a lover
last seen in the vicinity
of 5th and High. We want your
vanishing limbs, truncated torsos,
eyes collapsing into REM,
fingers without their prints,
tongues tied up in the inevitable,
hearts unable to thump that unsolicited SOS
sent last May without an SASE
and no contest fee—
all in iambic pentameter,
double-spaced in type size Extra Large,
an easy read, quick enough
for a scan on the metro, for that spasm of relief
on the john, between the rejections
and the unworthy innuendos, after the idea expanding
unnecessarily into the rest of your life.


After the Jackson Pollack movie
where Ed Harris won’t stop jabbing
that paintbrush and voice
into my non-cinematic air,
I want to make something big
and screaming.

My friend says I need a wife for that.
My husband agrees, complains he’s one,
but still brings me sandwiches
when I type shut the door,
whispering little words
too small for canvas.

At night, after the children
cry their separation fears,
we watch thrillers on a screen
the size of Pollack’s visions,
high-definition substituted for paint.

What can be super-imposed on this life
I love and flee from to re-create
the concrete, the already-here,
flat and fading on these walls
big enough for the expressionist,
for me?

Cocktail Party Conversation

“Oh,” they say to those
Ohio-born, before they saunter off for more
caviar at that lace-draped table
where Bostonians cluster
in correct company. Three steps backwards
as neat as a coy cat’s retreat. A yawn
elegantly disguised.

Don’t cry little Buckeyes,
dabbing your Midwestern eyes
with the linen; don’t stab the brie
or sink the soufflé, however surreptitiously.

Revenge can have its label “sweet”;
we give it away: our past and pastures
rolling far from flat expectations.

Of course, land furrows its peace
into our creations, into syllables
rooted in where we’ve grown.

But always there’s the surprise
of the hill, the garrulous hand-shaking city,
the wide-mouthed moon shocked
over the corn’s simple locks.

In your staid silence,
we serenade, scribble lyrics ferociously,
we nod across the perfectly set table
to say in our broadcasting dialect
to those less fortunate, “Oh,”
“Hi,” “Oh.”


I’m not; all fine-toed thought
tip-tripping on this gang-plank of tongue,
clumsy and cumbersome in the outside air
of others’ ears and expectations,
all incubation of consonants off-limits,
sounds’ syllables looking silly,
without a line to dry on.
What a mess of metaphors the mouth makes!
It’s the pen that injects
tap dance, the click-clack of keys
that decodes the meaning.
Outside the letters, I’m incognito:
a suburbanite. Two toddlers.
A mouthful of stumbling practicality.
You won’t see me
till I write.

Professor of English at LHU, Marjorie Maddox has published 8 poetry books and over 280 poems, stories, and essays in journals and anthologies. Co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania and author of two forthcoming children’s books, she is the recipient of numerous awards. Her short story collection was a Katherine Anne Porter Award finalist.

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