Turtle Woman & Other Poems

for Ron, who brings out the poetry in my life

The following poems are from my published collection, Turtle Woman & Other Poems, available on Amazon.

1  Turtle Woman

“When the yogi, like a tortoise withdrawing its limbs, 
can fully retire his senses from the objects of perception,
 his wisdom manifests steadiness.”
—Bhagavad Gita II:58

Will you still love me if I finish first?

Slow as I am to you whose speed is your god, I move.
Admiring really your shell-less existence—
On my back it’s sometimes hard to right myself.
In the soup they call me a delicacy,
So I praise vegetarians,
Though I myself sometimes snap
At insects, small fish, & moving fingers.

But what’s a creature so heavy-laden to do?

O, lest I sound maudlin
Or sorry for my webbed feet,
I withdraw my questions
Along with my head & legs
And drop out of your race.

2  Starvers

for K. R.

She starves
Her body
& her mind
Stands vacant  haunted
She’s dying
To be thin
She’s not
Concerned
With curves
She wants
Angles
Points
Narrow
Hollow
Spaces
What she craves
All starvers
Understand
A bulge around the middle
Is a sin against God
Thighs that spread out over a chair bottom
Make you sick
Breasts that mound under a sweater
Make you gutter for breath
Round arms  full face  big calves  wide hips  double chin
A mighty army marching over your skeleton
Capturing your pleasures
Holding your life hostage
You’re a prisoner in a guardhouse
A dog in a pound
Weight and measurement
Are not useful tools
They are obsessions
She has starved
Her body
Thin
But she cannot
Exorcise that last
Ghost of flesh
That ghost that keeps adjusting the damn mirror that throws
Back a size in your face  a size that screams
Just a little smaller
Just a little thinner
And then
Everything
Will be OK . . . 

8  Metaphysical Reminders

Where that brain stores its loot
There stands a cabin by the river,
Where it dreamed a body too good
For flesh and bones,
Too good for breath and blood
Where the clock spills stars,
Hands that milk until honey flows,
And a mouth that torches neck to toe.

And as it worked itself out there
On that bed of river mud
Squeezing and kneading
Lust from every pore,
As hips pushed and crushed,
The end of an era seemed at hand,
And if you slept through the night,
You would awake with the clock 
And a note on your pillow
Telling you to get yourself out of there—
The river is rising.

24  Greek Skin 

for my mother’s father, Gus Johnson

In a Kentucky coal mine he fell across the track
and a loaded coal car cut off his right arm.

This world offers no shelter to nervous pilgrims; 
this world takes a dim view of pain even as it inflicts it, 
as if some people were meant to starve, 
as if some people were meant to speak 
English with a Greek accent, 
but my mother loved him so much that his death
became her deepest grief, and when she crossed
the bridge that connects this world with his, I hope
he met and greeted her with both arms,
he won’t let her fall through a hole in the sky, will he? 
And though he never had the chance to speak
a word to me, I think he must have been a multitude
of races and climates, my blood senses his Greek skin
was tinged with Africa, my mother’s darkness
and my father’s whiteness left me an odd shade of gray.
It’s not so much confusion as an unwillingness to pray—
Yet many fold their hands when trees lash in the violent air.

But if he knew my concern, he could wipe from my mind 
the dust that blew in from faraway places 
where they cut down all the trees 
and cut off the hands of innocent thieves
and Greek slaves slaughtered each other
to entertain a Roman tyrant.

92  Alex as Artist

“It’s a dog’s life.”

When he curls up beside me on the couch 
and settles into steady breathing,
his ease of comfort flows like a polished sonnet.
He has mastered the art of comfort.

When I cook, he perfects his craft of begging.  
Taking bits of food off 
the ends of fingers requires precise placement
 of teeth and tongue. 
He’s mastered the art of eating.

Some say he’s cowardly, but he’s just careful. 
The artist’s eye and ear perceive the world 
to be a dangerous place, 
so he’s crafty to run from loud noises 
and sudden moves.

Some say he’s dumb, but he’s just deliberate.
He wants to keep body and soul together
and retire a well-matured craftsman.

Unlike schemers, shams, and fantasizers,
 he takes his art quite literally,

and he has learned to simplify: beg food, bark, 
and sleep  sleep  sleep.

Since publication of Turtle Woman & Other Poems, I have revised “Alex as Artist” into the form of an American-Innovative sonnet:

Alex as Artist

“It’s a dog’s life.”

When he curls up beside me on the couch and settles into steady breathing,
his ease of comfort flows like a polished sonnet.
He has mastered the art of comfort.

When I cook, he perfects his craft of begging. Taking bits of food off 
the ends of fingers requires precise placement of teeth and tongue.
He’s mastered the art of eating.

Some say he’s cowardly, but he’s just careful. 
The artist’s eye and ear perceive the world to be a dangerous place,
so he’s crafty to run from loud noises and sudden moves.

Some say he’s dumb, but he’s just deliberate.
He wants to keep body and soul together
and retire a well-matured craftsman.

Unlike schemers, shams, and fantasizers, he takes his art quite literally,
and he has learned to simplify: beg food, bark, and sleep sleep sleep.

***

To read my prose commentary on this poem, please visit, “Original Poem: ‘Alex as Artist’ with Commentary” at LetterPile.

© Linda Sue Grimes 2013.  All rights reserved.

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