Poems by Jean Anaporte-Easton


English 101



Her mother’s leg crossed at the knee
swung back and forth like a metronome
for hours, her face blank and unreachable.

A hot shower, a glass of water,
red blood on coral tiles.
She wrote of these things.

She excelled at spelling and grammar. 
Her ideas were her only fragments.

Standing on a street corner in fuschia silk,
sums of money: Her father furious
driving her to Northwood Hospital.  Unfair. 
Her mother was the schizophrenic.

Her friend sitting on the other side of her bed
talks to her of friendships between women, “ I mean
what would you say to this?”  Kisses her. 

The next paragraph is incoherent.

In our writing conferences we sat
side by side at a table, her paper
between us.  She smiled at the table
her full lower lip curved down, the tip
of her delicate nose flattened slightly.



She had been delivered, saved. 
She had given herself to Jesus. 
She told me these things easily.

At the gym, slippery with sweat, hoisting
a basketball on her fingers, no shrugs
or secret smiles.  Her body’s clear speech.

In a game, slippery with sweat, she
balanced a basketball on her fingers,
gauging the distance, the angle of the shot.
No shrugs or secret smiles.

She hid herself in jeans and
plaid flannel shirts, smirked
in white tees bright against
her dark skin.        Come get me.   



A downtown parking lot, Friday night.
Gunfire from the backseat of her car.
I can see her, the getaway driver,
giving herself to the thrill of the chase
and a telephone pole.

In conferences, waiting for her to reply,
I gazed at the tiny braid tailing
her close-cropped hair—a braid
the Chinese say you’re supposed to grab
if someone falls off a mountain
or slips from heaven.



Twelve years ago in April, when the tulips arrived,
I kept studying the dusky pink ones, the green
of their thick stems rising into the base of the petals,
the pink there flushed dark as burgundy.
And each time I looked, I saw your cock,
the big veins almost green under the skin.
But tonight I won't stay, not even
terminal can persuade me.

Instead you draw cocks, I crayon them,
telling you that April those tulips
while in my car the sub-zero night
darkens and bleaches the flowers
you bought this afternoon.

At the Place to Start, we danced
till you were out of breath.  Smoke
from your cigarette rose
in the milky haze, blue
as the shadows on your lungs.
Unwrapped in that dark, the red
curved blossoms startled.  Like sirens,
like you, they called and called. 

Home I held the stems under lukewarm water remembering
the dead white tip of my daughter's nose the winter
she was a stalk from anorexia.

So the rest of the flower is opening
wide and red-orange stretched like a mouth as
far down its throat as I can see clear to the chartreuse center
where the stamen spring up pale rooted, shiny orange stemmed
bodies glistening pink with sticky yellow shoes at each tip
while the petals like tongues cry for a sweet taste, their centers
white streaked with violet broadening on the tongue's plain,
magenta, glossy red with dark veins reaching  here i am
here i am  here i am   don't go  don't go  don't go

And the bud that escaped frostbite loosens a baby bird
all beak and pointy tongue all opening all hunger and demand



Outside Our Bodies, Clean and Empty at Last


                                                            for Holly & Delia


She cuts her body to release her bones
her true spirit from its igloo of flesh.

How does flesh freeze into marbled blocks
of ice, no vent, no center-burning fire?

Another girl refuses all suitors until the day
two brothers appear at her igloo.  Blonde!

Like no men she knows.  "Yes," she says.  And learns
what she has chosen:  Two polar bears push her

through a hole in the ice.  That girl wanders
along the ocean floor while small fish

devour her flesh.  Neater than cuts, no blood-
stained tile.  Then she climbs toward the light.

But the story can't end with a skeleton.
She has to dream a loving man and drum

herself and him into flesh.  The woman
without polar bears to drag her into the sea

has a harder time.  She cuts her body,
her bones march out.  In X's they lean together,

ribs of tipis with smoke holes, of course.  But the fire
has been extinguished.  The body lies

a cooling heap, slabs of meat, abandoned
like buffalo carcasses by hunters ignorant

of sacred gifts.  They killed for the skin, the tongue,
later, the bones, $12 a ton in Chicago. 

They did not notice their souls fly back
to perch with blue and black and yellow-

headed blackbirds, even sore-pecking
magpies--all feeding on the backs of buffalo.



Copyright © Jean Anaporte-Easton

Jean Anaporte-Easton has published most recently in Poiesis, and 13thMoon.  She is the editor of Breathing From the Belly:  Etheridge Knight on Poetry and Freedom, to be published by the University of Michigan Press in 2008.  She has taught poetry in universities, schools, prisons, and mental health facilities.  Presently she is a professor of English at West Virginia State University.

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