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Ordering information for White Stucco Black Wing: www.redhen.org

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The following poems first appeared in these journals: “Imagine Your Body,” Rio Grande Review; “This Is the World,” Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review; “What Kind of Life” and “Soon” (under a different title), Runes:A Review of Poetry; “Tinged with Red Neon Clouds Drift in from the Coast,” Third Coast; “Escuela and Rengstorff,” Los Angeles Review.

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Contributor Notes kk2ga@virginia.edu

Karen Kevorkian

Karen Kevorkian



Wheeze of Steadily Burning


Wheeze of steadily burning fire or a cat swishing through tissue
or a woman in a basement apartment straining from a window
to reach bras and underpants hanging from a line

slack between two buildings to cover them with plastic
this space of no particular use a conjunction

two three-storied E-shaped buildings
rain turning over to itself
the idea of repetition

gusts scraping dangling silver pipes
a charm of sound. Cantonese vowels swaying

down the cul de sac. Toilet flushing. Yesterday
a chicken dying window to the right
awk awk awk this unmistakable dying


El Camino Real

As in
           Maxfield Parrish, though he wasn't
Californian. Still,

that's what it feels like

after dawn, or when the sun
declines, when a shadow's black wing
cuts white stucco, the street for a minute
quiet, then
a child cries, or a
radio speaks
                       the inky fluttering tip of a crow's wing

disappears over the white edge of a roof. Between buildings
palm trees effloresce, wide spray of
green fronds, something processionally
to bear. Ah, Aida.

Maybe. Less
grandly

new trees ringed with metal

staked, what's
to come


Where Filbert Met Kearny

White apartment buildings surged down the hill
then they climbed so bone pale. Did my heart

beat hot or was I
a string of tape unreeling the taught? Heart
in my hat. That fine hat
of gold shaking feathers their whisper
too lately come.

Locked in my three rooms the key rasped safe.

Or was it soft?


Imagine Your Body

Imagine your body inlaid with mirrors recording
what passes and passes
away. Move quickly

to a sound like the shimmer of
a thin sheet of metal like the tinny rumble of
stage thunder.

                      Or think of
cement lawn furniture in the south where broken
ceramics and mirrors are pressed into mineral
a tabletop patchy and fantastic
                                            all that passes
part of this surface yet nothing lingers
                                  like cloud shadows
on the ground or an airplane passing. Or a rough
plaster figure into whose chest someone
cuts
a small round window.


Her Clothes Weren't Quite Right for the New Town

The afternoon is pleasant. Why shouldn't it be?
It is wearing grace and pain; it is dressed like a woman.
                                                       —César Vallejo

Trees dazzling the roof,
Rain went to her closet and tried to find
something to wear. Something brilliant, unequivocal,
liquid thunder.
                      Too much black,
                      Rain said. At least
give me
sequins.
           What
           followed:

                      red clay buoying water
water slithering
                      exuberant
gutters
           little Versailles.
                                          Oh wind me
you bedsheet sky.


                      Cocoon? The task of opening
all the boxes on the floor. All the sleeves inside

flowing out onto


This Is the World

The white sky the black
embroidery of leaves. Song
raucous. Coarse
hue. All the small birds
safe in the trees. Liquidity
of skin. Burnish
it. This is not

pastoral. These days the
bright lights swiftly followed
by dark. Don't forget
pain. Why should she crack
the bowl of her bones? Why
should the dying be hard?


This Membrane Hour
This Liminal


Through the hour of dog bark
lace curtain shadow
watery imprisoning
the businesslike cars surge

hour of persistent
water threading pipes

a closet in another room
a ticking along
a metal bar

Every morning bones insistently tell another day

(Oh she was
ready and I wasn't
the only one she)
           Dawn creaks
                                   Mozart
on the radio twitter of
keys the occasional
tree frog stipple

not evening's blunt
cicada drone the swell the
hum the subside


Hokum

           will continue to fight the myth. . . of the global
Islamic revolutionary in the vanguard of
holy war against the West . . . what deadly
hokum. . . .

                     Sirens climb
the scale seamlessly glissand

then a languid decline. She is
looking down now. Heaven. A choppy sea
of car surge toward noon. American flags

clip-on wands. Cold noodle freeway
sprawl. El Jalisco. Acrylic Nails. Mi Tierra.
Churches big enough for two or three 757s.

Lots carved from johnson grass, sunflower,
mesquite. Train's velvet call. Her body
transparent now

flying up. She must be up

if she looks down. The straightened
body. No more kinks. Chiffon dress
smoothed blue. Lipstick

slash. Sleep nested in the quilted
polyester. Cymbidium

just so
in clasped hands. Don't she

look beautiful? Oh
there. There.


It's Muggy Here

The green sheen of rain wore down her mineral

her flint sluiced

she'd come so far for this
one thing and it was just

another thing

a daily swim through the blank
sun of afternoon

the terrible green


The Red Dream

                                          Incessant tapping

a woodpecker and overhead
big machinery of fire

           Essentially a boys' club where women have no place
oh the military does what it wants

                      Turkey buzzard in the tree top
sick glistening of its gray wings

                      red hood
                      soft whistle

           She dreamed a red cross marking ground
                                               so the plane could
find her (had she shown him

too much affection?)


                      Buzzard in the tree top

gunmetal cloak wisping
gnarled rigid red hood

                                           this was not
                                           Disney

all around gray limbs and brick houses
red as tomato soup in a child's white
bowl
          the child leaning into its breath


What Kind of Life

What kind of life is this
this ripe this
smooth this unhurrying
                                ascent and descent

quiet soles slapping shining wood floors
first to go up then
                         to come down. The faint
dog bark. The faint hammer's
lift and strike.


Soon

The wind's harder breathing
stuttering the window frame. A limited
war. Its limited
deaths.
           Soon

a few months the leaves again
budding. All that
murderous flourishing.


Tinged with Red Neon Clouds Drift in from the Coast

Here is a story: a teacher invites students to his house where his wife lies in bed in the front room, paralyzed. He never mentions her, and neither do the students as they step quietly near the body following a dusty yellow path

downhill past a water tank and its obsidian surface, a rat-rattling barn, and all the high pale grass with its dry rasp that may be lizard or wind yet all walk faster

to the creek where small trees are moss-grimed. Where lichen scabs bark. Where brown water flows cold over gold stones, where the horsetail, green anachronism, clouds the opposite bank, where they cross on fat white rocks, come to the fallen redwood, the base as tall as three, its spindly, mudcaked, erotic roots. Here is a story: A dancer watching her performance on film – My enemy is time. Here the rain penetrates

and earth gives up hardness, lets go of roots and the tree in its entire being accedes to the inevitability of dirt, yields to the shudder and fall. So memory saturates and who survives her own story? Though in the end it doesn't matter whether you are the body celebrated or forgotten, the creek flows with a sandy accumulation of big trees

casual dust. And all night rain with its hurried thrum and spit. You're wine-soused, dinner offering some illusion of others except the night knows better and you wake with a heart full of dread. This isn't poetry

that hustle and sigh. Listening is hard work, the rain with its morse code antique communicator

the something being told, lying beyond seeming-to-know, some whisper, promise,

release. Ss-ss the rain's admonitory, fingertip tapping. The wet leaves fluttering with importance. Heave and turn these messages of night, another coast, and your irrefutable body.


Escuela and Rengstorff

Escuela and Rengstorff run into California Street then through to
El Camino Real where Lieutenant Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza
and party crossed this area in March 1776 en route to
select sites for the presidio and mission of San Francisco

                      and where, Fray Pedro Font wrote that same month

they came upon an Indian carrying grass. Seeing them, he
manifested the greatest possible fright,
holding out his bunch of grass
as if by this present he hoped to save his life.

The air swarming with ospreys, eagles, condors. And on the ground
antelopes, grizzlies, elk, and wolves roaming. Rabbits you could
catch with your hand. Great runs
of salmon and steelhead. Numberless

seals and whales. Ten thousand
Ohlone.
               To cross the road you press a button on a pole
stop cars. The way people will
stop, turn,

help a blind woman or man, flash of dark

hands held out, feeling, something to
shrug away from.
***


Karen Kevorkian is the author of White Stucco Black Wing, a book of poems to be published in 2004 by Red Hen Press, Los Angeles. Her poetry and fiction appear in or are forthcoming in the Antioch Review, Fiction International, Third Coast, Rio Grande Review, Borderlands, 88, Runes, Los Angeles Review, VOLT, Hambone, 5 Fingers Review,River City Review (the Elvis issue), and Mississippi Review, where she twice won fiction awards. She has held artist residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Foundation, and the Ucross Foundation.

Recently she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she teaches poetry and fiction writing at the University of Virginia. Before that she lived in San Francisco, where she edited and managed production and distribution of art books for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. In Charlottesville she is unlearning that experience in the letterpress studio at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center.