Monday, November 29, 2021

PRATIK LA SPECIAL: CATI PORTER POEM, "Revival"

 

CATI PORTER

Revival



In the garden there grows an argument

beneath the apples, apocalyptic

hydrangeas exploding into blue fumes,

roses ripe as a picked-at scab,

the salt-studded path burbling

with snails’ fresh foam.

 

In the garden there it grows,

behind the toolshed, between

the tines of the rustled rake, the mucked

wheelbarrow, the brown thick of the shovel,

the garden’s profusion of chokecherries,

raspberries, amid the ground’s sullied gold.

 

In the garden, a home to worm and bone,

beetle hulls, chassis of vehicles protruding

from the mulch, busts and torsos

marbling in the sun, and shining,

wheat chafing the thighs of those who rise here—

whole groves of us breaking the soil, cracking beneath the sun.

 

In the garden we grow, impertinent weeds,

whistling reeds, diseased trunks, a whole litany

of assertions; electric poles tilting, telephone wires

wringing silence from the clearing, reawakening

the chiming and chirruping birds, the sunflowers

performing their yellow mysteries.

 

In the garden, a blunt elbow, an artist’s wrist,

a pubic bone, a rush of hair, a globe

glistening on the dismissed surface,

leaves greening and unrolling their deep need.

What goes to seed in this holy erasure

grows, the burning bush extinguished.

 

In the garden, this awe, this expectation

of rough beauty, this supple white hope, raw

and clinking in the air, the tossed coin’s messy

aspirations; this disaster, a revival;

the gloss and sheen of love like vaseline, lubricating our fall.

 

Cati Porter is the author of eight books and chapbooks, most recently, The Body at a Loss (CavanKerry Press, 2019). She lives in Riverside, California, with her family where she runs Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry and directs Inlandia Institute, a literary nonprofit. 

 

 

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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

PRATIK LA SPECIAL ISSUE HIGHLIGHT: AMERICAN POET VANDANA KHANNA's "Creation Myth"

 

VANDANA  KHANNA

 

Creation Myth

 


You’re a different kind of girl, one

only a god could love, one the animals

spurn because they like you better lonely.

 

Creation isn’t for the faint of heart.

 

Let him fashion you from sandalwood

and stardust and soap. From navel and seed.

 

Give up all the thin hymns you once knew.

Become a bird that never shuts up, a river

that won’t bend easily to drama.

 

Become a tangle of wives, the tight clutch

of girls, a swarm of goddesses.

 

Wake from the tiger in your dreams

and with all the hands you are given,

pull at the thick, gold scruff of this world.

 

Vandana Khanna is the author of two collections of poetry, Train to Agra and Afternoon Masala, and the chapbook, The Goddess Monologues. Her poems have won the Crab Orchard Review First Book Prize, The Miller Williams Poetry Prize, and the Diode Editions Chapbook Competition, and has appeared in publications such as the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, New England Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner and Guernica. She is a poetry editor at the Los Angeles Review.  

 

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Tuesday, November 2, 2021

PRATIK LA ISSUE SPECIAL : ALICE PERO's "The Parts"

 

ALICE PERO

The Parts

 


Sticky fingers, sticky-icky time, like molasses, sticking us

Or not sticking, sliding, not knowing who or how

just slipping along, no control and we flop

our ski legs floundering

then our ice cracking and falling into pieces again

 

No point in pointing fingers, no one knows why

these are places we go or who we are

We aren’t in place

Just placed

 

There are plenty of dogs who would tear us apart

if ever they found us

down that long corridor of history

and when we became meat in all its various parts

the dogs loved all the parts, the flesh, the parts that cry and moan

the gluey sinews, the wing bones, the toes

 

But then we break away again

and we just sing, we sing

and those notes hold

We are outside skin

We are whole

 

Alice Pero’s first book, Thawed Stars, was praised by Kenneth Koch as having “clarity and surprises.” Her poems have recently been published in the anthologies, Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond, Coiled Serpent, and Altadena Poetry Review. She is founder of the reading series “Moonday” and the chamber music group, “Windsong.” She is a dedicated dialoguer with poets around the country, having produced work with over 20 poets. 

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Thursday, October 14, 2021

PRATIK LA SPECIAL : MARIANO ZARO POEM, "Diagnosis of Men as They Undress"

 

MARIANO ZARO

 

Diagnosis of Men as They Undress

 


Some men undress and cover their chests—

arms folded like the front legs of a praying mantis.

The waistband of their underwear is flaccid but the socks

are tight and print deep grooves on their shins and ankles.

Fully naked they tilt their hips backward.

They bite their nails, they have sex with their eyes closed.

They infuse you with shy, post-orgasm sweat

that smells like malaise. They build roads, bridges.

It’s customary for them to give you an expensive ring—

platinum, perhaps canary diamonds.

But the ring is always too big or too small.

You have to take it to the jewelry store to be resized.

The jeweler is clumsy, dents the metal;

and that’s all you can see now when you put it on.

 

Some men undress and tilt their hips forward.

They also walk around with their arms slightly open,

as if their armpits were irritated, had a rash.

Many of them trim their pubic hair or shave it completely.

They like mirrors, towels, soap, body lotion, talcum powder.

When having sex, they become enthusiastic, acrobatic.

They show great willingness to please.

You almost want to give them a Good job! sticker,

an A+ on the report card, when they are finished.

One day they will hold your hand (guide your hand,

to be precise) and will tell you Put your finger here, please.

Don’t be prudish, do it—one, two fingers.

They will bury their faces in a pillow.

They will cry. They will be forever grateful.

 

Some men undress and when they remove their shirt

and leave it on a chair, for example,

the shirt becomes a fountain, then a lake.

They cannot see the lake or the fountain, just the shirt.

This gives them away, that’s how you recognize them.

You can swim in the lake if you want, or cup your hands

and wash your face, drink if you are thirsty.

Sometimes they walk in the rain, alone, without hurry.

Talking with them for a while you cannot tell

if they are naked or fully clothed. Dogs lick their hands.

When they die, earth takes them in like lost children;

and you understand that they are going back home.

They don’t leave much behind—a few coins, a pocket knife,

a white handkerchief with no initials—clean, neatly folded.

 

Mariano Zaro is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Decoding Sparrows (What Books, Los Angeles) and Padre Tierra (Olifante, Zaragoza, Spain). He has translated into Spanish American poets Philomene Long, Tony Barnstone and Sholeh Wolpé. Zaro hosts a series of video-interviews with prominent poets as part of the literary project Poetry LA.  


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Monday, October 11, 2021

PRATIK LA SPECIAL ISSUE: Hélène Cardona's poem, "A House Like a Ship"

 

Hélène Cardona

A House Like a Ship

 


I live in a house like a ship

at times on land, at times on ocean.

I will myself into existence

surrender, invite grace in.

I heed the call of the siren.

On the phantom ship

I don’t know if I’m wave

or cloud, undine or seagull.

Lashed by winds, I cling tight to the mast.

Few return from the journey.

I now wear the memory of nothingness

a piece of white sail wrapped like second skin.

 

Hélène Cardona’s seven award-winning books include Life in Suspension and Dreaming My Animal Selves, and the translations Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac), Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings. Her work has been translated into 16 languages. The recipient of numerous honors, she holds an MA (American Literature, Sorbonne), received fellowships (Goethe-Institut, Andalucía International University) and taught at Hamilton College and LMU.


 

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Sunday, October 10, 2021

PRATIK SPRING 2021 HIGHLIGHT: IRISH POET DANIEL WADE TRIBUTE TO BAUDELAIRE

 

DANIEL WADE

 

Ici C’est Paris

(Baudelaire at 200)

 


Far from the slack-jawed lookout of gargoyles

    and the belfries’ hourly clang, far

       from the bistro’s sulphurously-lit

 

terrace and the Seine, briefly mirror-clear

    against a livid laudanum sky, far

       from boulanjeries and airbrushed views

 

of Île Saint-Louis from an AirBnB pied-à-terre

    where neon slithers over drenched asphalt,

       far from the demi-monde burning in autumn’s

 

low fervour, you are reminded this is still your city

    of daedal arcades, you who were lulled

       by the golden melting point

 

of a hashish smog, laureate of amber dusk

    and of the traffic jam’s low-gear chansonnier

       serenading the cathedral’s smoking husk.

 

Far from the firemen who broke through her

    wrought-iron portals as Le Gardes Français

       might, smoke whirling a grey monolith  

 

skyward, and the flèche in its oaken acuity

      like a smouldering pillar stoked by God,

        collapsing with grimmest of ceremony

 

far from vault bricks plummeting and leaden

    ribs fractured, you are reminded of hailstones

        that rattle like coffee beans in a mason jar

 

off zinc rooftops, the horses you can no longer

    hear trotting apocalyptically off the cobbles

       and the copper, sea-green statue

 

of the aporetic disciple helicoptered off

    for repairs, fodder for tourists’ Insta feeds, 

       here is your city’s riot-prone heart,

 

now ablaze with neon, her ossuaries cached

    with aeons of tibias and femurs, shivering

       archive for the dead. Odd to think that,

 

as long as the light from our headlamps crawls

    over graffiti, civilisation is still near,

       even far below the familiar rumbles

 

of the métro. Far from the laser light’s blinding,

    ultra-violet sweep, from neon-painted faces

       and smoke-bombed walls and sweaty

 

light, far from the PAs thudding loudly as war, 

    far from the DJ spinning a remixed web

       from the turntable, from the damp floor

 

of the city’s graffitied bowels, you can crawl

    on your stomach through cubelike tunnels,

       and, rattling in concert, all these ivory skulls.

 

You might turn a corner, only for death to offer

    you a cigarette, perhaps even greet the skeletal

       reaper as a friend, its notched scythe threshing

 

the soul-crop at characteristic random. Yet we

    have the privilege of paralysis, the luxury

       of lawlessness, ‘’til we see for ourselves    

              

that rosy dusk tingeing the arrondissement

    like an Impressionist’s fleeting blur,

       and wave at the cruise boats paddling

 

under the Pont Neuf bridge, and remember

    this is your city still, Charles, unrecognisable

       as it might be, C’est La Ville Lumière.

 

Once the flavour of beaujolais wine dissolves

    with each oenophilic swallow, might we regain

       the city in your name, O patron saint of ivory

 

skulls that keep the catacombs fully stocked,

    our hands placed on scorched balustrades?

       The morning fog hovers thin as a veil

 

that perhaps once sheathed the shapely limbs

    of Herodias’ daughter, though not enough

        to see clearly. Bloody paint splatters

colonial statues, a colonnade’s bone-white trusses

    glisten as graffiti smears them like oil and fear

         hovers in doorways and parking meters

 

and masks hang below chins. Do you smell

    the courage on my breath? It’s lingered for hours,

         drowned out by sweat and craft lager,

 

smoke slurred by the wind, petrol fumes snarled

    and heavy aftershave. We are the generation

         that gave up on intimacy by all accounts,

   

calmly eating lunch under patio heaters as glass shards

    season the pavement, but I’m not here for volunteer

         cleanup crews rinsing down a graffiti-splattered

 

plinth from where the statue of a long-dead trafficker

    of human cargo was toppled, nor for the boarded-up

         windows of La Roche Posay, Le Coq Sportif

          

and Gucci, each entrance and exit manned by flics.

    Though I have opal scales for eyes these days,

         ears immune to the brush of your whisper, 

 

there are your verses, black-eyed, cravated flaneur,

    slum socialite, to whose verses my reddened eyes

         keep returning, that intrigue, mystify, lure 

 

and even, after two centuries, inspire awe again.

 


Winner the Hennessy New Irish Writing for April 2015 in The Irish Times, Daniel Wade and his poetry and short fiction have featured in over two dozen publications since 2012. A prolific performer, Daniel has featured at many festivals including Electric Picnic, Body and Soul, and the 2019 International Literature Festival (ILFD). His debut collection, Rapids  has just come out.

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Sunday, September 26, 2021

HIGHLIGHT: Iranian American poet Sholeh Wolpé's "Unblinking Eyes" from Pratik's Special LA issue

 

Sholeh Wolpé

Unblinking Eyes

…and I thought, perhaps daddy was right.

 

 


At nine I imagined the dots

on our pet fish

as unblinking eyes, dark holes

that took in our distorted faces

through the sky of her plastic tank.

 

My brother’s fingers made waves

in her world, sent her scurrying

behind the plastic grass, the way his pounding

kicks on my bolted door sent me hiding

behind my rickety bookshelf, twirling

long strands of my wild hair

as I froze behind three rows

of storybooks and Persian poetry.

 

Every year, daddy replaced the hole-ridden

bedroom door, until one day he didn’t—

as punishment he said, because:

What do you do daughter to incite him so? Share!

 

I began to conceal the kick marks and dents:

Magazine faces thick with makeup,

curvaceous bodies in short skirts holding up

a box of detergent, a tube of toothpaste,

their impeccable orthodontic smiles… 

and I thought, perhaps daddy was right—

 

my brother was always after something:

the marble I found and claimed, the bowl

of cherries I sequestered, or those records

I played on my red turntable, refusing

to share that corner

of joy carved from air,

mine alone. Then, now. Last night,

at mother’s house, after a meal

of lamb smothered in saffron sauce, potatoes

fried to a crisp, rice slippery with butter,

my brother wanted again. He kicked

with his words, called me whore

because I live with a man out of wedlock.

 

What is he after now? Abroo?

That untranslatable un-wrinkling of honor,

“water on the face” that blurs sins

the way our courtyard pond hid its algae,

imagining itself the nocturnal rocking chair for the moon?

 

Or is my beloved brother

                                  (and believe me, he is beloved)

after something I can never fathom,

universally virile— something

perhaps only a fish with a hundred

unblinking eyes may see?

 

 

 

Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-born poet and playwright. A recipient of Mid-West Book Award, and PEN/Heim, her literary work includes several plays as well as 12 books of translations, anthologies, and poetry, including Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths, and The Conference of the Birds.

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