verbing the teabag, or, more evidence the Republicans are clueless
corporate censorship

poem a day: nos. 7, 8, 9, and 11 (better late than never)

Badgirl Moi I'm waaaaaaaay behind, so these are my poems for the last five days, minus one. No. 7 is the clean/dirty poem; #8 is about routines; #9 is about a memory; #10, unfinished, is about Friday; and #11 is about an object. I don't know if #7 is the clean or dirty poem; you decide. It actually started as the memory poem for #11, but I decided I wanted to use something else for that. I'm still working on Number 10.

I wrote a mind-boggling four poems today. Mind boggling in number, certainly not in content, though a couple of them I'm pretty happy with. It's a bit like doing therapy, digging up images and ideas like this. "Water from the Well" came out pretty easily and "Wings on a Bullet" practically wrote itself. I had to work a bit for "Walk on the Water" which will probably get a new title too, and "Insomnia" was really a struggle and feels forced. Probably because there are no Ws in it. *rolls eyes*

The game plan is to let these all sit through May, and then go back and revise them all in June and see what happens, and how many I wind up with. But just the fact that I wrote FOUR poems in one day has me reeling. And on top of that I'm sick. So, without further ado, #7:

    Water From the Well

My grandparents had a hand pump
across the street from their house.
It stood long-handled and rigid
in a tiny clearing, hidden
by fragrant, shaggy cedars.
When I was little
it was a scary place,
dark and deep in the woods,
the path hard to find from the road—
a place I could get lost, finding.

The water was cold and sweet there
as what ran from the house taps
was not,
and my grandfather went to the pump
with two galvanized buckets every day.
He taught me
how to draw up water
by giving it a little of itself
and the enthusiasm of two
leaning on the long arm
until it gurgled and spilled from the spout
over my hands
into the waiting tin mouths.

When I was older,
my teenaged cousin—
rocker, daredevil, idol
—took me to the cedars
where we found another wellspring
that needed little priming, and
worked the long handle together
to draw up the wet gush
to fill a waiting mouth
or spill on the ground like water
through my hands.
The forest seemed lighter after that,
the path clear and well-trod,
but still, somehow,
brand new
and known only
by us.

© Lee Kottner, 2009




Sleep and I
are breaking up.
He cheats on me
with younger women—
a classic story.
I used to come to bed
with anticipation, relief, pleasure
in the soft sheets,
the weight of quilts
or the cloud envelope
of a duvet in a cold room,
settling into the warm seat
of my own surrealist theater,
a free ticket every night.

But despite the new comforts
of cradling foam, Egyptian cotton, despite
the meditation bells, the steamy shower,
clean teeth and applied ungents
to smooth my skin,
sometimes I’m left standing
at the box office,
nothing left at the will-call,
or, admitted, trapped in hypnagogic previews
of sparklers, falling objects, and ear worms,
half-awake, half-aware
that the film is flapping, broken.
Sometimes the lights
don’t go down until dawn,
and there’s no popcorn,
the soda is warm,
the floor sticky,
and the air too thick for alpha waves.

It’s all right. I get up then,
make tea, and curl up with my new lover,

© Lee Kottner, 2009



Walk on the Water

One year, when winter
declined to arrive
and fall was glowing and balmy
around us,
the lake froze overnight.
We woke to hoarfrost
riming stark branches,
to glittering grass,
and three inches of pure crystalline ice
on the lake.
I was a skater then
and my best friend was too,
and we ventured out on it
gliding near the shore at first
to test the strength
then, bolder, out to the middle.
Our end of the lake was shallow
so there was no much danger
in a little daring
but a big thrill.

It was like skating on glass,
a view into a house
we had only seen through warped windows.
Minnows and pike scattered from our shadows
as though we were osprey,
skittering over and between sunken rowboats, tin cans, coolers,
all those treasures lost overboard
in carelessness and calculation.
We skated in among the reeds and wild rice,
over waving weeds,
and found that creepy, eerie,
like trespassing some forbidden realm
we weren’t meant to see.
But for that short day, before the miracle lapsed
and the ice thickened to opacity,
we walked on water
and felt ourselves forgiven
whatever we had done
or might do
when the world was less magical
and wondrous.

© Lee Kottner, 2009



    Wings on a Bullet

The night my dad collapsed,
I lost his wings.
He’d given them to me to keep, his legacy,
with his bomber jacket,
evidence more of his service
to his parents’ new country
than his prowess
as an angel of death.
He’d earned them—
silver wings flanking a dropping bullet
—in long months over Europe
as a ball-turret gunner, only
to be taken down fifty years later
by his own house and
the gas from its cantankerous furnace,
like some lost Jew
we thought he might be.

I walked for hours that night
in cold Canadian fog,
huddled in his jacket,
the wings pinned to my undeserving shoulder.
Somewhere on Mohawk Road
they left me
as though seeking him,
while I plotted how to get home
in a darkness filled with gray wisps
and water.
I never saw them again,
but Master Sergeant Kottner

Fifteen years later,
when his heart finally laid him out
he went into the furnace
with his car keys
and one dog tag
to tell us
who he was.
I found them later in the ash.
It was clear
he didn’t need the wings
or the bullet.

© Lee Kottner, 2009


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