MUTED LOVE SYMPHONY IN THE BIG EASY DRIZZLE
empty pen on table
concrete walls in my body
bearded man blows the saxophone
politician says alright slickster
head feeling down-low
world news grim
purple moonshine out the window
I watch the timewheel rotation moving easy
henry miller he got some wild ass cockroach-sexy
he smilin’ like satchmo in the big easy drizzle
I smilin’ like ella she giving me sweet ass
one I love misbehavin’ cuz it’s me and my radio
world singing the muted-love-symphony
it’s rain on your sunshine
it’s no idea in the urban indifference
it’s love in dark corners
it’s angry-jack in the wildman blues song
it’s me and you holding hands in the forever-happy
Mama was a stoned thief
You had to love my ’mama’. Everyone did- especially men. Try and think Barbara Eden, Marilyn Monroe and Dusty Springfield thrown into a drug fueled painting by Jackson Pollack and that would be mama.
Growing up we were poor. Welfare kids. But that didn’t stop her from having the tackiest, richest looking apartment in the complex. What she lacked in funds, she made up for in bargains. We had statues like you would see in museums , but they were plastic and the greenery on them was as well. Mama knew better than to get real plants- she had no time to water them. Dates with wealthy men were her hobby, and one she was very good at. God bless her- because the first thing she did was make sure our teeth were fixed on their dental plans and dinners at their country clubs were where she ordered platefuls of lobster tails oozing with butter. By the looks on the dates faces, they were less than thrilled. But I ate myself sick, and happily so.
One day when I was about seven Mama marched me into a fancy carpet store. “We need something for the living room.” She said. Mama spotted a rather decorative oriental rug. She walked around the store for a moment, waited for the manager to walk away, and then sauntered up to the younger worker. “Hello, darling.” She growled seductively, “I need help with this carpet- can you roll it up for me and help me carry it to my car?” He was already hypnotized. He did as he was told. She had never paid for it. Back home, after she excitedly unrolled it onto the floor, she turned to me and said, “Now, Cyndi, THAT’S the kind of rug we deserve.”
When I was thirteen Mama had become friends with some neighbors in a few apartments over. One day I went over their house to tell my mother I was home early from school. No one answered the door but I could hear them all giggling. So I entered. Now, he truth is, I know I caught my mama smoking pot. I SMELLED the pot (and I knew this because a very nice policeman in health class lit us a fake one so we’d know the smell. Half the class snickered under their breath because we all knew how easy it would have been to get him some real stuff.) but she never admitted it. What she said between chest puffing coughs was, ” I just swallowed some air and it was very tasty!”
When Mama entered a room, it was as if burlesque music played in the background and all of heaven heaved a great big sigh- she was a goddess. Once, I was having trouble in my math class. I was a freshman, and my teacher had been a Sergeant in the military. He ran his classroom as if he still were. I was a straight A student but even flashing cute smiles wasn’t winning this one over. My grade, he assured me, was to be a B-. Being the type A personality that I was, I knew this would kill my honor roll status. I had no choice but to resort to the one thing that I knew would turn it all around…MAMA.
“Mama”, I pleaded, “You gotta help me- this guy is sooo mean!”
“Don’t worry about it,” she responded, “Let me at him!”
The following week were parent-teacher conferences. Mama wore something with cleavage and her Shalimar perfume. She went to her appointment with my teacher as I nervously watched the clock. One hour passed. Then two. Finally- she returned.
“How did it go?!” I asked nervously. Without batting even one of her long fake lashes, Mama quipped, “Not a problem- you got an A and I got a date!” And so I did.
Mama, despite her lack of funds, put me through dance classes, gymnastic classes and never wavered when I wanted the latest fashions. She did eventually nab her wealthy man, but found out that money didn’t necessarily mean more than a sunny house in Florida and a few fake yiddish words (There wasn’t an ounce of religious preference in our lives growing up, but she married into a Jewish family.) Every now and again mama would have the new in- laws over. She’d serve up some food that she thought ’tasted kosher’ (though I don’t even know if she knew what kosher really was) and say something like,”I put some creamish iksticka in the shmucks cavity.” In fact, she started adding ich and ish to the ending of words so often we thought she was over -doing the dairy, that maybe it was just a mucous problem.
Recently some of her old friends told me that my mother, having been on her own since the age of 15, when her mother died, basically raised herself. They said she learned early on how to play a room, and since my father was the baddest bad ass on the beach, and was the only one who had cigarettes regularly rolled up into his James Dean tee sleeve, my mother decided to marry him. And because, as she said, “He looked like Alan Ladd.”
Before my sisters and I were born they actually earned some degree of fame- they were on the front page of The Star Ledger Newspaper. For running a bookie ring out of their house. The same paper that is doing a feature on me March 21st. My mothers reaction to the scandal, I have heard, was to remark, “Did they have to use that lousy picture of me?”
Mama got cancer in 1990. She fought it as hard as a person can. Nothing had whipped her ass before- but this appeared to be doing so, and I think there reached a point where she realized that, finally, there was something bigger than her that wouldn’t buy into her flirtatious pleading. Cancer was the man that finally gave it back just as hard.
The last thing Mama said to me before she slipped into that last big beauty sleep, with her false lashes batting sweetly and her face fully made up was to be her grand exit line. Kissing her arm up and down, she looked at me and, with a devilish grin, said, “I love me!”
Cogito ergo sum mortuus
protien bonds protein
flesh to flesh
blood to blood
in a helical procession
dust to dust
yet there is something else
fracted and corrodent
turning epoch to hourglass
in internal grind show
and yet the flesh rails
the mind rails
and ultimately ephemeral.
Michael D. Grover
I hear her pull into the driveway.
Over the rain and thunder,
Over Dolphy blowing madness,
Over my concentration of reading.
I hear her pull into the driveway.
Like a bad omen.
Like calm before a hurricane.
Like a curse.
I know she’s nothing but trouble.
Shallow, Americanized, materialistic . . .
Blinded by green, seeing dollar signs.
I know that she’s trouble,
But I’ll let her in anyway.
Charles P. Ries
At the County Fair
By: Ellaraine Lockie
63 Pages / 34 Poems
P.O. Box 238
Tehama, CA 96090
This Review First Appeared In: Chiron Review
Ellaraine Lockie once again walks the tight rope between poetry that is accessible and ethereal – poetry that is at once plain spoken and musical. The title for her most recent collection of poetry is deceptively colloquial, Blue Ribbons at the County Fair, but her poems travel a varied world taking us far beyond the confines of the county fair. She uses a variety of technique and style to take us with her. As in her past work, she tiptoes along the high-wire that can separate the work of the academically trained and the self-taught writers.
In her poem, “Lost Legacy,” we find her wonderful ability to use alliteration with good effect. Moving us gently forward as she reflects on her beloved Montana, “Houses a hundred years old / with Alzheimer’s / Abandoned in isolation wards / on western prairies // Where homesteads were settled / on small town sanity brinks / Mine long ago lost / to profit margins / on minimal Montana farm // Hospice where I come to heal / from city assaults / My heart heavier / than the hard timber / turned driftwood soft.”
Lockie has received first place prizes for each poem in this collection, and as Lockie explains in her essay at the conclusion of the book, “And yes, some received blue ribbons at county fairs.” She goes on to say, “When I began writing poetry, naturally I thrilled to the idea of poetry contests. Not only are they fun and suspenseful, but placing in them gives credibility to cover-letters, pays money prizes or other honorariums and sometimes provides public reading opportunities.” So in a sense Blue Ribbons at the County Fair is sort of an Ellaraine Lockie Greatest Hits Collection. I especially enjoyed her poems focusing on the topic of modern romance – of one sort or another, such as in “The Other Woman”: “She shows signs of jealousy / That slight smart of suspicion / Of course she would know / How a woman / can move in on a man / Hang her underwear / over his philandering lines / Being a practiced poacher herself / An artist in sculpting seduction”. And again in, “Silk Dreams”: “I told you ahead of time / this affair / if it happened / wouldn’t be casual / But here it is a few hours old / Already wearing sneakers / and a wrinkled tee shirt / You say you will pass my way / when time permits / I say the way has potholes / that require attention / Mapped maintenance.” “Defying Gravity” also covers this eternal landscape with exceptional skill.
Lockie told me about her jump into poetry, “I previously had written in other genres (and still do)–nonfiction, magazine articles and children’s picture books. Nine years ago I had not read a poem since high school, except for the occasional one I came across in children’s literature. I thought I hated poetry; I thought it had to rhyme. Then one day an old friend sent me some of his poems and wanted my opinion. I liked them, but they didn’t rhyme. So I called my children’s writing mentors for advice. When they told me about free verse, I became obsessed with writing it and with getting it published. This happened at a tough time in my life, and poetry became my salvation. I just jumped in and started writing like crazy, unaware of what other poets were writing. I entered the poems in contests before submitting to editors, knowing that I needed something in cover letters to entice editors into reading my work carefully.” If she needed verification that she was on the right track, she certainly got it.
What I enjoyed most about this collection is Lockie’s ability to use language beautifully and yet have it remain accessible. I understood her metaphors; I could relate to her stories and pictures. And while her writing was accessible, it remained well developed and carefully composed. There are only a few writers in the independent small press who manage to walk this line and not fall in to the pit of abstraction ( Michael Kriesel and Gloria Mindock are certainly two who come to my mind). One wonders if as poets grow and extend themselves that they must inevitably drift further away from the common and push the art form, play with structure and elevate their style of their writing? But it was a joy for me to settle into Lockie’s recent collection and find no extraneous obstacles to my entering her world or her meaning. As Lockie has grown as a poet she has become more elegant about communicating common meaning.