poetry quarterly

10th anniversary

Paulette Beete

 

POEM ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEATH OF OSAMA BIN LADEN
May 1, 2011

Now the mothers can cease their laments,
and the faithful forgiving dead walk back
to their lives shaking off grave cloth, road dust like
so much sand clinging everywhere after vacation.
...............................The glorious dead
unpeel their names from monuments as
America swallows the sob lodged in her throat
without choking. In the graveyards of America
we audition a new bogey man, less flesh, less bone,
a new beginning for the same mistakes.
...............................Our war-born race of metal
men once again made flesh shuffle-off-to-War
high-stepping through ticker tape, toward
a new threat rising where X marks the spot
of our rejoicing in amazing, bomb-dropping Technicolor,
and our blood-soaked hands Hallelujah themselves clean.

 

 

FIGURES

1

From finger to palette knife to brush,
we are always walking backwards—

and how to push the figure onto the page
the breasts into their accurate angle
clavicle, shoulders, ribcage,

to push the arm up:

not a reaching toward
not an erupting
but an arm weary from
always letting go
of its god.


2

And what does the body lose
in its traveling
from form to paint

and what does the eye lose
to the fingers, those awkward
fumbling tongues?


3

You might need to change from
horizontal to vertical.

You might need to find another
use for prayer.

You should have at least two shapes:

this one the moment before doubt
the other one, the one we don't know
yet, the moment possible only


4

after—

that sharp indentation of God
his finger her back his
traveling ground.

Push the paint gently here:
resist the urge to measure
the depth of this holy furrow,
to weigh how much tension
the figure will bear.

Tense your own back.
Feel the shoulders resist
this sudden thrust backwards.
Wonder why your god has left you
unmarked, unsure of the breaking place.


5

Exaggerating can also be useful to the act of prayer.


6

What is waiting to erupt from these hands? What hungers to slip out? Will the fingers then find themselves aching their way back toward heaven or will they end merely empty?


7

Shift from light to dark.
Respond quickly.
Some mixing will occur.


8

What I saw was the light's
milky sheen at shoulder's summit,
a line of shadow squirreled
under the body so she lay finally
on a platter of darkness.


9

Keep referring back to the figure,
that tricky reference point.
Give yourself some distance
Let each gesture fling its way
apart from your body.


10

Consider absence and what is formed in the presence of absence.
Consider the figure accurately defined by all it does not inhabit:

the hollow beyond the elbow
the emptiness beyond the right shoulder
the seam between the breath of the figure
and the breath of the world,
the overwhelming glory of all
that is not found there.

 

 

HOW TO WRITE A POEM

Don't dance. Don't ache. Don't stretch. Don’t flex or hunger. Don't want. Don't lust. Don't tumble into yourself. Don't tumble into lungs or bowels. Don't cry. Don't sigh. Please lie. Please invest. Don't repent. Or feel sorry. Or get stirred up. Or blot your ink. Or surrender. Or malinger. Or run over what you won't discuss. No white-out. No cop-out. No shut-out. Don't shut up. Don't stay still. Play fair. Pay your bill. Pull your weight. Investigate. Inventory. Fake a migraine. Take an airplane. Or a taxi. Be a patsy. Be a partisan. Doubt forgiveness. Doubt forensics. Doubt DNA. Go MIA. AWOL. Crazy loco. Be a maricon. A marionette. A martyr. Matter. Don't anti-matter. Don't antagonize. Don't anticipate. Find the antidote. Reveal. Revolt. Renovate. Shoot blanks. Lisp. Never listen. Blast the stereo. Change your hairdo. Mourn your credit card bill. Boycott Capitol Hill. Promise everything. Be promiscuous. Be a precipice. Picket against peace. Picket against decency. Go on strike. Strike out. Strike fast. Strike while the iron is cold. Don't build to last. Circle the wagons. Circle the block. Count crop circles. Count unhatched chickens. Count down. Impound sound. Build yourself some holy ground.

 


Paulette Beete's poems, short fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Rhino, Provincetown Arts, and the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC. She is the author of two chapbooks: Voice Lessons (Plan B Press, 2011), and Blues for a Pretty Girl (Finishing Line Press, 2005). Beete has an MFA from American University, where she was editor-in-chief of the literary journal Folio. A resident of Silver Spring, MD, she is a full-time writer-editor and worships at Advance Church at the AFI Theater.

 

Published in Volume 12, Number 4, Fall 2011.



To read more by this author:
Paulette Beete: Poets in Federal Government Issue