Diann Blakely

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

THE STORM

 

Why shouldn’t I stay, whispered part of myself—

He’d stocked plenty of groceries for three,

Maybe four days.  Red wine too, a whole case.

The ice, like a bright skin, had covered the trees

And main road to the nearest town.  A wreck,

The car crashed, was what I imagined—there

Were things I feared more than adulterous sex.

And he’d touched me already, kissed my hair

And chapped lips: how much further could I fall?

Winds howled an old answer and I thought of

Francesca, swirling in that second circle.

Life was’t bad, for hell.  Whispering love

But not just for one night—through those great gusts

Of wind, God, shouldn’t she have been pleased?

 

 

 

REUNION BANQUET, CLASS OF ’79

 

“What happened to Charlotte Rampling?”—the vamp

and villainess of freshman year’s remake,

Farewell, My Lovely.  I can’t recall the plot,

nor which boyfriend I went to see it with,

 

none villains.  Freshman year, girls learn to drink;

we spent weekends bombed in years that followed,

often with this old boyfriends, some seated

in nearby chairs as we discuss Three Women, Klute

 

(“poor Sutherland—what was the bomb that followed?”

“Fellini’s Casanova”); Jane Fonda

changing women from fat dateless klutzes

to lean wives, marrying “that Turner guy,

 

a fellow Casanova before Jane.”

Chinatown, Looking for Mr. Goodbar,

Diane Keaton ferrying from guy to guy

then killed.  Helter Skelter, a TV movie

 

looked at with Chinese food and tepid beer,

that crammed dorm room (soph year? junior?) our knees

jellied.  Hell, what’s better than the movies

for filling gaps, for steering talk away

 

from this crammed corner’s melodramas, its queens

of bad luck?  Emma’s three miscarriages—

“children fill a gap”; talk tries to veer away

but she tells us about her absent husband,

 

who blames their bad luck on her mom’s DES,

how she spends Saturday nights now, fevered

by secrets she doesn’t tell her husband:

chlamydia and one nostril scarred from coke,

 

for instance.  Saturday Night Fever!

someone yelps, and Nan’s atop the table—

clam sauce spotting her skirt, a Diet Coke

spilled—in the famous John Travolta pose;

 

 

 

someone yelps as Nan tips from the table,

as Layne prescribes a single mom’s sanity:

sitcom repeats, like the John Travolta show

about the teacher, while she plugs into

 

tapes that prescribes ways to keep your sanity

while raising a small boy alone.  Virginia

weeps—loudly—about the teacher who plugged her

senior year, and the men at the next table

 

rise to leave.  “So long, boys,” and “virgins,”

sneers Laura, meaning none have been divorced,

not since senior year, when one at their table

tied the knot and wanted out weeks later.

 

The Deer Hunter.  Most seated here are divorced,

and childless too.  LipstickWho’ll Stop the Rain?

I untie my knotted napkin, wanting out.  It’s late.

Woman under the InfluenceBadlands.

 

“What happened to our apple charlottes?”  Vanished,

like our lipsticked smiles, the bottles of wine.

We’re women fluent with address pads and pens.

Farewell, my lovelies.  “I’ll call, or write.”

 

 

 

CHORALE

 

     A sack of rotting apples dizzied Schiller’s brain

          as he wrote, drunk on scent

and words, those now-unread plays, even Wilhelm Tell recalled

     only for its hero, whose arrows sang through air

          to find their red, heart-shaped targets.

My friend fills her syringe while I search for my car keys, turn

          to see the needle plunged

     into her left thigh: “diabetes,” she tells me

 

     en route to the café, means “siphon,” the body

          melting down to water;

“mellitus” describes the sweet smell of the patient’s urine.

     Pouring vials near an anthill was the ancient test

          for this disease; if the ants swarmed,

the prognosis was coma, followed by that deepest sleep,

          sugar levels risen

     so high they thrum the blood to stasis.  In August,

 

     when her lover went back home to his wife, my friend

          skipped one shot, two, skipped meals

to binge on twelve-hour naps, waking to nibble candy

     and hear, through the thin walls, an elderly neighbor

          playing sonatas.  “Ode to Joy,”

Schiller’s most famous work, though we nearly lose the lyric

          in Beethoven’s grand chords,

     the 9th Symphony composed after his ears close

 

     to all but music, as my friend’s eyes closed to all

          but the black-winged angel.

That neighbor heard no footsteps or rattle of plates for days,

     worried enough to call and ask if I had keys:

          even outside the dark bedroom

we smelled the perfume of—roses?  No, fruity and cloying,

          like a sack of apples

     left to rot.  The ambulance crew filled a syringe

 

 

 

     on arrival, trained for signs of blood-sugar soared

          sky-high.  “Dumb thing to do,”

my friend says, scanning the menu and sipping Diet Coke,

     and I’m not sure if she means the man or her try

          at self-destruction, drowning

in a forbidden rapture.  The last time I fell in love

          I played Beethoven

     so loud that pictures trembled and china rattled

 

     its shelves, Chorale’s strings and winds and horns confirming

          that joy—freude, freude

is what we all desire, that while deep-kindled by the scent

     of hair, or the brief feathery touch of a hand,

          of the sight of a parted mouth,

desire arrows its way into the brain till flesh and mind

          become as one, singing

     our unrequitable ache to drown in sweetness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

SHORT BIO

 

Diann Blakely is the author of three books of poetry as well as an editor, essayist, and reviewer. She has taught at Belmont University, Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, Watkins Arts Institute, and also served as the first poet-in-residence at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee. A Robert Frost Fellow at Bread Loaf, she was a Dakin Williams Fellow at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Blakely has been anthologized in numerous volumes, including Best American Poetry 2003 and Pushcart Prize Anthologies XIX and XX.

 

A few other distinctions include having her first collection, Hurricane Walk, listed among the year’s ten best by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; her second book, Farewell, My Lovelies, was named a Choice of the Academy of American Poets’ Book Society; and her third volume, Cities of Flesh and the Dead, won the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America while still a manuscript-in-progress, as well as the 7th Annual Publication Prize from Elixir Press.

A poetry editor of Antioch Review for a dozen years, and now occupying the same position at New World Writing, Blakely continues compiling reviews, essays, and memoirs for Each Fugitive Moment: On the Life and Work of Lynda Hull with Kendra Hamilton. Two other prose books are also underway: Notes on the State of Southern Poetry and Other Essays, and a “poet’s memoir” for Plath Profiles, which will be published in sections there. While completing her fourth manuscript of poems—Rain in Our Door: Duets with Robert Johnson—and simultaneously working on another, Lost Addresses, Blakely is also a recent contributor of essays and arts reviews to the Best American Poetry blog site, Harvard Review, Plath Profiles, Pleiades, and Smartish Pace. She lives south of Savannah.

 

http://www.diannblakely.com/

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