Patricia Gomes: poetry, fiction, freelancing

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One Man's Claret (Pushcart Prize nominee, 2007)

 

You would,
if you could

get away with it.

 

If you thought for one second
that you wouldn't get arrested
or ostracized
at four-fork restaurants.  You would.

You would jam a stick

up

us.

 

Jam the stick up
between our legs
as far as it could go.

 

Then with your face painted team colors,
you'd enthusiastically wave us in the sky
so God could see

the rib had been put to good use.

 

Or maybe

you would freeze us,
a frozen sweet treat

to let melt in the sun
when the bills come due, when air
becomes a bargaining tool..

No problem, you'd tell each other.
There's plenty more in the box.

That purple smear

near the signpost
was your mother.  You remember

      Of course you do

the heady wine of the womb,
the degradation
of your head-first slide into mortar.  Your first failure —

and shame became sin. 
Purple
is always the last eaten.

You do not fool us.
We watch you in threes,
the back-slapping, the anesthetized glaze
when we converge with our pens
and menses

prepared to storm the doctrine.

Skewered.  The crows
pluck our eye sockets clean.
A swaying placard reads:
This one was a real bitch!   
You

do not fool us.

 

 

© 2006

 

— as appears in Mannequin Envy, Summer 2007

 

Meeting Marcel Duchamp

I.  If I've learned anything
from Man Ray
I learned that shadow is as meaningful as light—
that a curved line holds more promise, more adventure
than one perceived
as straight.
I've never walked
the straight
and narrow.  And I was born knowing
that wishes are best buried away within
shadows
where niggardly gods have no access.

II.  The coleus is at its most vibrant when exposed
to full sun,
but it will flourish unharmed
when placed on the floor near the hearth,
where sunlight has no access.
Paler, yes, but alive and growing all the same
in its clay pot.

III.  There is something Lewis Carroll
in the line
"Neither here nor there."
Something sinister and murky, some
thing
off
-kilter and disarming.  Crooked …
curved.
If a thing is neither here nor there,
are we?
Can there be light; are there shadows?
And how, in heaven's name, is sense to be made
of lines?

"I paint what cannot be photographed.  I photograph what I do not wish to paint."   — Man Ray
 
* As published by Underground Window, October 2005
 
 

simpletruthsandcoughingthings.jpg

Three poems from Simple Truths and Coughing Things:
 

Putting Summer in Its Place

 

I.  Barren
women, whose kerchiefed grandmothers came from soil
more ancient than embalming,

tongue-wag away my camera

from the faces of sleeping babies.

Blue flash, blue flash—

bad luck to capture death masques

in blushing pink.
Gold ringed and forked-fingered,
they've shut me out. 

II.  Empty
of images, I'm left with you.
Lobster claw clasps collect
in a scallop shell
on the sun porch.

Pearls scattered when Simon confessed
his infidelity. Uncloaked, he became
your executioner.

Weathered clapboards help fortify the psyche
as long as the newspaper is delivered by six
every morning. Ash gray.
Ash gray and dependable, a November
sky before the first snow of winter.
One time more,
we should do the theater.
Maybe then we'd cease to dwell

on words like u-b-i-q-u-i-t-o-u-s.

III.  Wishbones
are the cause of all this. Really.
Too much faith invested in the splitting of and all
that basting—what a waste!
Next time around
let's wish for a horse (like when we were nine)
or something equally unusable,

staked as we are to a cement plain.
Tethered. The floors here are bordered
in pink tile. Thankgawd it does not extend
to the threshold—
else I'd be terrified to cross.

 

Memo from Barnstable, Midsummer

 

Mrs. Ursula P. Seguin was astonished to read her obituary in the morning newspaper.  She could only hope they'd buried her in something flattering. 

– Bizarre Tales, 1872

 

 

I lost my coffee mug

on the way to my desk.
I assume it got misplaced

when I became sidetracked

by the mail

and Borodin's Prince Igor.

 

Your uncle called to RSVP,

make a note to buy the turkey breast

from that little deli down on Main
he's so fond of.

 

The last time you were here

   I am not dwelling!

it rained tadpole omens

we chose to dispel.
I rediscovered them

under the blue cardigan

you left behind.

 

Makepeace opened at X

to horrendous reviews. 
He's capped his paints again.

Bring him something

from the city, won't you?

It would cheer him up

and save us all from too much drink.

 

I have guilt—

enough for two.

   Has ample time passed?

I don't begrudge you those final photographs;

you know—the ones where we couldn't bear to brush shoulders.

 

 

La Petite Mort

 

I dreamed of circuses,

greasy popcorn,

and the leathery hides of grey elephants.

Fearlessly, I stroked their sagging knees,

falling under the spell of pipe organs.

There was another:

a young girl

who cried anvil tears

that puddled in her empty lap …
puberty, torn sheet music,

and the film of a black moth's wings

concealed my fingerprints,

leaving no evidence
at the scene of the crime.

 

This is the stuff of poems,
I thought,

willing myself awake,

 

but the invitation

to note, to jot, to wrote,
went unanswered
beneath the soft pink bosom
of a summer-weight blanket.

 

Eyelids are saboteurs in the dead of night, 

and dreams scatter into corners

with the crickets' last song.

 

 

© 2005 Little Poem Press, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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Three from Stroking Castro's Beard, including Obstructing a Poet, the 1st Place Award winner in iVillage's 4th Annual Poetry Slam 2003.
 

Her Maiden Voyage

 

She reads her way

through the days

of her fifteenth summer,

alternating

between Austen

and yard sale,

throbbing-member

romances that cause her hair to stick

to the back of her neck.

 

His love letter,

when it finally comes,

is no surprise.  It is supposed to be like this

between men

and women, she thinks,

ignoring grammatical errors

and the lack of poetic prose.

"He is mad for me—simply mad!"

But she dreams

of dulcet verse and teacup roses.

 

The nights

of her fifteenth summer

are devoted to the art

of French kissing

and pondering why it is

there are no fireworks

nor cannon blasts,

pounding rhythms, cymbal crashes, earth shudders,

or at the very least —

bells

with muffled clappers.

 

She is poked, dry prodded.  Quizzed,

but never quite tested.

She notes the lack of music in these rapid oral examinations,

as if her mouth is a dangerous cave

and he only dares venture to stick in an arm.

Once, his tongue made contact with her teeth

and he wrenched away in violent shudders

that caused him to blush and stammer

his gratitude

for a thing she cannot fathom lying hollow

and parched—a puckered Jack-O-Lantern on November sixth, 

nothing more than a hatchery for spiders.

 

There is more than this,

not all the books lie, she hopes,

forming layers

of wax while she waits

and reads,

waits and reads,

waits and reads

until the words become

dead language.

 

The wax hardens then,

under countless yellow moons

spent exploring

the satin insides of masculine cheeks,

tickling the roofs of ice-cubed mouths,

and suckling

heated tongues thickened by Eros.

The act of love itself

is of no importance

compared with the intimacy of  breathless kisses,

but she knows this interval will never, can never

be

more than temporary.

So she crawls way from dusk on skinned knees

and seeks the sun

to better read

the popsicle-stained pages.

 

Words are words are words are words

in the end, and at last,

in the light,

the warm light of release,

her shell begins to crack and run. 

She smiles; she laughs.

The fruit of the walnut is sweet,

ever more potent

than even the best of the books described.

 

  

Oxidant (for Julie)

 

There is a great, hulking, yellow

cube van across the road

with a rust-eaten hood and toothy grill grin.

There are mouse holes just above its headlights;

you can see clear in to the wires of the distributor cap.

Field mice sleep on the engine block to stave off frost,

reminding me (for some disquieting reason)

of your grandmother; she

forgets my name, always has,

but remembers my phone number

when a light bulb goes out in the ceiling fixtures.  She calls me

Trixie.  I know that she's being cheeky,

(and she knows that I know

she never did like me)

but I answer to it

assuaging the guilt that comes from still possessing enough youth

to shimmy up a ladder.

 

This is something new:

she keeps dead mums in a waterless vase on top of the piano.

 

Blood-rusted and gnawed. 

The door hinges need oil.
Do the mice change the headlights for the trucker?  Do you s'pose he knows?

Pretends not to?  Or

is it like the Shoemaker and the Elves; I hope it is.

 

If only you lived closer. 

 

Come home.  

I’ll bring cheese and we’ll picnic

on Nana's good tablecloth.

 

( - Published first in Bohemian Rag, April 2004)

 

Elsie Cardoza

Elsie Cardoza walks
 the fifteen blocks from work to home,

head bent against the wind in winter,

beads of sweat that fall and burn the eyes in summer.

Elsie Cardoza walks; five days a week

fifty weeks a year.

 

Covered in lint and fabric fuzz from

the blouses she stitches.
Sleeves in pastel linens and garish cottons.

Stitch after stitch after stitch...

Eight hours a day,

five days a week,

fifty weeks a year.

Elsie Cardoza stops

at Fonseca’s Market

to buy the codfish she’ll cook tonight for Joe

and the kids.

She hates cod, prefers haddock,

but Joe likes it and she must fry it with

the same spices his mother used in the old country.
Joe is her husband, and that, as they say,

is that.

She will cook it, they will eat it,

and no one
will tell her that it was good,

or bother to thank her, or think to clean up.
Elsie Cardoza will wash and dry the mountain of greasy dishes

stacked on the counter waiting for her.
It’s a nice counter though; faux-granite, Joe installed it himself—just for her.

Dish after dish after dish ...

Seven days a week,

fifty-two weeks a year.

 

She will stay up, long after
Joe and the kids go up to bed.

Elsie will mend Joe’s shirts, make up his lunch

for tomorrow.
She will fold the newspaper, empty the ashtrays,

and iron her daughter Jennifer’s clothes.
Because Jen must have pin-straight creases
and after all, what is a mother for
if not to please her family.

Elsie Cardoza cries

when everyone is sleeping.

She cries because her fingers cramp;
they crack and bleed
in thin, crisscrossed lines,

her ankles swell, and Elsie Cardoza is tired.

Twenty-four hours a day,

seven days a week,

fifty-two weeks a year.


© 2002

 

(—2nd place winner in the 2005 Poets Out of Hiding Contest
sponsored by the Narrows Center of the Arts 
)

 

Obstructing a Poet 

 

I can say your name

in three languages.

I go through my day

item by item,

doing everyday things

with you

way

in the back of my mind,

buried

under lists, grievances, stock market quotes

and guilt.

Impatient for the next assignation

though I've left you only minutes ago.

Tonight, at nine pm, they expect me to concentrate —

give a reading that moves them to tears.

Something about

salt-encrusted scallop shells

and drunken fishermen.  I've yet to title the damned thing.

Elliot will be there, of course,

Jenna, too.  He will chew

on the stem of his best pipe and she

will tear at her hair to heighten her mascara-rimmed angst.

They will be haughty, untouchable,

and half in the bag

before I take the mic.

Can't erase the image of your hair,

steely gray, striking 

against the royal blue pillowcase.

   You really do need to get it cut;

   God, you're so bad about those sorts of things!

Your non-presence is a presence,

an interference.  What do you say

to Boney James and Kahlua, a little something to take the edge off?

Grab two hours between life.

You'll be back home by midnight and no one has to know.

Say my name in French,

but say it

in my bed

with your arms around my soul.

 

© 2004 Lit Pot Press, Inc.

 

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Left-clicking the book covers will take you to the publishers.

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The Soloist

iVillage: The Women's Network®
4th Annual Poetry Slam 2004
2nd Place Winner

 

Marisol plays piano

in the apartment overhead.

Her twelve-year old fingers

instinctively know

Mozart.

 

She rehearses daily; 

she is faithful

and requires no persuasion.

Her amber eyes

close

as she moves

through the scales

beyond the drunken wrath of The Fisherman,

Mother's latest live-in,

who rants about the cost of piano maintenance

and is silenced by Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.

He snores

while Mother tends a bloodied nose.

The fisherman is White; that makes him a catch.

 

Marisol's brown fingers glide over the keys

past discord.  Sometimes, The Fisherman brings new sheet music,

he pats her braided head dutifully as if she were a poodle;

she will not look at him.

 

Marisol has ninety minutes

alone in the apartment each day.

From the back of her bedroom closet,

behind the discarded toys,

she retrieves the violin.

Taking it, bow in capable hand,

she plays Haydn …

 

and her amber eyes open.

 

 

© 2004 Patricia Gomes

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