Poem in 7 Parts by Clara B. Jones

  1. Negress

 

Maybe it’s easier to name a racist in post-structural space.

Baraka manifested metaphors rather than bodies in copula

And Michel mimicked narratives of power

In salons where stick figures watched from chandeliers.

That’s what happens to marginal systems and rugged landscapes

Where all matter begins or ends with a poor prognosis

Like Christmas lights beginning to flicker

or nylon stockings ripped by a cat’s claws.

Skin isn’t polychromatic just because we want our love to last

But your father reminded you what a negress is for

And you said, Don’t take it so seriously before telling me—

We can’t have a baby though Elliot is a good name for a boy

and I always wanted a daughter named Merida.

Prescribing psychoanalysis Freud said women are no substitute for men

when trauma and sex converge

And the Ego is sublimated by interior monologue

Otherwise I would stand in the way of your full potential

And who would want that except someone in a colonized tribe?

 

  1. Infant

 

My femur is shaped like a double-helix

Reminding me that I am related to gibbons

And that our family tree has more than two hundred branches

Not as many as that Inga you showed me growing near the foot of Arenal

Like a brown flower in wet season invaded by toucans and termites

A miniature community dominated by benign epiphytes—

matte green and camouflage yellow

The color of my skin descending onto Juan Santamaria’s tarmac

Oily like my hair after days without soap

Bubbles fragile as a crystal flute holding cold champagne

Celebrating the baby tapir foraging in our forest

Whose canopy is shuddered by Guanacaste winds

as I shuddered

Startled by the Bothrops about to strike—

striking the infant for fear she would leave me

Closer to Stonehenge than Talamancas or Bribri

Mothers carrying infants to the priest from Cartago

carrying wafers and juice for blessings he once believed in

Before his manhood spread throughout the mountains

Echoing the names of children he would never know.

 

 

  1. Chimeras

 

Chimeras doubling like twins in the midst of meiosis

Developing while negro women fought on the corner of Georgia Avenue

After their lover pranced around them unsteady on his feet

Neighing words like babies’ babblings boistrous as dawn robins

Or trains emerging from tunnels hanging on rails routed to Brooklyn

Where Prospect Park was renovated, subjected to trash removal

Like dust removed from crown moldings in the great hall

Medieval relics mingling with German artifacts

gold coins from Frankfurt

once traded by the Büddenbrooks for a twelve-year-old Kongo princess

trained for household duties

and for shopping in the marketplace

Where fresh hams and black bread were bought for lunch.

Germany is the natal nation-state

Where families have tilled the same plots for six-hundred years

Though short-term memory decays after seven seconds

And anyone in Brooklyn can drive to Jersey in an hour.

Spring arrived early so the house smelled of lilacs in February

The grape arbor fulgent with fruit tempting her to eat

But she had walked two blocks to borrow a cup of sugar for peach jam

Ruing sunny days turning strawberries from white to red—

Naked in the field, she lay on the warmest mound praying for snow.

 

  1. Bell Curve

 

It was more than a trivial exercise to compose a one-word poem

Existing as an exclamation

Asking to be recognized for what it was on its own terms

Ruing all the other words missing the final cut.

Oleander was discarded, and, hypothesis

both more musical than theory

The word now standing alone amid original morphemes

destined for elimination.

I have a theory that my appointment will be canceled

Because my doctor doesn’t want to give me bad news

Knowing I prefer to choose the safest of all bad options.

Being bit by a Bothrops is no better or worse than being bit by a cobra

But being bit by a coral snake is worse than being bit by its mimic.

All knowledge is theoretical

Though there is always a margin of error of greater or lesser magnitude

When the landscape is vast and multispatial

And dimensions map weakly on a flat plane made of ice

not lava

Around Arenal’s rim banked by snow.

Everything depends on national narratives

And the serialization of codes reducing many to few.

 

  1. Whales are disappearing from the Sea Of Japan

 

Why did Peggy’s brother blow his head off after throwing a turkey across the room

Since Thanksgiving is the hopeful holiday

before winter snows laminate the air

And Santa Claus brings me Barbie Dolls dressed like reindeer?

My skin turned xanthous eating Charlotte Russe with buttered toast

And cockatoos waited for cockcrow’s soft light instantiating the children.

Madam Butterfly was so sad that I left my cat outside with lonely pets

before they were rescued by a bored Japanese fisherman

collecting stray animals that liked bluefin tuna.

A factory in Aichi cans threatened fish

Selling boatloads to royalty eating it on soda crackers topped with curd

Before PETA charged me with animal cruelty—

Believing my short girlfriend who said

She is an animal-lover who plans to live alone for the rest of her life.

I never give gifts on holidays, saving money for my yearly trip to Kanegawa

where monkeys romp on temples and harass tourists.

 

  1. Wait here to be seated

 

When Jerry jumped off the cliff out West

A birdwatcher thought the speed was too slow to cause damage.

Every day I see a blue jay around six o’clock—

time for my run up Indian Point

Where Jerry undressed for the last time, reducing friction

Before I went birdwatching

but only saw bats echolocating fireflies

toxic to neurotics and cellists.

My daughter asked me for the secret to success

So I said Learn to suffer humiliation by exposing all your weaknesses

before showing anyone your strengths.

Yesterday, I came home to see

A blonde woman standing on my porch

holding a drawing of Imelda Marcos

Which I saw clearly through my opera glasses.

Even though my door is unlocked

I use my key to enter the house in case someone is watching

Since every moment counts when you fear your own neighborhood.

 

  1. Biosphere 2 was funded by oil money

 

I heard about Michelle.

Cradling a beet at the market I thought of a chambered heart

No longer pumping life into a hand once floating across linen paper—

A scribe of momentary genius writing for everything unable to endure

or that lingered too long.

I listened to the cries of cats roaming underground

Where fish floated up from the Hudson

Silent as clouds floating above the Throgs Neck Bridge

Which she climbed looking down at foam waiting to catch her

As love had not when he fled without remorse—

every woman her own keeper.

She never knew loneliness

Whenever I sorted produce for a Spring salad

Of watercress and artichokes tossed with criminis and lemon oil

clean as mist over flowing water

keeping moss green along the banks

Where a child would search for shards of glass the color of eggplant.

..

Bio: Clara B. Jones is a retired scientist, currently practicing poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). As a woman of color, Clara writes about the “performance” of identity, alienation, and power and conducts research on experimental poetry. Her poems, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous venues. Clara’s collection, Ferguson And Other Satirical Poems About Race, won the 2015 Bitchin’ Kitsch Chapbook Competition, and Autopsy, her chapbook of exploratory poems, was published in April 2016 by Gauss PDF.

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