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Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Quick Note from Tess

Two of my most recent posts, "The Loss of Lemons" by Chrys Tobey and "Sidhe Tigers" by Sarah Monette, are clearly not poems. I include them because they strike me as having some of the finer qualities of poetry, and because they are so brief as to fall a little between genres, even within their fiction labels. Also, I include them because I love them.

Sidhe Tigers (Sarah Monette)

At night the tigers pace. In the hall outside the little boy’s bedroom, they pace like patient, vengeful angels. They are pale green, like luna moths; their eyes are lambent milky jade. They are cold and silent; when he has to go to the bathroom at night, the tigers stare at him with their pale pale eyes, and sometimes they open their mouths, as if they were roaring, but they make no sound. Their breath is like the aftertaste of brandy and the cold sting of snow. They never come near enough to touch. He wants the tigers to like him, but he is afraid they don’t. They brush against the walls with a distant shushing noise, and even in his room he can feel the soft, relentless percussion of their padding feet. The moonlight shining through the hall windows streams right through them.

No one else can see the tigers.

The house is always cold. His desire for warmth causes his father to brand him a sissy-boy, a weakling. At night he hugs himself, because no one else will, and dreams of escaping this loveless house, these cold tigers.

Years later, his father dies. He goes back because he must, leaving behind lover, friends, work, passion—his adult life like a treasure, locked in a chest for safekeeping. The house is unchanged, his mother petrified in her harsh condemnation of the world and its inchoate yearning for love. She puts him in his old room at the top of the house, as if he had never left at all.

That night, he hears the tigers, the patient rhythm of their feet marking off the seconds until Doomsday. “You aren’t real,” he whispers to them, lying stiff and cold, afraid to close his eyes because then he might be able to hear them more clearly. But the tigers, unheeding, continue pacing until dawn.

The Loss of Lemons (Chrys Tobey)

A woman had lemons in her head. It’s not that she wanted to make lemonade. She simply had lemons in her head. She could feel them in her head the way she could feel a star dying. The woman insisted on getting an MRI. She wanted to see X-rays of the lemons. She imagined it would be like looking at the moon suspended in the night sky. The technician gave her Bocelli to listen to. The woman smiled as the conveyor belt slid her into the machine like luggage in an airport.

The woman had no idea what Bocelli was singing. Estoy muriendo amor porque te extrano. She imagined the words were something about lemons. Te extrano, te extrano. Perhaps he had lost lemons. The conveyor belt shook back and forth, jiggled her body, as though she were on a motorboat. Te extrano, te extrano. Then the woman saw it: the ferry motoring towards Capri. She looked closer and saw her husband. The woman looked closer still and saw her husband smiling, his one missing tooth, on a tiny bus winding its way up the roads of Capri. And then she smelled the lemons. She saw the lemon orchards, lemon trees stretching for miles, wrapping around Capri like the gold ring that once wrapped around her left finger.

Kitchenette Building (Gwendolyn Brooks)

We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray. "Dream" mate, a giddy sound, not strong
Like "rent", "feeding a wife", "satisfying a man".

But could a dream sent up through onion fumes
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms,

Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.

Those Winter Sundays (Robert Hayden)

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?