May 8-14, 2000: Joe Harris and Claudine Moreau

week of May 8-14, 2000

Joe Harris and Claudine Moreau

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Joe Harris

Bio (auto)

Joe Harris began writing poetry in the late 1980s to ‘get it all out’ and hasn’t set down the pen since His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Arts Indiana Review, Labyrinth, and most recently in the Beyond the Valley of the Contemporary Poets compilations of 1997 and 1998 Harris was twice runner-up for the Kiesler Poetry Award while attending Indiana University, recognizing undergraduate excellence in the art; he has studied over the years with poets David Wojahn, Yusef Komunyakaa, Maura Stanton, Matthew Graham and Deborah Digges Harris has lived in Los Angeles since 1995.

The following work is Copyright © 2000, and owned by Joe Harris and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

The Academy Award

I made a pass in Matt’s car,
Though I wasn’t old enough to drive
And Meghan, realizing the urgency,
Asked me to turn around before Matt’s Pops
Reported the car stolen It was my choice to copy the keys,
To act a shade older,
Hers to be there,
And some power placed night before day,
Like the horse and the cart,
An argument I chose not to pursue
While trying to lose my cherry
I moved to Los Angeles, five years
And eight girlfriends ago I can’t recall what I wore
When each in turn opened herself to me I chose to change the position
Of my bed as not to get too comfortable
After leaving or being left,
I choose formidable defenses
Because I fear the attachments My best friends married each other
When they saw me in that context-
The way my Zaydeh would say to my Bubah
I love you, I love you
Though he thought for years she tried to kill him
With poisoned carrots and spoiled kaschi;
One night, the image of her body wrapped in the shroud
Almost brought him to claw his eyes out
It is time and place, choice and conviction Not her death four years on
But the context of four years without her My mother knew how her mother suffered,
Chooses not to let that go,
Tells my Zaydeh, Anna felt no pain
When no truth could be more selective Now in the twilight his cancer grows,
Replacing his body with a horrible, misshapen copy
As he slowly becomes someone I do not know My mother calls this aging,
Tells him the pills are vitamins to perk him up
And the twice-monthly shots are boosters
There is renewal in loss There are reasons she does not say
Don’t get comfortable because you have to go
And all of us secretly hope
He passes in sleep, unaware of the goings on We’ve taken ownership of his body from him This is borrowed time-this context of saying
Everything dies; one day I will be torn
With knowledge when my children ask
Why Bubah Freda can’t come over-
There is no magic
To erase the words we have for liar
Zaydeh calls to hear my voice I say, I’m fine, just fine, my girlfriend, yes, she’s Jewish
And I’m coming to visit as soon as I have vacation, and, and, and

I will one day have the Oscar for carrying this to my grave.


We lay down without a word,
Two sides of Miles Davis fading to raindrops
And her light perfume, orchidae and spice I can’t help but think how each of us would have,
If left to habit,
Fallen asleep clutching thick pillows But our kisses fill the room with echoes like rain
And push the sheets to a far corner of the bed,
Her body new to me,
To herself Her first intimacy since the aneurysm burst
And sterile hands reached inside
To turn the aortic valves back on themselves,
The critical chamber She has no sense how it will react
To pressure and need, the knowledge
Of the tip of my tongue I lift her shirt, slowly I recall- her skin revealed, her eyes closed-
Other failures of the body to heal itself:
My damaged knee, clicking
Like a latched shutter,
The biblical rib taken from me to make her How ironic I should have a lifetime to fill the emptiness
In my side, that she should follow a similar compass
Of injury and consolation
To my place on the corner, up spiral stairs
And through twin doors to this bed That a simple unseen physical fault could one day
Scar shrill lines on her body, white on a darker white-
Raised lettering for a Braille address
Or a larger tactile map,
Where with vicious expertise
The human heart was painted,
Forever touched and failing.


Too many metaphors for winter and discontent
And loss, so when I say I’m going home
It rings hollow as the breath
In my grandfather’s dying body I’ve never lived in Atlanta,
Yet this is the city my parents have pegged the stake In these wooded outskirts,
Where bulldozers pave over ephemeral footsteps
Of the Pensacola warriors,
Musket slugs of Sherman’s brutal trek
Seared the pinecones with a poisonous black film I help my mother lift his body from the bed,
Like sticks and rubber and inevitability
In Worcester, Massachusetts, where I was born
In the back seat of a Plymouth my father promptly sold-
No questions asked-
Winter builds, over time,
Walls between myself and the expectation
I will become my parents 1978: Frost blitzed the window of my room
As I watched the Nor’easters pound our backyard I drew caveman figures using my warm fingers,
Practiced writing cuss words backwards
Until every window in the house screamed FUCK My parents, scared I might do something irreversible,
Wanted to spank my rebellious tuchas that morning,
Though Mom asked
How are you going to correct this?
Smartassed and cocksure, I said simple Walked to the window, took a deep breath
And slowly blew until the glassy words disappeared
While my mother bathes his frail skin
And changes his diaper in the next room,
I make short work of the sheets
That my grandfather has wet again I am Jewish and hardly believe in either
Tzaddikim or the Moshiach,
But understand his past obsession for lighting candles Sometimes to release a prayer for healing
Or to focus our knowledge of spirits, Holy, mercy Sometimes just the obsession to watch the flame
And count the burn’s minutes
Candles in the windows, on the dresser,
The weeping candelabra That a single flame’s gentle lick
Can erase the wax,
The way desire can burn you to a shell
Of your former self
And press you to change
A warehouse fire in Worcester’s blue collar district last night
Swept six brave men from the world Not the snow on the roof turning to water,
Not the jets of four firetankers,
Not the crying, not the screaming
Could stop the building from consuming itself I am reminded in those half-ruined facades,
The soot-black snow and anguished faces
All the reasons I do not go back
And pass off my indifference to being older I think how-so close to the end, his world now a mixture
Of fantasy and regrets-my grandfather
Watches the memorial procession
On television and sees those six men
Wander aimless through the somber street,
Past the smoldering husk of the warehouse
Where their ashen bodies lay:
James, McGuirk, Lucey
Spencer, Brotherton, Jackson-

Only now do I realize that my childhood friend
Has lost his father
Beyond the crowds gathered for the dearly departed,
The fire truck ladders on either side of Pleasant Street
Gracefully raise an arch
To shelter from winter
The souls’ passing And no fire hot enough,
No decision so weakened by time or faithless youth
As to erase your roots from the place
Where part of you will die


So little, really, is forgotten Not the wheel of the ’72 Vanagon
Cocked an eighth-revolution into a right turn,
Radiator whistling when idled
In front of the Somerville duplex,
Which hasn’t changed,
Though the second floor hasn’t been rented
Since my parents moved on,
Before my conception
Not the brown-trimmed sofas,
Umber woodwork on the wainscoting,
Maroon recliner no one uses
Without feeling uneasy,
Where the man I am named after
Smoked through long winter nights
And graded 35 years of high school history exams Yet ten years from the erasure of cancer
My parents mark the shared meals-
The months that the landlords mysteriously did not ask for rent-
With a card, silence in the house they now own
On the fringe of Atlanta;
The envelope lifted, opened a world away,
Windows somewhat darker now
In a widow’s room
Blinds rough with nicotine residue
And South Boston light-
The guessy scent of tobacco,
Rings like dried milk on the armrests
Where sleep fell welcome, everlasting.

Damage Control

Her mother yells
The no daughter of mine routine,
The how could you do this to me imperatives
Until, out of voice, she forgets to say I still love you So I weigh the call twenty minutes before I return it They tell me she’s a mess; first the roommate
And then the sister Maybe, they figure
As the ex-boyfriend I’ll be her voice of reason This suicide, this slow lapse to bones Silent Clock hands slow
As I rest the receiver, take my keys
When I was exposed to HIV
I braved falling apart,
Steeled myself for the death sentence
And learned everything I could about transmission,
Replication, retroviral pathology Prevention I had to remind myself the lessons
Two more times before I stopped fucking around I park two miles from their apartment,
Then walk two more to script what’s been said
And discover a center of reason:
Not the boyfriend who came after me
And not the anger,
Not the clinical voice of here’s what you do Not processing the blame,
But, here’s how you will live through this
The door, the walkway,
The room with one light on Her black hole chest draws breath as if each
Is the only one Her fear is mine-
Who will remember the stories from Cancun,
Panama City and the Nashville motel where we found
A cocaine brick under the mattress?
That she lived and changed anyone’s way The contrived words of this poem and the injustice
Words do to put someone in my shoes
And I in hers;
A child throws rocks at bush A loud thud as the neighbor’s cat
Has its birdbrains bashed Then they come running out
To assess the damage Everyone Wailing cries An accident, an accident, an accident,
The stunned and shaking boy wishes
That nobody knows his name It is Iowa,
It is the shame that kills him more every day
And when I heard this sob tale I was drunk or stoned
But watching a pudgy black man tighten his belt
At the jukebox before dancing with no one,

And tonight I know for the second time in my life
Nothing anyone says
Can change what happens now.

Untitled, with Dreams

I dream tonight of the house I grew up in,
Though the people living there now
I’ve only known
After I’d moved 4000 miles away No distance in the road buries the past,
The faces evoke memories and vanish:
Ghostly dust flows
In the cross-hatched sill light of the room
I lost my virginity in,
Smoke-wisp wishes of forgiveness
And being forgiven When I woke- crying like I’m eight
And beaten by older kids in the Kaplan’s yard-
I remember claiming I could break sticks with my head
Like Kung-fu It wasn’t the beat-down that followed,
But my guts grinding themselves
With shame
I’ve agonized like this before, driving
From the houses and apartments
Of women who will hate me their whole lives
For not showing that I’d fallen in love
As hard, as deep, as long It is so dangerous,
To let it all out, to dedicate everything for someone else
Without knowing what I want first I sat one night marveling at Kellie’s curves,
How she slept with such silent providence,
Barely shifting the sheets as she turned her hips I thought about her dreams-
And the dreams I should have had as I lay with her 2 AM, 4 AM, sunrise,
My head on the bed’s edge as I sat on the hardwood Such sadness, not knowing where love comes from
Or where it goes,
Like a scarecrow with its arms pinned East and West,
Its head drooped pointless towards its disarrayed feet I kissed her as she woke
How many years pass before I forgive
The man I used to be?
For understanding, years later, that her smile meant
You and Everything
As her eyes focused on mine For promising For not realizing that I’d be
Where I am now, Angelino incognito,
Five years on and still running
Joey, my boy, that day with Kaplan and Lipson and Mietla,
What did you say that made it so easy to be accepted?
To take that much pain just to be worthy To think a lonely man’s caption for love
Is easy to conjure as a condemned man’s hope-
When really, both hinge on redemption
And the path to salvation in someone’s arms Such a road, such roses in the road,
Such distance to cover and the days grow shorter
With each step
Sweet Jesus,
How long,
How can it possibly take this long
To get there?

Claudine Moreau

Bio (auto)

Claudine Moreau bicycles and star gazes in Arlington, Viriginia and goes home to her roots in the mountains of SW Pennsylvania to spelunk, white water raft, and lounge by flowing waters As a lover of physics and poetry, Claudine’s work is often a mixture of science and the sensual Her poetry has been published on the web at Physik Garden, Creativity Magazine, Aileron, and Poem Box Her poetry has appeared many in print journals including Bitter Oleander, American Poets & Poetry, Muse of Fire, Blind Man’s Rainbow, Blood and Fire Review and Anthology among others
The following work is Copyright © 2000, and owned by Claudine Moreau and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

bath tub & balcony

nude in prism bubbles
thin films
sliding gravities
in antique bath tub

gryphon kisses

pull us into night
bare against glass
window across St Peters
my skin & hair dressed
with your mouth

sixth floor
balcony & bricks
absorbs the rise & fall
our foaming high tide

Clothes Line Outside of Eden, Alabama

Clothes line looped around a living
oak, tied off in tight knots
I stretch my shame, silken scrims
anchored with wooden pegs,

unfold wet stocking furls,
straighten shriveled chamisoles
Southern air weaves through,
drying hand-washed delicate desires.

New Orleans Coffin Girls

French statue Virgins left
in water-logged coffins
clutching mother-
of-pearl combs, fingers
tracing man-made mannerisms
Arrived on muddy Mississippi banks
washed up in pine boxes,
delicate New Orleans dressed
them ripe in red stockings,
schooled hips to move throught
the Quarteras mist–
settle as stone
icon guestures, pristine by day
At night when the zydeco
jazz and dixie flowed fluid
with bourbon breath,
the Virgin Mary’s wove
garters ’round the groin of Sin
Today on Toulouse
I hear the coffin girls combing
their hair in unison weeping
music through brittle harps.

Galaxy Hat

Southern gentleman motioning
me around to the veranda With the tipping of his bowler

I see into the darkness
my eyes reaching into his hat Under his hat he holds

three galaxies shaped
spiral, barrel and elliptical,
all rotating around the center

of mass of his mind His eyes are star-tipped
bright ends of fiber optic lines

streaming gaseous,
ionizing romantic thoughts
that split through me

I am just an atom girl,
full of empty space,
a hidden center of positive

an outskirt of negative feel,
going through the falling in love
stage of colliding galaxies.


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