April Poetry Month (Day 4): Brenda Cárdenas #npm16 #wppoets

[April Poetry Month 2016 Table of Contents]

Brenda CardenasBrenda Cárdenas is the author of Boomerang (Bilingual Review Press, 2009) and the chapbooks Bread of the Earth/The Last Colors with Roberto Harrison (2011) and From the Tongues of Brick and Stone (2005). She also co-edited Between the Heart and the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest (2001). Cárdenas’ poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Latina/o Poetics, The Golden Shovel Anthology, City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness, Angels of the Americlypse: New Latino/a Writing, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, Pilgrimage, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century, and RATTLE, among others. Cárdenas served as the Milwaukee Poet Laureate from 2010-2012, and in 2014, the Library of Congress recorded a reading of her work for their Spotlight on U. S. Hispanic Writers. She is an Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Inverse

(after Amy Cropper’s Inverse, painted ash and hawthorn, 2011, Lyndon Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee, WI, and Ana Mendieta’s Body Tracks, paintings, 1982)

Cropper stripped the Hawthorne
………..of her skin, excised
arms, painted war
……….on her flayed torso
until she blazed—a squat flame
……….igniting weeds, yellow
leaves, even the snow mounting
……….her lap. All year long,
naked boughs glistened
……….like a flock of bloody wings.

But when May pushes green
……….through cracked lips,
blossoms from a torch
……….of lacquered limbs, I wait
for Ana Mendieta to step
……….out of the knotted wood—
trunk simmering, arms raised
……….in the V of free-
fall to our knees, broken
……….stems regenerating.

Originally published in Jet Fuel Review. Issue 10, Fall 2015.

 

Endless assemblage,

the house grows open
entries to
……….sunken dens, living
rooms that watch. Try not to look
……….in     back     behind.   You
swish past hairless tails
……….rustling in the walls,
Cortazar’s green velvet armchair
……….always empty inside
……….the inside of a stranger
until stairs tumble
……….to a formal dining room
……….where you are served
your own tongue. Dangling
……….teacups wag toward a door
to the only bedroom in the world.

Why lift the blanket clinging
to godmother’s bones? Fill the hull
of her chest with tears? They swim
through the slats of her ribs,
gather on the floor to wash your feet.

And in a month, the kitchens
will multiply. You’ll back in-
……….to a black and white one. Here
a mother feeds five gathered
‘round a gray Formica table, one
……….in a highchair screaming,
a bowl of cereal upside
……….down on his head, milk drip-
……….ping off his nose, chin. She
stands in the puddle, apologizes
……….for occupying. The house
was empty, and in this room, day-
light. She promises
to pack, leave before you can open
……….any more doors, your mouth. You have
grown a new tongue. Tell her
……….to stay. There are three more
kitchens up the hall, one stocked
with green peppers and ice.

* * * *

Question the benevolence
in the sliver of shelter you’ve offered,
relieved, as you are, to drop in-
……….to this nostalgia with its ’59
……….Westinghouse still warm
……….to the touch. You clutch
the table’s chrome edges, safe
……….and tucked away from what hovers
above the tiny hairs
……….at the back of your neck.
Where will you turn
……….if it ever lets you loose?

You’ll say to find the only door out.
You’ll say to greater acts of kindness.
You’ll say toward the Southern coast
of a country across the sea where
the one you love still wanders.

Then you’ll take steps
……….to escape your cell,
……….steps so tiny
……….that 32,000,000 wall to wall
will carry you from Barcelona
……….to Algeciras. There a boatman waits
for you to cross the bay. He snags
……….his anchor on a skeleton
of coral, drops
……….his head in a dream
……….of rusty hinges and brigs
……….that he begs not to enter.
But as you draw near, you hear
the clang of his cup
……….against the bars, the moans
……….beneath his dog-tired feet.

 

[April Poetry Month 2016 Table of Contents]

Woodland Pattern is nonprofit book center in the heart of Riverwest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We are dedicated to the discovery, cultivation and presentation of contemporary literature and the arts. 

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