First Tuesdays is a Poet Feature series that highlights one local Wisconsin poet on the first Tuesday of each month. For our inaugural feature, I’m excited to introduce CJ Muchhala of Shorewood, Wisconsin.
CJ Muchhala’s work has appeared in anthologies, art / poetry installations, print and on-line journals and has been nominated for a Best of the Net award and twice for the Pushcart. Early poems are collected on CD-Rom and audio CD and in the chapbook Traveling Without a Map. Most recent work can be found in the anthology Ariel, the Door County collection Soundings, and Wisconsin Poets Calendar 2016. She lives in Shorewood, WI.
In Places Unexpected
Hollyhocks stir, shaking gold from their tongues. We remember
The fathers. Seated high above earth, they haul ore from a Mesabi pit.
The drone of engines mingles with the drone of voices.
The mothers sit on the stoops of Company houses. Their dresses form
Hammocks between their thighs. Their bodies curve like eagles’ wings.
The children lean into the mothers. Drooped lashes dust their cheeks.
Today, a woman from Bogota Chiapas Guatemala finds refuge in a room near Ten Sleep.
Tourists flock to the mountains. Terror stitches her dreams to this life.
The hollyhocks are machine-gun bursts of blood against the stucco.
Her brown hands hold each other still.
A man and his lover come into their life. They wait for a train at St. Boniface.
Their beards are dense and wild, their fingers tap out hope.
Hollyhocks tap their backs, the world gone sweet with pollen.
The boardinghouse squats by a dirt road in Chickentown.
The dirt road leads nowhere. A wire fence keeps it in line.
Phantom voices pool in the uncut grass. Only the hollyhocks stagger
across broken glass. They stir, oh they stir,
on thick furry stalks in the ripening air.
Their tongues lick their hot pink lips.
Originally published in The Worcester Review, v. 21
The basement rec room flooded. Four feet of water. The TV afloat.
We saved Mom’s photos. Her parents’ wedding. Their parents’ portraits.
Dad’s vintage cameras scavenged over the years. But Pamela!
Oh, Pamela, I could not save you.
Two days before the water fully drained. And you, face down in a corner.
Your white dress dirt-streaked, already yellowing. Your wooden limbs, Pamela,
your wooden head, cracked and peeling. Your hair unglued.
When I turned you over,
your eyes opened wide as if surprised, your mouth still formed a perfect O.
Thawing rains. Pink Moon
flames. Birds nest,
grass sings, shad swim
upstream. Ground phlox
runs wild over the hills
while a subtle change
in light signals the flowering
bulbs: Push through! Open!
just in time for another
Oh mud season, oh false
promise. Egg Moon,
like the Phoenix
you rise, offer glimpses
of bright plumage to make us
giddy in the ash-colored snow.