This week’s episode of Slush Pile features three poems by two authors: “Gala Dali Speaks Broken French” and “What Can Happen to Women and Men” by Wendy Cannella and “Nightmare” by Jana-Lee Germaine. Wendy Cannella once fronted a rock band in Boston, back when everyone fronted a rock band in Boston…
Present at the Editorial Table:
Kathleen Volk Miller
Wendy Cannella once fronted a rock band in Boston, back when everyone fronted a rock band in Boston. She is an avid supporter of the local arts and leads writing workshops, runs a reading series or two, serves on the board of the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Project, and generally embarrasses her children by volunteering in the classroom on Poem in Your Pocket Day (what, didn’t your mom ever hide poems in your jean jacket?). You can find her work in various places including Fogged Clarity, Houseguest, Mid-American Review, Salamander, and Solstice. She continues to play the same few guitar chords, sing off-key, and speak many languages brokenly.
Jana-Lee Germaine recently moved from Massachusetts to a small village in the English countryside where she lives in the old post office, homeschools her 4 children, and has thoroughly embraced the idea of beans for breakfast.
She is an avid runner and cyclist (will it ever stop raining?) and has recently taken up weightlifting, despite the fact that her mother thinks it will make her look weird. Her favorite holiday is the 4th of July (not celebrated in the UK, for obvious reasons). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Potomac Review and Naugatuck River Review.
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Gala Dali Speaks Broken French
Of the spinning wheels—trés vite
from the States of the United
to Montréal City. Of the heavy
traffic—bumper to bumper—and us, look
at us, full to the brim, a clown car
of activists, caravan
and suddenly I pull my black hat
down lower over my forehead, telling each of you
which lines are yours to sing, wanting it all so badly
to lead into the poem—
up Footloose, snapping back
the door handles
to escape like Smurfs
into the congested highway
—and this takes us
nowhere, egotism of drawing
attention, egotism of dwelling on
those swaying hips—between stopped cars—
but this is it, this is where
we dance the good
little dancing, I mean some
excellent shaking—will you make it
meaningful in the end? Will you
make out with me? For the moment will you hold
the wheel—I’m taking my sweater
off and the stars
seem so agitated up there
trembling in their deep space
and that is just the sort of dramatic
gesture we’ve come to expect
from the stars and one after another our
sweaters are cast off. The traffic starting
to move again, the drivers left
with the unsettling ache of knowing
they have teeth inside
their tender mouths—strangeness
of the body, and of living—through them the breath
of words. I think. Je pense. I believe.
Je crois. I feel. Je sens. The neck
and the shoulders. Le visage. I never thought
I had power to hurt
anybody. I can barely make sense.
But why else would I coerce the entire universe
into bowing before my imagination,
bestowing a corny nickname
on each of us. You’re Mama and I’m
La Bamba—let’s cover
the world with our America, yeah let’s take it
with us to the Jazz Festival—where all of us—my Papa, my Painter,
my Smurfette—my friends all of us my friends made wreaths
of our foolishness
and I made a nice wreath
I wear it around my face
all night, the prayer for you
to touch me.
This is nice. It feels good.
You want to hear something else, something sophisticated
in French but I’m far
too young to know what it is you want. I know only one phrase.
It tells us when the music moves
you will hold my hand and eat
from my hand—it tells me the whole bright blue
night is a crown. So here is my
stupid, unstoppable tongue.
If you misunderstand,
What Can Happen to Women and Men
Honey honey the call is for war
And it’s wild wild wild wild
—Patti Smith “Ask the Angels”
I never met an angel
I didn’t like.
The one who knits hats
the one humming delusions
to the broken world,
pacing the room,
their own wings,
arch of love,
even the worst angel
there ever was,
I liked him especially,
with his motorcycle
and stolen jewelry,
his murderous thugs.
I rode with him
down the fiery path,
than the opposite
of what we had,
the good reasons,
and the master plan—
which he failed
to fully envision.
Once, he gave me
and Lou Reed
of what can happen
to women and men
who believe deeply
a new form.
He made me think
I even liked
the idea of betrayal,
and for awhile
those kind of songs.
My son wakes to creaks and thumps
like boots on his bedroom floor.
They are here for him, they’ve found his room,
the demon with the hedge clippers
who stands against the wall,
or the man with the muddy shovel
waiting to tangle him in sheets
and bury him, still breathing, out in the yard.
Night moves around his room, grinning.
What he fears is pain he cannot handle –
us, dead in the other room –
and hands, not those attached to wrists,
but the kind that fingercreep along the floor.
He kicks the covers back,
brushes past the thumbs,
the clippers, the raised shovel,
he’s down the hall to our bedroom,
where we are still alive. When he says,
crawling between us,
I needed to know you were OK,
I kiss his head,
and the dark sits like a stone on my tongue.
What can I say to him tonight?
These things are real,
but not here. My own dreamer sits
sniggering on my shoulders,
elbows digging into my skull.