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Clare Chu: California Poets Part 6, Three Poems


Clare Chu


October 18th, 2023

California Poets: Part VI

Clare Chu

Three Poems



PALIMPSEST


I had not noticed how frail you are, but at night your hands now pluck at the woolen blanket in your sleep. In the morning over breakfast you lean slightly toward me, for confirmation of something you thought you knew, for that need for words to sound as though written in stone. After you’ve drunk your cup of gunpowder-tea and eaten your buttered toast, you hope I won’t notice the drops and crumbs spilled down your front, missing entirely the napkin I placed so carefully on your lap.


I wish I’d told you years ago about that first kiss you deliberately placed on my lips, when as usual I thought you would kiss my cheek. It stayed with me for a week. Every morning of that week I woke and ran my fingers across my lips to check if you were still there. I wish I’d told you. I wish I’d told you I knew it was love when I let your dog sleep on my head.


These days we wake early. I see your mouth tremble when you turn to me, looking for words to describe the dawn thrusting its way in through the curtains, drawn against the sunlight. And the day when I couldn’t find you anywhere in the house. I thought you were lost in the walls. And then I lifted the curtain and spied you through the window, outside in the rose garden, ambling among the fallen petals.




THE WEIGHTLESSNESS OF BIRDS


I’ll be talking with you, my rare and sacred friend,


when I draw my final breath, no different from the one before —


at first, you may not notice the thinning veil of my life,


but I trust you’ll check


the pause in our conversation


about the weightlessness of birds


and shoot me your

hang on a moment look,


one eyebrow raised —

I haven’t finished yet.


Because, as I’m leaving, you

will need to instill in me


the gravitas of how birds circle

on rising columns of thermal air,


how I soon will soar even higher

than the frozen lark we found by the lake,


where long-gone souls still themselves

in the slant of frosted moon-shadow.


Now we sit in our slumbering house

where soon enough we’ll rest together,


and let the rough edge of salt burn around our eyes.




CAROUSEL


The doe impaled as she jumped the spiked fence, her hooves cracking the frosted top of graying snow, billowed up beneath her.


It’s April, the snow is late to melt. Blood and entrails spill from her belly, iridescent, crimson fading to a bruised-pink stain.


An udder nicked by metal leaks milk. Her eyes stare straight ahead. The silence is leaden.


A wind kicks up from nowhere. I smell her innards, her spoiled flesh, her mid-flight death.


*


I think of towns in the South of France – my son, age five, rode every carousel, clutching his red tickets bought in blocks of ten.


How dizzy I became, watching him go round and round, up and down, the clanging organ music playing across the square.


How one morning at a café, I sipped

Campari and soda to settle my stomach.


How that evening I tucked him in, lay beside him,

nauseous from the midday sun, listened as he slept.


The rise and fall of his breath.



Author Bio:

Clare Chu was raised in Malta and England, and has adopted Palm Springs, CA. as her home. She is an art curator, dealer, lecturer and writer who has authored and published almost twenty books and numerous academic articles on Asian art. Her poetry is published in The Comstock Review, The Perch, Crosswinds Poetry Journal and the Raw Art Review amongst others. Clare’s debut collection, The Sand Dune Teacher, was published by UnCollected Press in June, 2020. A chapbook entitled Objects Heavy In This Life was published in June 2022 by Finishing Line Press. She was a 2021 Pushcart nominee.

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