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Judith Pacht: California Poets Part 5, Five Poems

Judith Pacht

December 22nd, 2022

California Poets: Part V

Judith Pacht

Five Poems

Broken Pantoum

First and last line, phrases from the poem “Dear Rose” in Time is a Mother, by Ocean Vuong.

A word is only what it means

one way to know white noise round sounds

so rapturous at night in daylight

fractured as old skin fault-lined

one way to know white noise round sounds

my maquette tries to be a poem

faultlines again did I write that say that

yes here it is

my maquette tries still not a poem

& the passion’s not quite gone

yes here it is (the likeness doesn’t scan)

my edit-eye excises sentiment

allows some passion (his receding chin)

a taste of past Selma’s cake with plums

my edit-eye my tongue remembers

cold-sweet warm-tart enjambed as lovers’ limbs

those plums in Selma’s cake

sharp intense but flat depending on the year

cold-sweet warm-tart enjambed as lovers’ limbs

despite my private fears

sharp intense & flat depending on the year

but colored wild & rapturous

despite those private fears rapturous ravenous

but words aren’t only what they mean

(feeling is the only truth)

Depression Soup, 1936

the chicken feet

at Sammy Yee’s

a jumble

grasses tuck

slivered duck

scallions in bao-clouds

orders sing out



treble clatter

roll & rattle

metal carts

right here

mother ladles

soup pot to bowl




of ancient

hens’ feet

broth leached & leached hours & hours

from barely bubbling bones

father’s bald head

a brass-globed finial

gleams tall over

suit & tie

starched dinners

mother’s ordered breaths Her Table

set for dining

with me an animal

whose procreant urges

primal ravenous

suck jellied bits off

mount of moon

mount of Venus

my hands

their feet

In Palmistry mount of moon, an area at the base of the palm opposite the thumb said to be the source of creativity, moods & emotions. Mount of Venus, opposite the mount of moon said to be the source of energy, love, affection and sympathy.

Portrait as a Complex Object

She has excised

what some call


an ever so slight

fat-flap at the waist

a prominent nose

her pointed chin

pain + time

her currency

her only leverage

leaves her


for something unseen


her deep reaches back

in that dim corner

where she (privately)

turns over arranges rearranges

her portrait

(composing her real self)

from shattered redactions

an object something like

a decorated dish warped in a mirror

she is looking

for anything that might


(it must be there)

her worth

just the thinnest slice.


“I say inner beauty doesn’t exist. That’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.” Osmel Sousa, longtime head of the Miss Venezuela pageant, on the popularity of plastic surgery in Venezuela. (NY Times, 11.9.13)

Another Slow Fade

After Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun

reads as disappeared not

an insult though unpredictably

spawning rage

permission to relive lingering


or tenderness

& abandonment again

you know how it goes

one gone & one left

plunged into orphanhood

affecting the same absence

of person wisdom & smart-ass repartee

alpenglow fades & disappears

in every direction


unwashed dishes disheveled sheets

two fishing boots each molded by a foot

body heat

not erased simply

(like Verdi’s Va Pensiero )

a pulse

a heart whole & beating

that outlives us


scraps collected

saved & shaped to stanzas

or laid out with care on paper

like starched & ironed organza


oh those crumpled hours

torn & tossed away

(something might be there)


once when I was three

I tried to tie my shoe hurled it flying

fury against the flowered wall


making bruises of the purple-petaled flowers

not so much later

I came to know

the shoe’s lace better

its loop-the-loop

its up-round-down

& then the lace & I

became a bow

Author Bio:

Judith Pacht’s book Summer Hunger (Tebot Bach), won the 2011 PEN Southwest Book Award for Poetry. Her recent poetry books Infirmary for a Private Soul (Tebot Bach) and a chapbook A Cumulus Fiction were published in 2019.

A three-time Pushcart nominee, Pacht was first place winner in the Georgia Poetry Society’s Edgar Bowers competition. Her poem KIN recently appeared on Verse Daily and her work is published in anthologies and journals (Ploughshares, Runes, Nimrod, Phoebe.) Her poetry has been translated into Russian and published in Foreign Literature (Moscow, Russia).

Pacht reads at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, at Charleston’s Piccolo Spoleto Festival (twice) and she has read and taught Political Poetry at Denver’s annual LitFest at the Lighthouse and at Beyond Baroque in Los Angeles.


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