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Kim Addonizio: California Poets Part 5, Five Poems

Kim Addonizio (photo by Johnna Crawford)

December 22nd, 2022

California Poets: Part V

Kim Addonizio

Five Poems

Cigar Box Banjo Blind Willie Johnson could coax music from a single string. God plucked a rib and found a woman. Concert aria in the gypsy song, long groan of orgasm in the first kiss, plastic bag of heroin ripening in the poppy fields. Right now, in a deep pocket of a politician’s brain, a bad idea is traveling along an axon to make sure the future resembles a cobra rather than an ocarina. Still there’s hope in every cartoon bib above which a tiny unfinished skull in its beneficence dispenses a drooling grin. The heart may be a trashy organ, but when it plucks its shiny banjo I see blue wings in the rain. From My Black Angel: Blues Poems & Portraits (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2014)

Heraclitean In goes the cafeteria worker in her hairnet. In goes the philosophy teacher explaining the theory of eternal return, and Anton Stadler with his clarinet, still owing money to Mozart. In goes Mozart. Everyone flopped into the creel of the happy fisherman, everyone eaten. Every river is Lethean, so why should we care if it’s not the same river? I hate how everything changes, tree to failing term paper, chatelaine to beheaded plotter, drug dealer to narc. The heart softening faster than cereal but then hardening to a relic which turns into another line of depressed poetry to recite to the next eager trainee anxious to be more than lint. Going up, you’re also going down, so either way, as your mother said, Be nice. When she went in, she was very thin. Earth, air, fire, water, mother. Fish pulse slowly under the river ice. From My Black Angel: Blues Poems & Portraits (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2014)

Creased Map of the Underworld Nothing is so beautiful as death, thinks Death: stilled lark on the lawn, its twiggy legs drawn up, squashed blossoms of skunks and opossums on the freeway, dog that drags itself trembling down the front porch step, and stops in a black-gummed grimace before toppling into the poppies. The ugly poppies. In Afghanistan they are again made beautiful by a mysterious blight. Ugly are the arriving American soldiers, newly shorn and checking their email, but beautiful when face-up in the road or their parts scattered like bullet- or sprinkler-spray or stellar remains. Lovely is the nearly expired star casting its mass into outer space, lovelier the supernova tearing itself apart or collapsing like Lana Turner in Frank O’Hara’s poem. Nothing is so beautiful as a poem except maybe a nightingale, thinks the poet writing about death, sinking Lethe-wards. Lovely river in which the names are carefully entered. In this quadrant are the rivers of grief and fire. Grid north. Black azimuth. Down rivers of Fuck yous and orchids steer lit hearts in little boats gamely making their way, spinning and flaming, flaming and spiraling, always down-- down, the most beautiful of the directions. From My Black Angel: Blues Poems & Portraits (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2014)

Grace Let go & let God is my guard dog Beware the ragged shithole hordes & bless my Chrome Moly Bushmaster .223 rest your asses nowhere near my rod & staff I raise my beacon-hand & torch anyone who doesn’t believe Jesus was calved from a virgin & then ascended to his penthouse & will raptor down to smite Jews abortionists niggers Muslims fags Obama the AntiChrist SATAN WAS THE FIRST TO DEMAND EQUAL RIGHTS outside the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle while a boy puts his tongue in another boy’s mouth & they lie down together shy & barely breathing From Now We’re Getting Somewhere (W.W. Norton, 2020)

Art of Poetry Between coffee & fentanyl, between Love Me and Go Fuck Yourself there’s so much life to be gotten through So many mirrors to challenge in your ragged robe & collagen essence Korean facial mask Eventually you have to go out & walk around in the world like you belong there You have to smile at work, & buy things when you just want to crawl into a closet & live in an old cowboy boot & write witty unhinged verses which sometime before the death of the sun an advanced civilization will discover, etched into the ancient leather, preserved in a rock formation & display in a luminous floating interdimensional sphere Q: Ever notice how many writers write about writing? A few centuries ago Horace wrote approvingly of a poet He intends not smoke from flame, but light from smoke which I think is good advice if you can follow it but he also said that to paint a dolphin in the trees or a boar in the waves is an unnatural distortion & I thought about how much I’d like to see that & how unrealistic it is to expect things to stay in their places Why not someone’s grieving widow consoled by a nebula A suicide vomiting flowers In the 20th century Pablo Neruda wrote his own “Arte Poetica” lamenting all the things that called to him without being answered & reading it, I thought about that time in a tiny fishing village in Mexico, a third mangorita waterfalling through my liver the waitress coming toward me in a white T-shirt with black lettering that said I HAVE NO TITS which was clearly a lie although her stomach was kind of big which had the effect of making them appear to recede like the single taillights of two antique Model A Fords sputtering together toward obsolescence Q: Does she even know what it says? I HAVE NO TITS What is the message, is this perhaps a code, could it be from the future Is it a “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” situation like in that painting of a pipe or a new far-reaching campaign from the US Ministry of Enlightenment & Propaganda The thieving president wearing a golfing shirt that says I HAVE NO CLOTHES Q: Who killed poetry again & who cares? Between false flags and homeless laundry lines Between long-lasting eyebrow gel & little-known destinations profiled in the New York Times I don’t know where anyone is going or where there is to get to The days & nights keep drunkenly arriving, the guests are all dying & I’m starting to feel pretty sick From Now We’re Getting Somewhere (W.W. Norton, 2020)

Author Bio:

Kim Addonizio’s latest poetry collection is Now We’re Getting Somewhere (W.W. Norton). She is the author of seven other poetry collections, two novels, two story collections, and two books on writing poetry, The Poet’s Companion (with Dorianne Laux) and Ordinary Genius, as well as a memoir, Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life (Penguin). Her awards include fellowships from the NEA and Guggenheim Foundation and her collection Tell Me was a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Oakland, CA and teaches poetry workshops on Zoom.


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