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Toni Mirosevich: California Poets Part 6, Two Poems

Toni Mirosevich

October 18th, 2023

Californian Poets: Part VI

Toni Mirosevich

Two Poems


Just carry on

Even though it would be nice, wouldn’t it, to go buck-naked

into the world, shed snakeskin, second skin, but never second sight,

it’s still unfathomable, isn’t it, the degree we need to let go of the past,

to dress down. There are veils and shadows and shadow puppets

in the firelight glow, someone’s hands all over the strings, ghosts

who manipulate (darling, will you steer?) and a story--classic, long

overdue--is projected on the screen: good and evil spring from

the same source, a heart of gold is tarnished, someone gets their

comeuppance, life treads on. The past is clearly no longer of use--

last year’s model, the old prosthesis, the circle pin--yet what is no

longer serviceable still persists, like a cough, or a mangle. (We need

some days to make things thin.) Let’s then, for a moment, let the old

wall heater kick in and warm our backsides with this spanked heat.



It doesn’t help to force it; the lock, the jar, the poem to come

unbidden. Applied pressure is not an applied science. Doctor

Dolittle knew as much, his Pushmi-pullyu couldn’t be shoved

or cajoled, was anatomically unable to move forward or move back.

Every forced effort is, by its very nature, over the top but there are,

of course, exceptions to the rule: Smile, Marchella, smile, is what

a mother yelled as her daughter paraded by on the homecoming float

and Marcella, knock-kneed, intemperate, reared back and forced

a toothy grin. Faced with her mother’s iron will, that force of nature,

no wonder she caved. Everyone knows we need to let go and let

God—or some deity—take over, we must not press, but when asked

to go against type our thoughts become weak, wrinkled, in a world

where force is exalted but where might might be wrong. So while

it might be harder to force a camel through the eye of a needle than

the rich doctor into heaven, while no amount of pressure can wrest

water from a stone, minor adjustments can work miracles. A small

yet sharp increase in temperature forces steam through an iron’s

tiny little holes.

—From The Takeaway Bin by Toni Mirosevich

[All italicized quotes are selected cards from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies]

The Takeaway Bin

Take away the elements in order of apparent nonimportance

Toss out any crummy little ax to grind. The wood’s chopped.

You have enough for the long cold winter ahead. Take away

what you planned to do today: trim your nails, build a seesaw,

sweep the ocean floor. It’s less important to get the worm

than to have one last frame of the dream; you were climbing

a mountain. At the summit was a café called Happiness.

Inside, in a glowing golden room, people were, yes, happy,

quietly sipping their cups of tea. It wasn’t important who

did what to whom, yesterday’s knife in the back. The blade

wasn’t sharp, your wit less so. Before she takes your order

the waitress points out the daily specials on the blackboard,

then tells you to leave what you don’t need by the door. In

the takeaway bin. Your worries. Fears. The go go boots that

never fit. The knitted scarves received as gifts, veils over your

eyes, she says. Take away the elements of your unhappiness,

then the elements themselves, five, when we last counted, or

was it four? Fire, water, earth, oh, air it out. She hands you

a cup of tea. “Now, you’re ready,” she says. Get out of bed.

The day lies before you, clean as a slate. It’s yours to write on.”

Author Bio:

Toni Mirosevich grew up in a Croatian-American fishing family in Everett, Washington. She is the author of seven books, most recently, Spell Heaven (Counterpoint, 2022) a collection of linked stories. Her previous books include Pink Harvest, a book of nonfiction stories, winner of the First Series in Creative Nonfiction Award and Lambda Literary Award Finalist, and five books of poetry, including, The Takeaway Bin and Queer Street. She is the recipient of fellowships from MacDowell, Hedgebrook, Blue Mountain Center among others. Her cross-genre writings have been anthologized in Best American Travel Writing, Best of the Bellevue Literary Review, AutoBioDiversity: True Stories from Zyzzyva and elsewhere. Past honors include the Astraea Emerging Lesbian Writer in Fiction Award, the Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award in Poetry for LGBTQ poetry, the Ann Fields Poetry Prize, and multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. She is a Professor Emerita in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and currently serves as Pacifica, California’s Poet Laureate.


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