Poems From Clare Rossini's Latest Work: 'Lingo'

Hartford Courant

This month's featured poet, Clare Rossini, is the author of three collections of poetry, the latest being "Lingo." She is artist-in-residence in the English Department at Trinity College, Hartford, where she teaches courses in creative writing and supervises an outreach program. Her poems and essays have appeared in many journals, including The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry, as well as anthologies including the "Best American Poetry." Her work has been featured on Connecticut Public Radio and the BBC, and she has received numerous fellowships and awards.

At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20, she will read as part of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington. Rossini lives in West Hartford with her husband and son.

Rennie McQuilkin, CT poet laureate

Ultrasound

Today on the screen we saw you,

Cloud of unknowing, cellular snowstorm

All white and gray, your spine a pearl tiara

Sunk in your back.

You lifted one gauzy hand to your mouth. We watched,

Unnerved to have caught you like that,

In your dressing room,

Busy with your arrayment.

No getting around it:

You're among the numbered, the blooded and the fleshed.

Soon you'll know the great divide

That yawns away from all sides of the body.

Of course, you'll howl. That's your business, to protest.

Then to find a way to colonize the vacuum,

Doll it up with a god, a Kantian category,

A wall of love,

While the hours pass by,

The hours we're stuck in like flies,

The hours we drift through like music,

The wide silvery ones, the sharp cold ones,

The dense black ones, which are all some ever get:

You'll see what griefs

We concoct for one another, our tools

Are famously refined.

Your days await you. Your years, I hope,

Lie folded, stacked, scented with mud and flowers.

I said flowers,

Yes. One day we'll sit on a hill,

And I'll weave you a little crown.

Meanwhile, sweet Huck,

In your lazy tropical afternoons,

Knit a lung, carve a thumbnail,

Conjure a face.

Portuguese Bakery, Hartford

A wedding cake fills the window,

Rosettes barnacled to the sides,

Dimpled ribbons wreathing the tiers,

Each pillared up and stippled

With pearl-drop flowers.

Nothing random here, nothing

Real—

Ephemera frilled on solid pasteboard.

But what a vision.

Decked out, flirting with overkill, and look

What the sign says:

"Baked on the premises."

Right here on earth!

Give enough notice, you could

Have your fiction and eat it, too,

Its fabulous shapes

Melting on your tongue like sugar and lard.

Could the real cake

Still warm from the oven,

Frosted, sliced, presented on glass plate —

Could that cake ever live up to this,

Its perfected effigy? I shrug

My heavy purse back onto

My shoulder, take a step

Closer to the window,

The March wind pawing my face,

Hordes of litter skittering through

The vacant lot next door.

I'm going to stop thinking awhile.

Going to stand here and allow

This audacious baked rival

To size me up, to take a private

Estimation of my

Human-thingness.

And when it's had enough of me,

I'll have more to say.

Lesson

The truck has lost its wheel. Too cheap

To last, I should've known it

The moment he fell in love with it

As it hung from its drugstore rack,

A fetal pickup wombed in a shiny plastic bubble,

Red-hot lightning stripes

Sizzling down its sides.

Such trucks do not last.

Such trucks intone the sharp facts

Of mortality, and now my son is over his head

In misery, practicing the old-fashioned

Human habit of grief.

Use your words, I remind

As he lifts the truck, his cheeks crisscrossed

With the glossy paths of tears.

Broken, I say. The truck is broken, sweet.

The sky is falling, your heart is blue.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang:

To say it doesn't change a thing.

But sometimes, saying makes things true.

Postmortem

Having stood at the edge of a hole dug

As depositary for the body,

I.e., the mortal bit, blip on the screen,

Form given to us, form taken;

having stood

Thus, and watched it lowered, the big box

Waxed and shined to a faux-bronze finish,

I've found words to be shyer than they seem.

Pushed to the edge, they won't leap. In the shade

Of the valley of death, they're toy lamps; they pierce

The wily darkness not. Still,

Bless the nouns and verbs of prayer, the hymnal's

Stodgy rhymes, vanishing in the careless sky

That roofs the bereaved—

any sound to efface

The syllable of wind jabbering in the ear,

And on fake metal, the thud of living rose.

The poems above are from "Lingo" (University of Akron Press) and are copyrighted © 2016 by Clare Rossini.

CT Poet Laureate Rennie McQuilkin selects work for CT Poet's Corner by invitation.

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