Thursday, April 23, 2009

Epigram: Epigram


I offer an apology to all my fellow poets here:
Forgive my crass verse. You all must think my lines absurd and too sheer.
Forgive me. Convoluted I have never been. My mere
Metaphors must offend your delicate sense. Get over it.

Justine Bienkowski

Free Verse: An Afternoon Walk

An Afternoon Walk

Nosing through stacks of papers,
She did not speak much
As she diligently attended to her work.
An “out” stack, an “in” stack,
She mussed through both,
Sincere in her looks as she paused
To contemplate the office.
It is, I think, her job to find
Each tiny worm burrowed
Into amoral depths;
What is this?
At times it seems something
Must have once violently
Ripped at her suckling throat.
Tenderly rubbed it first, then tugged and slashed.
At other times, though, I know it is because
She is too intent at her tasks
To bother speaking—
And in fact I believe I can understand
Her silent body language.
Each scent she exudes, each offhand scratch
Behind an ear! I can hear her
Scheming and ticking.
She pauses once or twice
To confront my stupidity—
Really? You still don't understand?
I am sorry.
I can not comprehend your wisdom:
Your docile pawing at each item,
Letting its knowledge sink in.
I wish I could understand the couch's scents like you.
How many thin wraiths have sat upon this monster,
How much food has been dropped.
How many wives have been beaten over the arm's edge.
She walks with purpose,
A sneaky vacuum or maybe
Notepad and camera in one—
Picking at each moment
And knowing far more in her doggy life
Than I ever will in my one small human one.

Justine Bienkowski

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rubaiyat Stanzas

A Poet's Tree


Shuffling a pair of coarse feet,
She cocks her tender head, retreats
Into the shadow-lands, sniffing
Dying petals in the grass. Neat

Though she was, the trace of bug treats
Stained her beak, threatening repeat.
In her eyes, there is no tearing,
No guilt nor sorrow in her leaps.

Scuttling up thick trunks, she feeds
For life, for bird-like love, seeds
Her almond heart. Begins flying
In circles, content with her trees.


The tree thrusts his thick, groping hands
Into the taciturn sky; stands
Tall amongst his people. Gnarls
Crust his knees and elbows, band

Furrowed eyebrows together. Bland,
Lolling curves rumbled when he fanned
His kingdom aside, speaking tall
Arching words to tiny wings, land-

Dwelling creatures too."Behold! Plan
New days, new growing, new roots; cram
Yourselves into my arms, barrel
Soft noses for kissing sandy

Mornings. Let my fingers pull tan
Smiles and burned lips, twine your ballads
Into worthwhile rubbing. Quarrel
Only with your teeth and feet. Stand!"


I wish I could read the look, learn
This coughing tree. He seems to yearn
To teach me something about the
Smallness of seeds compared to ferns,

To trees. Of you and me. Turning
Leaves in my palms, each petal scorns
My two bare feet. I feel free,
waiting. Now my lines will upturn.

Justine Bienkowski

Friday, April 3, 2009

Free Verse: Muddy Murder

Muddy Murder

Who is this stranger sleeping in my bed?
I do not believe I have ever met him.
His features, though familiar,
Have a harder edge than I am used to.
His jaw is a bit too sharp.
His eyebrows are narrowed even in sleep,
While tufts of blankets are clenched in his angry fists.

You remind me of someone I think I used to love,
But cannot imagine loving now.
You look to be the shadow of a ghost,
Ethereal, lack-luster, some sort of universal joke.

Vaguely I remember those eyelashes, curled
At the stems. Maybe there was a time
Where you and I had walked through rainy streets,
And although the buildings dwarfed us with their
Shadowy caped figures, I never seemed to notice.
And although I had worn two pairs of socks,
My feet were still soaking, icicles forming
Between toes.

Even now, on days like this,
I can only think of rain and ice.

Each person slushes through the dirty water,
Disregarding it as a force of nature.
Only I gingerly side-step the mud-tinged puddles,
Concerned about its tell-tale color.
It seems like a murder has occurred here,
Owing to the brassy murder clay.
Sediment the color of diluted blood
Wrapped in short layers of flush.
Big, wet flakes cover the puddles, turning
Them to a mushy porridge.

I can only think of murdered dirt.

My mother once explained to me
The reason for her separation from my father
In 1982, him in lands paved gold, her in dirty,
Dirty water.
Nic nie boli tak jak zycie.
Nothing hurts the same way that life does.

She looked at me, carefully weighing her words,
Looking as if the fear of going back to that place
Still kept her restless at nights.
“I didn't know whether I should follow him or not.
It had been 4 years. I didn't know if he was the same man,”
She said, dunking already soggy lemons into her tea,
“But I went anyway.”

Justine Bienkowski

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Free Verse in Quatrains: An Unmending

An Unmending

Something there is that never ends,
A ritual spilling of guts onto
Down-on-their luck pages,
Old and gray but clean.

There is a simple formula
For writing poetry:
Find what pains you
And muck in it until you wilt.

This giving of ourselves into tiny, wood grains
Is cyclical, and try as we might
To fight against circumference,
We wilt into our versification.

Poetry is not only that which keeps us living
But also that which lives on long after
We are put away, trapped in wooden caskets,
Forbidden to feel the dirt we so belong to.

Something there is that grows
Birch trees and Apple trees and sweet

I stare at the rotten banana on my shelf,
Anticipating, hoping it will heal its bruises
So I can take its cue and rise from my ashes
Just as we all must do sometimes.

I am wet with fever,
Brought to this place
Where the pit of my belly hungers,
Rumbling slowly, a car along a turgid highway.

Since you continue to feed on me,
I will become a bird and force-feed
My regurgitated poems into your
Gaping mouth.

High off coffee and burning
Cigarettes like incense,
My teeth chatter as my rage grows
At my radial cage.

I feel the high brick buildings
Towering above me and
Creeping closer to touch my toes,
Like a shock of cold wave.

I pick at hangnails, urging them to bleed,
But once they do I can only
Run to the faucet and drown
Each bead.

In the hours I waste,
My hair turns to dried muddy straw:
Will I spend my life here
Until my sweaters, too, stink of age and regret?

And while you trumpet your glory
And success for all to hear,
I remember that although I am invisible,
I still set the cornerstone and build.

Justine Bienkowski

Petrarchan Sonnet: To Neptune, From Octopus, With Love

To Neptune, From Octopus, With Love:

I come from salty waters, King of Seas,
From oceans made of tears I shed myself,
From deeper, darker depths you wouldn't delve
Into. I float, somehow, amongst these trees.
These trees of weeds beneath blue seas
Rocket my standing, Prince of Thieves, of filth
And misery. My eyeballs bulge at shelves
Of fatty minions you breed. Unknown, I'll seize
Your power. Faced with your entitlement,
I do not flee! I am your ruler now:
You'll bow to me. Descending, blood with run
And you, my friend, will slumber. No repent
Will be obliged. My arms and legs will foul
Your mighty grasp until you see the Sun.

Justine Bienkowski