Monday, August 3, 2009

Quatrains: Jibe-Ho!


There is something to be said

For capsizing,
For touching white crests
Which mirror white breasts of gulls.

There is something which pulls
Me into darkened waves,
Into ice peaks and mouthy
Fish souls.

A deep rush down deep lungs,
I dive into Time's ocean,
Confusing what was with what is and
what will be with what was.

To leave my boat behind,
A woeful wreck on jagged rock,
To float into a throne of shells,
I do not find something so wrong with that.

Goodbye, dear hull.
Goodbye, dear jib.
Goodbye, dear rudder.
I will remember your sleekness,

Even as I drift tugged by waves
And whales.
To travel the gulf stream cannot
Be so bad...

There is something to be said
For capsizing,
But more to be said for

Justine Bienkowski

Quatrains: Candied


Scented sweetly, sugar sweethearts
align upon our tongues.
Soldered seriously, sunken
beneath our teeth, we are

taken; turning tacitly to
our flaming lips, afire
today, (touched tomorrow), tangy
with poisons: love just one.

Wartime waggles wrinkled warnings:
but hearing none, we suck
Werther's, Wrigley's; wearing
our senses thin in time.

Justine Bienkowski

Sestets: On Writing, A Poem for Sylvia Plath

On Writing
A Poem for Sylvia Plath

I can taste the tin of the sky—the real tin thing.
Winter dawn is the color of metal,
The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves.
- Sylvia Plath

The heavy grayness, unwelcome,
Has stayed all week and shows
No signs of leaving me.
Bitterly I had set up the guest room,
Prepared a tub for it to sink its dirty feet.
The sky is some metal, dappled

Color that reeks of fresh rain and
Tastes like a kick to the head.
What would it mean to leave my bed?
When I hear my guest stirring,
Restless in the room next door?
What would it mean to part the shades?

The sun has left me this week,
Despite my yearning needs to see its eyes.
Instead I see only the haunting shade of
Winter, which should have been long gone.
The churning in the sky leaves my stomach
Ill, my face green and I cannot

Return to ordinary coloration.
Where are the knobs on my head
To adjust my contrast and saturation?
My ears? My eyes? My nose?
What is it to want to feel words?
Each page is gray, each pen is black,

I am on a mission to destroy each mirror
And catch each thunderbolt in my mouth.
I cannot hear the birds sing,
And my lonely azalea drips and droops,
Feeling abandoned. When will I emerge?
Perhaps tomorrow. Today is another rainy, gray day.

Justine Bienkowski

Rondeau: Untitled (Revised!)

Untitled (revised)

During Winter
my body wastes into a scab. My fingerprints fracture.
I mourn my skin: each crease a puckered-lip red—
the red of moist, heated moments—but this moment is bloodshed.
Dry air prevails, inciting crocodile skin and terror,

while flesh wastes in crooked sheaves, rots, shivers
into puckered red-lip scowls. Any prior luster
has faded into once-young skin. My hands are pale, as if bled.
Where, oh where is the Spring?

My hands wilt at the wrists. My eyes crust over in horror
at dry calloused rumps. Each hour
passes with the lathering of unhelpful creams. Unshed
you leathery skin, cease and desist! Drop from my bones, spread
from my limbs! This crispy exoskeleton is not young, but elder:
Where, oh where is the Spring?

Justine Bienkowski

Free Verse: An Afternoon Walk (Revised!)

An Afternoon Walk (revised)

Nosing through stacks of crumpled papers,
She did not speak
As she diligently attended to her work.
An “out” stack, an “in” stack,
She sniffed through both,
Sincere in her looks as she paused
To contemplate her makeshift office.
It is, I think, her job to find
Each tiny worm burrowed
Into amoral depths;

What is this?

What is it that caused her silence?
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 off-hand 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 easy knowledge of everything,
Sinking in through your nose.

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,
Picking at each moment
And knowing far more in her doggy life
Than I ever will in my small human one.

Justine Bienkowski

Quatrains: An Unmending (Revised!)

An Unmending (revised)

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
- Robert Frost

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 fold 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.

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 suck on my toes,
And suck away my words.

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

While you trumpet your glory of blocking,
Bragging my embarrassment for all to hear,
I remember that although I am invisible,
I still set the cornerstone and build.

Justine Bienkowski

Tercets: Taxodermy


the whales prepare for lift off
checking their engine lights
oiling between their fins

the captain confirms the clear air
assuring an empty path for large
bulking bodies

each cadet stoops poised
to float licking at fresh air
combing back dorsal from blowhole

at the signal the whales take flight
softer than expected
great hulks curving alongside flirty clouds

birds have a distinctly dead
look to them
as if each and every one is stuffed

each feathered head a fa├žade
a bundle of craft feathers placed strategically
on a wooden body

birds do not exist like you and i
but instead are flickers
mirages for ordinary people

what is a bird
except for bouts of flying
i cannot believe in them

i hereby pledge to chase
the wind to chase each raindrop
until it bends

Justine Bienkowski