I live in Tucson with my wife Connie and volunteer with Sky Island Alliance, a regionally-based environmental organization. I am also poetry editor for Zócalo, a local arts magazine. I'm an opportunist, not a poet with a plan. Whatever catches my fancy, I write about: an engaging image, a political or environmental issue, a bit of zoology, an overheard conversation, and, of course, love, love, love. In grad school, I fell in love with Jonathan Swift. Thirty years later, I still have to rein in my satirical impulses to protect whatever is tender in my poems.
I wake up,
eye-to-eye with the cat’s anus.
He’s purring on my chest.
Why me, oh, Lord?
Like face time
with a rusty washer.
I hear good things
about the ungulates,
their table manners, their
clean plates. My kind
of animal, sweet-smelling,
modest, not like cats
weaving between your legs,
scent glands under their tails,
rubbing until you smell
like them, safe enough
to love. Take my species,
for example. I’m a person,
the plague of white-eyes,
each nation called itself
“the people.” Take.
my species. Please.
The vet calls it “extrusion” & prescribes
an antibiotic, room-temperature, as if the cat
cares. He’ll lose that fang in a few weeks.
I ask the vet if she knows some place
that could gold-plate the tooth & hang it
on a silver chain, an amulet against
this evil century. She shrugs & glances
away as if I’m a Scientologist or mentally ill.
O, ye of little faith!! The Mai Mai rebels
believed holy water changed the bullets
of the government troops into rain.
They brandished spears, wearing nothing
but shower caps on their heads & around
their necks, bath plugs for amulets.
Easy pose not easy no more. Nothing not
easy no more. But come, hang this cat’s tooth
around your neck & see how much it helps.
The Mai Mai rebels? 20% almost survived.
After a buffalo burger
& some butter lettuce,
triple-washed, I’m ready
to refinance the house.
I can’t sleep nights,
coveting the sudden wealth
of someone like Ragged Dick
the bootblack, a fictional
character, but still. . . .
I’d vote Socialist. I can’t sleep,
concocting get-rich-quick schemes:
a great-tasting colonoscopy prep.
Or Hasta Yoga, copywriting,
like Mr. Bikram, ancient asanas,
the ones that stretch wrist & fingers,
yoga for signatories. I’d vote
Socialist. My best idea yet,
All three poems originally appeared in Get Serious: New and Selected Poems (Chax Press, 2013).
©2015 Jefferson Carter