Marilyn L. Taylor
A former copywriter who found her true calling writing deathless advertising jingles for AM radio, I am also the former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin (2009 - 2010), and the author of six poetry collections. The most recent of these, titled Step on a Crack, is just out from White Violet Press (Kelsay Books.). My work has appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Poetry, Able Muse, Light Poetry Journal, Mezzo Cammin, and Measure, and I also served for five years as a regular poetry columnist for The Writer magazine. I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin with my poet-husband Dave Scheler and an aging cat, where I continue to write, teach, and hobnob with some extraordinary poets who also call Wisconsin home.
Tonight I sleep
with the grass-eaters:
zebra and wildebeest
doze in clusters
near my tent, as night
gathers in pools
over the high savannah.
Even under canvas I
am caught in a current
of dread as it eddies
past, ruffling mane
and beard. My herd
shudders as if one
creature, and listens.
Now the deep African sky
lifts a glittering claw;
we, the vulnerable, hear
the rasp of death
and twitch our haunches
as the golden cat
begins her dance.
What They Don’t Know
They are thirteen, all flying elbows
and thinbone knees, wrapping their tongues
around words like pimp and bare-ass
and hard-on. They are astounded
by girls, the bodies of girls, the onrush
of lips and hair, and they talk about
what it would be to touch one of those
flashy breasts, to look it in the eye.
They are thirteen, and they don’t know
about the Buick they might be riding in
a year or two from now, packed in hip-to-hip
chanting a frenzied go go go go
until the pavement starts to bulge
and crest, lifting them, sending them up
into some kind of heartstop heaven.
They don’t know that the tree might be an elm
that the car will wrap itself around
in lascivious embrace, or that afterwards
a thin, watery sigh Open the door
could be the first sound and the last
before sirens take up the threnody.
For now, though, they lean lightly
on their slender bikes, polishing
a new language: horny, piss-off, kiss my ass.
Expertly they palm their cigarettes,
the thick smoke streaming
from their mouths and noses.
At the End
In another time, a linen winding sheet
would already have been drawn
about her, the funeral drums by now
would have throbbed their dull tattoo
into the shadows writhing
behind the fire’s eye
while a likeness
of her narrow torso, carved
and studded with obsidian
might have been passed from hand
to hand and rubbed against the bellies
of women with child
and a twist of her gray hair
been dipped in oil
and set alight, releasing the essence
of her life’s elixir, pricking
the nostrils of her children
and her children’s children
whose amber faces nod and shine
like a ring of lanterns
strung around her final flare—
but instead, she lives in this white room
gnawing on a plastic bracelet
as she is emptied, filled and emptied.
On Marrying Well
Observe this retinue of towheads
she has taken for her own,
this cotillion of a family—
not the dark and hairy-armed
with blunt tongues flapping,
but a flock of finches
whose berries, figs and apricots
leave no room at the table
for dense black bread
nor for children, sweating
and speechless around chunks of chocolate
liquefying in their cheeks.
Instead, the room fills up
with upholstered syllables: Vichyssoise.
Karl Lagerfeld. Eleuthera.
Laughter chimes—jeweled bracelets dropping
on parquet. Conversation shifty—intricate
as chess, or rare Bordeaux.
No third helpings here. No undershirts,
armpits, toothpicks, saxophones
or feet on the table.
The wine is thin
and full of water.
©2017 Marilyn L. Taylor
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