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Poems by JTBacman (aka Janet Tobacman)

Rock Love

You gave me a geode
deep blue, unpolished on the bottom
high gloss on the face
a crust of tiny crystal inside, exposed
by a hole the shape of an eye
or a vaginal opening, the rest
yellow-tan and blue-grey rock,
could easily be passed over on the trail
no different from all the others.

Single loosened rocks
don't generally call our attention
unless it is our intention
or our shoes don't grip
and we slip upon them.

But someone
picked this one
cut it to fit perfectly
in my hand, highlighted its glory,
its perfect weightedness.

You and I found each other
by intention and accident
and have meticulously uncovered
our geologies ever since.

Of all your daily gifts
there is little I cherish more
than those like this stone
which was hand-selected twice
for all of its ordinary
and extra-ordinary design.


Time's Ways
(A Journey Through Pecos National Monument,
New Mexico)

Today we witnessed the ancients
doing their daily chores
and child spirits playing

images strong visceral
reaching across time and
our perceived need for words
to carefully place the feet
of us who know so little
about them

we trodded through the ruins
of this long destroyed pueblo village
on an asphalt path for tourists
stood glued to one spot
for the life we saw there
to another for the deep
and violent sadness
of arms ripped
from a child's embrace
a neighbor's trust misplaced
a lover's sigh turned to weeping
a convert's righteous stare

adobe structures once faithfully mimicked
clay mountains on which they stood
while a hollow church built much later
looms large on the hillside
a pale imitation

surely there were true believers
appalled or embarassed
by their countrymen
and the betrayal
of their cross
though their spirits
don't echo here

in these timeless conversations

we listen
as best we can.


Visits with Raven

When you weighed 70 pounds
I could at least still find you
wrapped in malaise
and cellophane-thin tissue
the covering also
for long unused wings
that flicked, fragile
in the hope of free flight

each visit you are sicker
and my patience is thinner

this time a hormone induced balloon
puffs around you
tentatively cushioning
weak and broken bones
I am less afraid to hug you
but more frightened overall

your eyes at many moments
don't show you looking back
though they face mine directly
and squint for understanding
you seem determined not to find

I listen least well
when you talk of the pain
the litany too long to follow
but listen intently
when you talk about death
an event you won't promise
to save until we can see
each other again

we both sleep little then
which is normal for you

by morning I itch to go home
am dying to stay longer

your sobs begin minutes
before my departure
and sound distant
even from yourself
echo empty
in the rented car
as if borrowed

I hurry down the interstate
to the runway home.


Restoring the House that Leans on Guilt

When we paint ourselves over
the color of crazy, we often trip
on our own dripping brushes
slide grasping for a handhold
to parts we are too frightened
to recognize

our houses are not so fragile
nor the love in them so weak
that they cannot withstand
some shifting earth
provided we repair the foundation
before beginning a thoughtless whitewash
as appealing and misleading
as the story of Tom Sawyer's fence

what makes guilt seem so irreversible
is the unrelenting mixture
of rage and remorse
painting our insides
like the artificial boundaries
that separate our neighbor's
lot from our own

without these distinctions
there is nothing to trip us
or confuse with righteous indignation

what remains the desire
to shore up and replant
the shared hillside.


What is it?

There's something like boredom
in which you long for nothing

not the folly of youth
or the pain of fizzled passions
or the heat of the fire
or the ashes it causes

or the laughter of wishing
or the wishing

not the glimpse of early ages
or the stages that they held like
so many wild animals
waiting to be tamed

not the eye of an unknown intimate
the twinkle of summer there
or the anxious waiting
for school to begin

not the accidents
the planned demises
or the thoughtless infliction
of disregard

and not the love
you once lived for
or the one you would have died for
or died to outgrow

sometimes things are so right
discordant with even the idea
of tension

that all you can do
is drift to sleep
or paint lazy daydreams
on a palette of curious
awe-filled yawns.

JTBacman 5/17/99

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Biographical sketch: I have been writing poetry for over 30 years, and have slowly but surely developed a substantial body of work from which I am proud to share here on the Poetry Showcase. For me poetry and song are closely related, so I also share my poetry out loud whenever I have an opportunity. I hope you enjoy the "songs" presented here. Please let me know.

JTBacman (aka Janet Tobacman) recommends:

Time's Power by Adrienne Rich

Reason: Rich is among my favorite poets because of her ability to use clear descriptive language in fresh ways to capture a sense of our unfolding collective and individual histories. In the poem "For an Album" she writes "Our story is of moments/when even slow motion moved too fast/for the shutter of the camera". Time slows down for us when our eyes are open to the moment. In many ways, that is the very definition of poetry, the moment in slow motion recorded for posterity.

Recommendations for writers:

Stay close to the heart and trust your own voice. (You know, the one that tells you what to do and you know it's right even though it sometimes scares the hell out of you because it contradicts everything your mother and your English teacher warned you about.)

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