Poetry Suite by Anna Meister

Editor Carrie Ivy, Poetry, November 4th, 2013

Every kiss & Girl at my down & ruddy face.

anna meister poetry suite nailed
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A Community

garden sits behind the timber & house
recently purchased by my grandparents
with an envelope of cash. Dirt-cheap,
Grandma repeats, pointing at owl eye
signs that read Neighborhood Watch.

The small lot holds quilt plots
of zucchini & okra, whose flowers I pick
to stick behind my ear like a woman
in a painting.

From speakers, funk horns wail & bodies
move with work. Hands trim & pull,
fill buckets to brim for family dinners.

My mother, braid tucked in a cap, whispers
Grow your roots deep! to our marigolds
& pepper plants in the watering can’s absence.

To the neighbors, Grandpa is Mr. George.
They shake his hand & say Welcome
to our neighborhood, say You seem alright
for a white guy. Their laughter is oil in a hot pan,

but I hear only the boys
in the street. Boys my age,
but from a different school.

I push seeds deep into dirt for future watermelons
as they loop on bikes with song. Lips puckered
toward my crouching, they make sounds like bats
& scraped glass. Every kiss & Girl
at my down & ruddy face.

Above their heads, knotted
laces – limb of scuffed sneaker – rest
on a pulled-tight power line. Shoes move
a little like a flag in the breeze.

+ + +

 

Date Cake

I.

Northern California for the last
summer & you don’t know it.

You sleep in a cowboy’s house
of windows. Lemon trees & poppy

colored koi, hollandaise spooned
over morning’s eggs. Your body

long & pale & changing
too slow beneath a purple shirt.

Nipples like quarters,
sore all the time.
 

II.

Once your brother goes to bed,
Mom & Dad waltz silent

in the yard. You learn how to make cake
from dates. Flour up to your elbows

like fancy gloves. Knife’s glide
through medjool meat & walnuts.

Filling mounded over dough rolled
whisper-thin. Sides folded up, rustic.

This cake is really a tart, you know,
even knowing nothing.
 

III.

A bite rests on your tongue
like communion. The cowboy says,

“Your parents think you’re too young
for dates, but I disagree.”

Then his knee slapped twice at the joke
he made, rhythm for their dance

beneath avocado hang. Her chin up
at the sky, a laugh devoured by the night

so quick you question
if it happened at all.

 + + +

 

The Morning Her Brother Dies, She Tells Us

It happened immediately after your father sang
“Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” She tells us
He killed him & quickly covers her mouth.

+ + +

Summer When Small

The air snaps like sparks
in the wide Iowa sky. For now,
we are country
kids. Have dirt-caked faces.
Around the struck tree, we run
like smoke. Eat cabbage
heads like apples. Catch
fireflies & make our hands
into lanterns. We wade
through rows of herbs
with basil fists. Mom keeps
on her knees in the dirt, reaches
past cages & plucks
tomatoes from their fuzzy vines,
her hands a maddened song.
Smell toasted rice & sausage
& Creole seasoning swim
from the open kitchen door,
the place where Dad sings
Marvin Gaye in an off-key falsetto.
Hear his I know a man
ain’t supposed to cry. Watch him
dance with a wooden spoon.

+ + +

 

Steve’s

The whole house, shades drawn & dusty,
smelled of cigarettes (rain, raisins) & the filtered
ends, wet from his mouth, lived in canning jars
& ashtrays shaped like canoes. Smoke stung
my eyes & licked the cracked walls yellow-brown,
holding a green painted handprint next to a poem
beginning On Father’s Day & the school photos
sent from California, taken in front of a background
of sky & clouds, William in striped shirts
with wrinkled collars, his teeth disappearing
& then coming back. The stacks of tapes I measured
myself against, every Bulls game Jordan ever played.
& the TV on full blast, the Wheel ticking
while my brother & I became Lost at Sea on the waterbed.
In his kitchen, black & white checkerboard floors
curled in the corners like dry leaves & heavy pots hung
from a rack on the ceiling with shiny copper bottoms
like new pennies. Tall glass bowls filled the counter
& beneath wet towels, balls of white dough grew.
Uncle Steve let me punch the risen mounds down.
I stood on his (long numb) legs in the chair.

Years before I wore orange to his funeral,
we stirred vanilla extract into fresh snow
& called it ice cream.

 

+ + +

poet anna meister nailed magazineAnna Meister will graduate from Hampshire College this winter with a B.A. in poetry/memory/maps. Her work can be found in journals such as NAP & The Bakery. Meister was recently named a semifinalist for the 2013 Button Poetry Prize/Exploding Pinecone Press chapbook contest. She loves political thrillers, coconut curries, & the Midwest.

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Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.