July 1, 2007
Mary Jane Song (poetry)
was special boulders with butterflies
peekaboo trails —
was the 1/2-believed, fluttering
phrase yielding great ... oh, great — delivered with great
élan (totally wrong word), flair (even worse), oh what is the word
oh yes, great happiness plain insight promises like soft kitchen light
one morning, some mornings
Is this what you meant? Are we
getting closer to getting it now? Does it begin to make Sense? Apply?
It's not what I went to business school for,
nope. (Runny pancake syrup.) Not quite.
was friends you hoped you could
keep swaying to be your friend — business shakes —
was the chocolate Nesquik homemade kind of truth, thick,
and tomatos begging to be spread over lettuce and avocado
was being a real sensitive kid —
was always leaving a square of your heart on
the coastal highway, the One,
from your tropical armchair at home
where you learned to own things without
possession, dreaming them light blue all the same
was kisses, mostly not taken, the fantasy spreading like tough glamour
was dancing in the barn under a powder moon
was finding the oomph detail
and glomming it on to your life —
working it into light, like a caterpillar or silkworm dancers
smulching, turning in and around themselves
Was finding those famous eyes billboard-high
or faces or cheekbones or lately abs, and latching on — eye (sing.), I, aye, aye —
latching on to coast and hope and terrific — hold it! —
when you breathe out, think of the smell of a rose, he said —
was the happy smell of horses, hay squares, nice dogs in the land
hustling breathy like Marilyn, while men holding hardbacks
pet them on the rump and say, “Quite a beautiful day,”
get in their Subaru station wagons and drive away.
Although, she wrote, for girls in love with horses, there is no hope.
I decided then and there I would stay a girl for all of ever: rush-rush heart questions like palpitations like goldfish wings.
Because she also wrote, the bitch, “Let me love someone for 20 years, let me see how it goes,” and set the standard impossibly high. For those (of us) who get bored.
Because, here’s my question, I guess: What makes a girl and what makes a woman? What kind of soul do I have?
When the actress wore their lavender creation to the awards in 1995,
she made P---a a household name.
This is solid ... immersion in truth.
was mountain bell ranges of freedom
bella-belle and greta-great, my typos sang.
It was arranged from beyond the beyond, when we were kids.
That we must . . . m-e-e-t
We must — I will arrange for these mountain ranges to meet then after all.
was always some new language coming
’round the corner, through the dogwood
of the perfumey café — what
language are you — coming down the twirly wisteriad stairs
toward the payphone — Kevin was his name — is it French? — he would later dance with me, but for now, I’m clutching my denim binder to me under the stairs
and it’s the wisteria-scented summer air of high school, sophomore year.
I wish I felt the love all the time then (and I did, I did in certain grand-
spacious-dignified moments), but I mean felt it as it was happening
all the time, knowing how sweetly we were living and how lucky we were.
was all these daisy heads living far away, across the bay and huge
in the bob and weave
under a bridge, over the hill
a windy sea or two
in a Hollywood bungalow joy-warm
Carole Lombard: walks out onto her front lawn in a white pantsuit,
wearing her crown like laughter
our darling girl
me and Eden on the phone with our knees curled under in the sun while we traded secrets, the flux and flow of victories, glad glad girlship, some pink smidgeon tea in English cups on fuzzy white
carpet — this was our lordly friendship —;
sweet fuss. Like
if someone died, you smoked a long brown clove outside.
the glow and turning of the worst life while the Bo Derek (post-
persuaded us to love it stared at you in frizzy fright
so in the end, we forgave all lies — how simple — after all that muss.
The train came [and we hopped on]
to be gone.
— “the dancer’s legs swing over
Things you can never dream of,” the producer says,
“not for another 20 —” he is café-loud
I look at him and don’t look away, mentally.
Writer that I was in ’99 would’ve taken a stab and said,
passion and refinement in the South would have saved us this.
was a vacancy of woods like islands
splintered against Picasso’s
woman’s thighs —
and Matisse, don’t forget Matisse, his boy playing piano in blue against New York snow, against Notre Dame. I was so young then
no one knew how old I was. they always guessed wrong.
even the old men, the connoisseurs.
later to find out I was apt to bite.
“You were a royal little thug,” my nanny said
and wounded me. “Oh, but spry ...”
I sat, here-there sat, on her lap and fed her mushed peaches.
The swinging dichotomies like saloon doors: to belong or not to
holding four truths at once and then holding forth on ...
— you had to do that to win, right? To display your character. karakter.
This was America, land of the brave. signatory, notary, the screw-your-head-on-tight team revolution. You couldn’t just squeak by. You weren’t thinking of going home early, were you? No excuses now. That's not how the game is played or won.
What did you learn in summer school, doll? asked Grandma.
Can you give it back to us in three-quarter time? asked the piano teacher.
Well, in school today, the order of the day was hello K and good-bye K, was ...
Can I have my sheet music back? I'm not done learning the Golden Dreams song.
I had two cats. Cutie and Beauty. And a red tricycle.
granite rock vs. black rock candy I’m standing here happily
the lava Mr. Ancesci (geology, 7B) brought us back from his Italian
and happy not just because I’m making things up
long art in the afternoon
the Disney collection of Books
but because I’m gathering
ponytails and yellow clogs
myself up into a home of straw gold,
coming into myself
like Jesus sitting at the wood table —
eating with his dear hands, noble and helpful
singing of love affairs — (the sting of) the happiest arc moments
with a who's-this grey-suited man I met in a photo once
I hear his imaginary wife rise from the bath
Let her rise
and pen a letter to the someday queen
while their German Shepherd springs up like a pink spray rose
in the arch under the man’s arm, the would-be prince, my idolator (say the nuns, seen from behind)
They live in an Italian palazzo, code for hope river dream gosh gee willy willikers
For each time we resolved to leave people behind, we found out they had left us underfoot, stamped, our insides puddled out in conversation, hours ago. I’m talking about
my brother and me.
Though we were not victims, we were not prepared — conditioned as we were to the Thus — which proved to be our undoing.
Until we awoke. To our raging pain. And still Our inability to be mean (first).
where, oh where, did your heart reside? (when?)
don’t be silly, this is for you. it’s a general question, now focus. I mean,
where did they swing, your heart strings? where did they go? don’t you
want to be saved?
Sometimes. Rarely. Are you gonna talk about this in every poem?
This is how we need each other, you say?
I just want to talk about my brother.
Because I am learning, growing fast, faster than
the tops of most trees and springtime. As fast as
the live spring green teatime tree in front of
the train station. Where he escaped every day
(and had once held court)
*one busy day you —
with your plain Mary Jane’s and your sweet knees (where was the love, o
let’s duke it out, let’s heave, let’s ho) — oh,
here it was all along, in the land we called
the huntfield: underfoot, under the bed, funny
Whom they made walk the plank; he read it out loud, it must have been.
The listening pirates wiped the crumbs from their beards.
Yeah! they barked and roared. Let’s make the girl walk the plank!
I grabbed another muffin. Who were these guys?
In the body — in your body, if I may be so bold — in the art of the body,
we are told,
when there is open breath and flowing warmth, your own sweetness flows, (different from your family’s in timbre, function and tone)
cherished straight to the top at cherry-apricot-gold
America, land of the drat [hooded] lukewarm,
where skyscraper men still know bestest
and the planet Earth/is good, now/my body warm, sings —
America, land of the sleek-eyed and silent-tongued and fast-hearted —
was people who helped you, lovely folk, because
they learned it, with lilting smiles, in kindergarten;
was governance shunning governance —
(here are some goggles for the rest)
was pot, was romance, romance novels, was the dream of the ocean and litter, was
work and workaholics, was buds, was white Tahoe boats on Emerald Bay, the
Godfather castle waves, was do you know how nice it is to be kissing you (said
against spotted curtains), was you make everything more beautiful (to the young
girl), was your voice sounds like a piano (this from, well, a phone line in another
country), was crazy dotted lights in the sky when I looked up to the sun. was
lavender hills. was putting the make on a friend’s girl, that’s the American way,
said Mr. Crome in European history, his brown shoes up on his desk while we
took notes like crazy. The truth is, America, I’ve heard so much truth in you, the
simplest lackluster lines, I’m in love with your kitchen counters, the crazy jazzy
stuff of your movie scenes, day scenes and just plain scenes
was like falling in love for the first time
(high desert eternity to lush jungle high)
God came up the front of me, and I got tangled in bramble something good.
managed to somehow want to stay open the whole rest of the way. like I didn’t
want to know any other way. Everything else felt too rushed, and I was against the
rush, all for drifting.
You could say I was in love with the span to span, the finger to throat) — forget
other people’s love, it’s too mad a conjecture, too unsteady compared to, where is
That’s when they stopped being disciples, he said,
a free word like that
tearing fast as a ship’s mast and with the weight of a red apple
like it had wings
I fell into the word, and it held me,
my hair, visage, the golden crumbling
of the horses of my soul
was make sure you sit with your back to the Asiatic lily flowers, party girl,
Was the patient Miss Eichelbarger fifth grade teacher variety type. Who
gave me an English prize and three books I picked out while she stood,
sing-sighing. All three to do with horses.
That was my prize.
Katayoon Zandvakili’s volume of poetry, Deer Table Legs, won the University of Georgia Press Contemporary Poetry Series prize in 1998; the book’s title poem subsequently appeared in the Pushcart Prize XXIV (2000). Her work has been featured in Lumina, caesura, Five Fingers Review, The Massachusetts Review, Hawai’i Review, Rattapallax, narrativemagazine.com and anthologized in A World Between: Poems, American Poetry: The Next Generation, Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, and the upcoming Norton's Anthology: Contemporary Eastern Voices. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and a BA from U.C. Berkeley. She was born in Tehran and lives in the Oakland hills with her collie Tintin. For more information, please visit her website, http://www.katayoon.net/index.htm.
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