Featured Poet

Barbara Jane Reyes

( California )


from poeta en san francisco

they call the river goddess whore 
deflower bayonet stillbirth fertile

she gathers wind in her skirts 
escaping ascension opens a world

they peruse local obituaries
foreign concepts natural causes

she gathers collateral damage 
headlines prophecy cycles of birth

[objet díart: exhibition of beauty in art loft victorian claw tub]

he found her, guttered, fish-hook positioned. palsied arms squeezing mottled 
fishtail he thought almost fetal. febrile she felt his face eclipsed sun his halo 
at best. joyless, cradled old faerie tale, this half-dead thing little foundling. 
but city rain guttersí unspeakable odors, her hair matted nest of gems and
dying creatures. he wrapped her in newspaper he brought her home traced
spider veinsí routes where needles went in islands of abscess where flesh
refused to mend itself. he suspected she had no navel. he put his hand there
to find what else she lacked.

she has no memory now, the order in which events transpired: deposit
specimen laid porcelain bed iodine smarting contusions expensive soles
clicking waxed hardwood renovated rocksalt bathwater proportions tested
flashbulb popping ceaseless yellow afterimage sandalwood combs fighting
ebony tangles exquisite centerpiece erupting stomachís detoxification
applause and eyes always eyes offset against vaulted ceilings she does not
remember singing.

[diwata taga ilog at dagat]

regarding the turbulent south seas, the sultan stages elaborate ceremony. 
as if one man could wed a goddess, part woman, part ocean. 

elders say when she walked on earth, her skinís sores and scales a jealous
womanís curse upon her, a maiden who escaped betrothal to a wicked deity. 
a rice farmerís daughter who found death before her time, she found river
dolphins kindred. 

elders say she loves moonstone, polished jade. elders say her penchant for
mischief, elders say she preys.  

elders say when ships, when the nailed god came, his hairy men christened
her demon. they forbade her offerings. they erected bamboo fences in the
shallows. still the elders whisper, sometimes sing.  

when undertow captures foolish boy, lotus flower petals in monsoon. when she finds he is not to her liking, lotus flower feast for typhoon.

she wonders why the sea behaves 
so strangely; today, its stillness 
unnerves her. she knows that itís 
unusual for the tide to dip so low, 
exposing seabedís skeletons,
ships whose hulls once bellowed 
             whalesong, lost souls.

today, boys hop out of outrigger 
canoes to gather shells and fish; 
flopping in ancient mud, they fill 
their rattan vessels. tonight, oceanside 
fires will burn and crackle, and she 
will divine still airís smoke curls.	
             something is amiss.

[on viewing subjective catastrophe]

what i can see: an archangelís wings. birdsong. a melting popsicle. a game of 
hopscotch. a robinís breast. a blood orange. an aurora framed in sunset.

this one tiny cornerís rose petals to ease my eyes.

(he asks me to translate.) (the tongue of an angry man.) (he tells me, i donít
know how i feel about this.) (any of this?) (i want to grab his shoulders and
shake.) (jesus, feel something.) (he walks away.) (he canít hear me.) (he

do you know what it is to witness an unraveling? it is being at the right place
at the wrong time,  or being at the wrong place at the right time. both may
break you. 


wanna peek into my notebook? there may be clues hidden in it: instructions
for viewing subjective catastrophe. rules of derivation. donít gasp. donít
choke. up. look up. cradle your neck from holding the gaze. 

keep your eyes to the sky and think of heaven.

Next - Teresa Ballard


Current Issue - Winter 2006