Sample poems from Six Rivers:
Tanka: Upper West Side
Winter boy, each of your
fingertips is a bluebird:
I can feel their beaks and
soft cheeks against the inside
of my warm drunk fist.
the Halloween costume
my immigrant father
rented and never returned.
Dad clambered inside
your baggy interior
because he wanted his share
of the season’s sweet treats.
With your reptilian tail,
Dad batted away
his rivals and scampered
on to his goal.
Dressed up in you,
my father seduced
my starry-eyed mother
behind a tall hedge.
But now the costume shop
is demanding you back.
They call our house daily,
ringing the phone off its hook.
Marsyas: was he a faun? a satyr?
From our vantage point, centuries later,
his ethnic background doesn’t matter;
what counts is, he was brutally slain.
Vietnamese or Jewish, satyr or faun,
no one lives this kind of horror down.
A gentle outdoors-loving musician,
he was killed in the open, in a Phrygian
forest. With surgical precision,
his murderer peeled his skin off in thin strips
while Marsyas howled through whitened lips.
All day: his howls and the cracks of whips.
Each morning, I show up at my job,
wearing like a fancy watch-fob
my stethoscope. At times, I’d like to drop
the heavy thing on the ground and sputter,
“Apollo, patron god of doctors,
deity to whom we pray, ‘Save us from slaughter,
protect us from disease’! How could you
be he to whom we pray for tidings good, you
who tortured Marsyas in the Phrygian wood?
How could you cause such suffering?
And what’s your planned penitential offering?
Remorse is nothing; sunbeams are nothing.”
Rubber tire, you were once wed to a workaholic wheel;
when he divorced you, you tried to hang yourself
from a tree branch;
now you cradle a child in the curve
of your rugged arm.