Off the Coast, Maine's International Poetry Journal

Summer 2008 Poems
"Her Name Among the Flowers"

An Explanation of Butterflies

It was like any struggle with memory.
She walked beside a stand of tamaracks,
almost lime in their freshness,
when first a yellow, then an orange butterfly
danced so crookedly beneath the limbs
too slowly to vanish as they did.

It was not the first time
she had swallowed her own breath.
Once upon a time, some fireflies
were lumped like dirty salt
in a blue jar on her table beside
a Monarch glued to cardboard with a name.

But her walk was yesterday.
She holds her teacup like a black crystal
in which she cannot quite believe.
When they came she had been listening
merely for her name among the flowers,
as if it were the world that would remember.

—David Adams Unity, ME/Narragansett, RI

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Cold Mashed Potatoes

Cheeks flushed with hope
of discovery, she stands
like a bookmark
in a forbidden novel,
tucked into the wedge
of the open
refrigerator door.

It's one o'clock
in the morning.
Clutching a wooden spoon,
she gulps cold mashed potatoes
until she can't hold any more
then sneaks back to bed
and falls asleep
beside a man
who didn't hear a thing.

— Muriel Fish, Smithfield, ME

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To the Carrion Stars

While Van Gogh slept,
the crows came near
and began painting.
They were fearless. They used his tools.
They loved portraying themselves.
They saw a field that needed to be magical.
They smeared in the yellow, then yellow and blue.
Make it thick, they thought.
That's the way a crow sees it.
Let everything portend.
Bright colors, bright colors.
Then, most prominent,
the blackness of crows
shouting across the sky.

—Ray Skjelbred, Lake Forest Park, WA

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Here, the garden grew untended—
full of weeds, rows crooked,
peas enacting Mendel in a riot.
Umbrella fronds of carrots furl, unpulled.
Broccoli flowers. Slightly pickled dill reseeds,
fighting dappled chocolate mint for space.
Comfrey bolts, not gathered into salve,
roses' perfume pleases only bees,
cucumbers make caterpillars fat,
tomatoes dry to leather on the vine.
Apples hang until their drunk bulk drops
to debauched squirrels staggering around
like bluesmen grown too weary for guitars.
Rabbits run amok and gnaw the beans.
This garden becomes something not quite wild,
finds its own form without the guiding hoe:
vegetable love left to its own device
that still recalls the guiding human hand.
Here, I sit to ponder the distinction
between fields and ruins:
butterflies on the bee balm,
maggots in the cantaloupe.
Here, I grow everything you do not hunger for.
Vaster than empires. More slow.

—Lea C. Deschenes, Worcester, MA

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Man Without Taupe

For Artie Moffa, lover of form poetry

My wife announces her excellent plan
for repainting the walls in the dining room.
"Taupe" she announces with flourish-hands,
looking to me for agreement. She assumes

I should have even the slightest of clues
of the subject of this sort of Arts-Major reference
to an obscure, gourmet shade…I'm sorry—"hue",
and I do not. So instead, I show deference

to her wisdom. This is what's commonly known
as being a smart husband. It's exactly the same
as in any gay or lesbian couple's home:
best to smile and nod when you're partner's insane

and starts inventing what you're sure are fantasy colors.
"Taupe is too a color" my wife proudly proclaims,
and starts gesturing fluidly into the air around her
as if to magically inform my color-blind brain

with visions of taupe. Saying, "See that house there?
That's almost taupe, except taupe isn't that yellow",
or "Remember that building we saw sometime last year?
That was almost taupe as well." I start to understand Zeno

and his paradox: apparently I must discover taupe
only by maddening half-steps where she defines
the color by pointing out all the colors that are almost
it, but not. Taupe must be the color of losing my mind

while waiting for definition, better yet—a sample
of the damn color in front of my poor eye-sockets.
If understanding ever comes with a concrete example,
I bet I'll only find it by searching Godot's pockets.

His coat, my wife notes, would likely be colored "camel"
(of course camels aren't camel-colored, but I digress…)
because camel is a popular shade in winter wear apparel
and camel is close to taupe, but not. I'm a mess when she says

"We could give the dining room a calming feel
If we painted it teal." I weep to ask, "Honey, what's teal?"

—Ryk McIntyre, Providence, RI

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