Another terrific New Orleans poet, Carolyn Hembree’s first book of poems, Skinny, came out with Kore Press in 2012. She is the poetry editor for Bayou, the literary journal produced by the University of New Orleans, where she teaches. The poems that follow are from the sequence that closes Skinny. — AS
from The Venus de Milo Tree
~I’ve always been fascinated by the secret life of horses….~
you see for once everything one eye on the fence
one on the horizon jump your abdomen and front legs swimming
jump on tiptoe your shadow does not show you tremor
jump gimme a minute jump your ears pinned back fly
throw your head to the side keep the tree limb in
focus the wooden beam slams your ribcage the fence posts
going to pieces half boards splinters flying fifteen feet or more behind as if they
were detonated from underneath your gums pulling back begin
getting dry the hock joint under a bunch of boards crisscrossed on
~Time and Space Collapse! (as our narrator and soldier battle the elements)~
A soldier in my dream:
a puffed-up knuckle
through them driving gloves
driving a scraper
over the windshield,
dumping a bucket,
driving a scraper,
the drifts hither and yon….
Us jimmying [rupture] a truck handle.
First killing frost
you can’t with a brogan
with a steel toe
with a spade–
~Intermission: (you know Mamie was always the toast of every evening)~
The chain spread-eagle, the briolette’s million faces making little lights on the walls–
A fistful of bone meal won’t help. It won’t help us, Venus.
There’s a spot I carved you’ll never spot!
At her throat (where the briolette would go) twist and pin a rosette.
Gentle Reader, what are ladies’ hands for? Why, for playing gospel and setting spit curls!
Don’t wire and drape a tree to look like a god and a woman.
Hands too for handing down handmade heirlooms and for keeping faces soft and new (buttercream is best).
Don’t try and put a head on nature.
A briolette, a mind on the wing–
Lost you lost in this lost that you see that you got that you and that you in that
~Details for Fortifying a Winter Tree~
November, use 10-gage galvanized steel to wire Venus from tree-rats, inch your way up from the roots to make it last until the north side where the bark’s gone thick and if it’s damn cold get an old sheet to drape it.
~Mamie daydreams of springtime~
Mamie’s face gone
from babyish to serious, minuscule under her comforter.
Weeks now the right one (her side that works) sliding around under the comforter,
crinkling in the bed pad. Were she to grab the dresser to stagger up.
Draw it on the sawmill walls. A circle, five feet in diameter, of skin and liquid on
the linoleum. Our roan under a blanket spins and spins on its side to stagger up.
Pulls the glove off by your teeth run your fingers over the spotty coat, the spine, the
sacroiliac joint, hip joint, all jutting. The leg’s broke. Fast, get under it. Gripping
the cabinet door for leverage. The roan’s throat on our jeans, its skin pulled shiny,
mouthing like it were bitted, Who’s the martyr here?
There’s a nest in the lowest branch of the Venus de Milo tree.