Poetry of Julia Vinograd

(Julia Vinograd’s publisher, Zeitgeist Press, is well worth a visit.)


Anonymous is dead.
I heard the terrible soft sound
of his fingers unclenching a fold of blanket
like a cliff he dangled from.
One of the number presumed lost,
lost all his presumption.
Kings and camera men kneel by his casket.
Anonymous cannot rest in consecrated ground,
Anonymous cannot rest at all.
The hotels where he signed the register in water
sank with all hands.
The girls became apprentice sirens,
they can’t sing but that was never the idea.
Anonymous, whom we have all been, is dead.
Who will speak at his grave?
A man made of fingerprints whom nobody wants?
The dead letter writer?
The breather into telephones?
Who were you when you were somebody else,
do you remember?
Anonymous doesn’t want to play anymore.
Cover the face you never saw.
Bring him purple thistles and white dandelion seeds
but never an intentional flower.
Pour a gravestone of wet cement
and let children mark it with sticks,
that’s all we’ll ever know.
Anonymous is dead and we are less ourselves.
Anonymous whom we have been and may be again.
Sing his songs.

Big Black Lady

I just saw a big black lady.
Very big.
Moby Jane looking for Dick, god help him.
Very beautiful.
Full breasts bigger than a man’s head
swaying without a bra
in close-fitting green silk, cut low.
Thick black hair loose down her back.
Enough chins
to give a poor mortal fingerholds
climbing up to her lips.
Even her eyes are huge,
eating the light.
And when hips are that big
it’s amazing to find 2 of them.
About 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall.
She walks slowly,
proud of every inch.
I want to put a small bronze plaque
in the cement saying:
“She walked down this street.”
No, a name isn’t necessary.

Broken Promises

I knew a man who kept a flock of broken promises
in cages on the roof of his building in the slums.
His landlord told him pets were forbidden
but the man said they weren’t pets
and if the landlord bothered him again
he’d let them out.
The broken promises made ugly, nagging squawks,
but they didn’t look scary, not locked up.
The man looked scary.
He looked at the landlord and the landlord went away.
The man wore heavy gloves
to stroke their curved beaks.
He remembered the curve of a woman’s breasts
and his hands clenched inside the gloves.
The broken promises did not have broken wings,
they beat against the rusted bars,
their eyes slitting, trying to get out.
The man stared back with a yellow grin,
haunted, vicious, stubborn.
This was how he kept his promises
in cages on the roof of his building in the slums.
And yes, they hurt him
and no, he wouldn’t let them go.

Earth Day?

I want to build myself a castle of Styrofoam
and non-recyclable broken pop bottles
gleaming green in the smog.
I’ll be a toxic Tinkerbelle
in a wasted Never-Never Land
and never hear any more about
the poor little orphan earth.
Anyone would think we’re never going to die
and be buried 6 feet under,
orphan forever in that orphan earth.
A logical savage at our celebrations
would assume we’re making offerings
to the earthquake gods instead of the voters.
The preachers claim we’re polluted by sex;
the ecologists claim we’re polluted by non-disposable diapers,
the babies just yell.
Meanwhile, the street swagger drowns in money thick as oil,
the native environment of drunks, double-crossers,
double dares, dancers and little old men
who play chess and know everything
is being destroyed by gentrification.
People are an endangered species too, especially poor people.
Let’s just say
I don’t want my tombstone to read
“Please keep off the grass.”

God’s Violin

Good and evil are only high and low
on one string of god’s violin.
There are other strings being played
stretching from our guts to the end of the world.
Telephone wires vibrate with what we meant to say,
explanations lost in black curved space
like socks lost under the bed.
Our silences wail under god’s fingers.
Our silences harmonize with the implacable
pastel rise of a department store
and its peacock tail of blind mannequin eyes
while the triumphal march of a snail
to the other end of its glossy leaf
plays counterpoint.

I dreamed god’s violin.
The number of strings went on beyond
my eyes counting curve
and the length of the strings simply went on.
We miss so much.
Have you ever been driving alone at night
down a freeway fighting sleep
and chasing the white line?
Suppose you realized
no matter how long and fast you drove
you’d be stuck in one white mark on the white line
and never get past it.
Like that.

The Music of the Spheres.
The Fiddler on the Roof.
The Piper on the Hills.
The hearttug behind tv commercials
before they start selling glop.

We don’t hear god’s violin because we’re part of it
the way construction workers don’t hear their own drills.
But sometimes, just for one or two notes
an echo sweeps us up like a tidal wave
scattering everything we clutch and fight for
out of our hands like spilled popcorn
and we stand in the ruins and laugh.
Afterwards we don’t remember.
Or we pretend we don’t remember,
putting everything wearily back the way it was
and going on
and that also goes into the music.

God’s violin doesn’t help anything,
the world’s wounds are part of the music
and anyway, it’s too big.
Like smashing a symphony hall complete with symphony
on top of a spoonful of cough medicine
for a sick child.

Maybe we’re not supposed to listen.
Maybe it’s not possible to really listen
and still be any use to our lives.
Like trying to touch a toolkit
with burnt aching fingers.
But I’ve heard the roar of that fire in the strings
and reached for it
and couldn’t reach high enough
and that was worse.
God’s violin is for us,
what we are for
god only knows.

image: “Jerusalem Temple” by midiman is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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