If you listen, you can feel
the fat whoosh pounding
beneath fingertips, the ready warmth
of rush-of-red head-
ward from heart: not
ruby-red or glitter-red
like Dorothy’s slippers
but still magic, the way
the machine putters on,
isn’t it? How I can put pen
to paper or make love
with my thumbs by typing
less than 3 or wink or walk
while under it all
I am filled
with the smell of rust, bloodstink,
someone said, like old traintracks
sunk in summer mud,
persistent as hell, as sin; copper-
tinged bleeps on a blank screen :
alphabet soup : pee-kew-ar-ess, an iron-
y bulge-thump of muscle: lub-
dup like the one-legged steps
of my father’s crutches, how
it has nothing to do with love,
after all, and everything, lub-dup,
lub-dup, lub-dup unremarkable
until it is not.
He never wanted. You
what the trees
are whispering, Japanese
maple leaves falling
by gaslight, branches that shudder
let nothing harm her as they bare
their bark to the night.
Sirens sound, red
as the cherry of a clown’s nose;
there are footsteps
behind the doorways
and bodies, still,
under our feet; ghost
and more-than-ghost of train,
echoes of fathers
gone off decades back,
gone off and never come home.
Let nothing harm her, he said,
and now she hangs
Christmas lights the color
of bruises, mourning
some lost innocence, some lost
season, the world
turned dark as an air raid
for the moon, except
for the sirens. Naked,
the trees are whispering
against the river, shadow
on shadowed water:
you will understand. Under the hill,
the breath of a train whistle,
the silence of a grave.
He never wanted to go.
Girls make a game
of kissing by the tunnel mouth,
missing the solace
of their daddies’ knees.
Please let nothing harm her.
No one laughs at clowns anymore.
A very kind shout-out and collaborative nod from artist Chris Ludke, whose work inspired the poem at our Literary salon last week. You can check out her work here— the painting’s title is Poe’s Enchanted Garden. More info on upcoming literary salons in Richmond can be found on the James River Writers’ site, here.
This poem was written by Joanna Lee.
On Hearing the History of the Poe Gardens at the Literary Salon in the Patrick Henry Pub
(based on the painting by Chris Ludke)
Nestled in a backdrop of chatter and raven windowpanes,
of sweating whiskey and melted rocks, light
plays on water and the pale of crepe,
of periwinkle. A sun plastically brightly cuts
the hard edge of a shadow that could stand
on it’s own, lonesome and unnatural.
And I remind myself this is about connection, that we,
rose-less, are a hundred variations of the same thorn.
Joanna hears her muse! You can look her up at
I thought the Salon was great! The 1st person to speak told the history of the Poe garden. It’s been through a lot of changes. It was…
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