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photograph by Cat Gwynn

Why write about the Souplantation?

For a decade of my life, it was the place that was most home.

They looked like they had lost their best friends, their soulmates, or firstborn. As if they’d been unjustly incarcerated when their wife was pregnant, spent sixty years on death row before being executed the day before DNA exonerated them posthumously. Like they were closeted in a family full of well meaning, but misguided Bible thumpers. Like they were in the midst of a session of interrogation; complete with bamboo shoots under the fingernails and water boarding.

after the decree

By D. B. Ruderman

Poem

 

approaching the mosque where the highways meet
from the north and not the south or west
one gets another understanding of cloud and sky

my body it seems had it own direction
bleary, I was the last to know

destination I suppose is relative
the choices we chalk up to chance
(the brown carpet of my ex-father-in-law’s house
or his love of modern art)

yet even when the doors are open
relations are easily cut

 

How did you come to write poetry?

When I was nine and eleven, I wanted to be like John Lennon, but most of my lyrics had a simple drumbeat and no melody. I think I realized I was actually writing poems at the age of twenty-three. I guess it’s always been in there.

It’s not my fault.
I was framed.
I may be pretty,
but I’m not that pretty.
I didn’t fashion the tanks
build the guns
forge the swords that slashed—
and I didn’t think Paris or Achilles
were very good looking either.

Photograph by Andrea Augé

What got you started with poetry?

Well, there sure wasn’t anything literary going on in my early environment. But I was exposed to great music, especially the Latin music popular in the Fifties. My parents had met in Atlantic City in the late Forties, when Boardwalk hotels had Cuban bands playing in ballrooms with crowded dancefloors every night. So I wound up bouncing to Mambo records as a toddler. Along with this, I was living in a hotbed of immigrant anxiety hopping with explosive feuds—my father’s parents had it in for my mother, and she hated them right back. The shame endured by the Jews of Eastern Europe was spilling into family dynamics, spouting from the pores of these people so blindly anxious to belong, and I got drenched in the vitriol. I was myself of course anxious to belong, to be seen and known through the blaze of the arguments, through the constant crossfire of blame.

Cruising Home

By Jed Myers

Poem

I’m lying right on the bed beside him.
He keeps catching his breath
from the trek up out of the kitchen.

We’re talking memory drifts—
time that rented Sunfish
capsized in the river, summer

evenings playing catch before dinner,
the night his father died….
This winter day, bright

outside, from here behind
the white curtains no one opens—
a soft haze of the lost

 

Haven’t we done this before?

We have. I think back in 2011. Actually, I know it to be so because I googled it.

 

There are times I have to remind myself
that a bridge is a way to travel over water
not a diving board for suicides. That airports

aren’t just places for departures, but places
for arrivals, and hospitals aren’t only
where we go to die, but where we’re born.

I’d like to think not a single bomb
was dropped on anyone today, not a single
person was diagnosed with cancer.

Why do you sometimes introduce yourself as an elegaic poet?

All poetry is about loss—of people, places, moments—and therefore about time, isn’t it? And that means it’s also about those little moments of joy, when the direction of loss is reversed. As for example, in my poem, “Thaw” in Shimmer, when “the fog / in my mouth melted / like spun sugar” and I recollected the name —“even more beautiful / than the tree”—“liquidambar,” which I had been completely unable to summon.

Memory is so often my subject. I love the Proustian moment—some triggering thing—and an entire past world blossoms open. My memories of the past sometimes seem like paintings I can re-examine, in which I can discover new things.

I have an Updike-ian feeling for the way the music, books, and fashions of our prime moment in time flow swiftly into the past, taking our very sense of self with them.

gleams in a movie,
its lights gems on the plush display
cloth of night, its bridges bracelets.
Yet the shabbiness of a glimpsed
street corner is what gets through,
and mine reaches out from memory to me—
a speaker of its native language—
with this begrimed cornice,
this lintel, this rain- and sun-mottled awning
over the drugstore window,
this black ash on the sill.

What is the best part about being considered an “erotic” poet?

People automatically assume I’m having great sex.

Anjelica comes on to me like a man, all slim-hipped swagger, relentless, dangling that red, ‘57 T-Bird at me like dessert. Lemme take you for a ride, chica, she sez after acting class. I figure what’s the harm, but Ms Angel Food gets out of hand. I don’t count on her heart-shaped ass, or those brown nipples crammed in my mouth. I don’t count on the Dial-O Matic four-way, power leather seats, the telescoping steering wheel, or the frantic pleasure of her face between my thighs. I admit, I’ve always been driven to sin. But Anjelica’s far from blameless. She rides me hard, week after week, double clutches me into ecstasy, hipbone against hipbone, the dulcet, lingering groan of our gears, grinding. When I confess the affair to my boyfriend he jacks himself off in the galley kitchen, comes all over his unattainable fantasies. He says he doesn’t consider sex between women to be cheating, and begs me to set up a threesome. I tell him the T-Bird’s a two-seater, and watch his face fall. I could end it, but why? All I can say is, I want her for myself. All I can say is, I’m a die-hard romantic. Anyone I do, I do for love.

Among this celestial navigation,
under horse and crowns
lies these unrelenting light patterns,

my spiritual eyes are weakened,
my spiritual eyes are awakened,

massive tangled hair in my eyes,
I am the flowers of the dead earth,

in a blanket of darkness,
in a blanket of blackness.

all the best moments of my life
have happened underwater,
and you are afraid to swim.

Did you know that the last fatal
shark attack in New Jersey was in 1926,
when your mother’s mother
was a glint in her mother’s eye?
You do not need to be so afraid.