CLAUDIA GARY’s latest chapbook is Genetic Revisionism. She is also author of Humor Me (David Robert Books, 2006) and earlier chapbooks including Bikini Buyer’s Remorse and Epicurigrams. A writing instructor, health journalist, and composer of art songs and chamber music, she lives near Washington D.C. Her workshops at The Writer’s Center (writer.org) on Villanelle, Sonnet, Natural Meter, Poetry vs. Trauma, and other topics are currently worldwide via Zoom. See pw.org/content/claudia_gary; follow @claudiagary
To a Mollusk
Your life is not defined by an old story
in which, had you remained, you’d surely die.
Nor is it the palatial territory
you crave, create, secure, and occupy.
It’s rather the progression from before
to after, the formation of each new
foyer, parlor, salon, and corridor
in which your predecessor becomes you.
After the briefest stay you labor on,
building a spiral path that winds toward more—
inwardly smooth, pearlescent where you’ve gone
ahead, outwardly rough as ocean’s floor.
You lodge concealed within the earthly mire,
inhabiting your curly multiplier.
Message to Earthlings from Voyagers I and II
for Carolyn Porco of NASA
Beyond some human lifetimes now, we’ve filled
your minds with data, pictures, dreams. Though twinned,
our paths diverge, itineraries build.
Reaching the boundary of solar wind,
we rode its termination shock to sail
out into plasma space. While you continue
sorting our childhood photos, they grow stale.
We bear vital statistics from within you —
your faces, body images and voices —
toward other stars, toward anyone who cares
enough to grasp your golden disk, your choices
of what they’ll see, hear, touch, assuming there’s
contact or empathy. Onward we fly,
your complex way to say hello/goodbye.
Two hours on the table
his body reclines
arranged as a path
for cautery’s snake
to enter his heart.
Clean current stamps
to settle his pulse.
No longer two steps
ahead and one back,
blood coursing forward
quickens his brain.
The serpent withdrawn,
he gathers his wisdom.
I. Tough Customer
A stubborn teen, she needed to find out
what life was for, whether it had a point.
“I won’t go on, God, till you let me know.
So tell me now or set me free.” She waited,
and God did both. “Brilliant!” she said. “You win.
I’ll give you a few years – but I’ll be watching.
You’re going to have to show me every day
that you’re still there”. She heard, or felt, a rumble
that may have been laughter, as if the deal
II. Anything to Declare?
Presented with the light
at seventeen, she chose
to turn back, stay a while,
having seen that joy
kept an outpost here.
And what was hovering there?
No prophets, true believers,
or any kind of shadow.
Because her life is made
of unexpected gifts,
she won’t turn one away
without looking to see
what light it holds.
III. Her Invocation
Temperamental universe in whose purpose
(known, unknown, unknowable) we are swimming,
safe within your energy and your chaos:
make me your prism.
The summer of learning to type
I also slogged to the river with Siddhartha
and analyzed dreams in the shallows
as Dr. Sigmund dictated the code.
Thinking I knew their source
made dreams seem safe, but Hesse was a puzzle
suffused with Eastern sentiments, ideas
I seldom understood.
So when I awoke at night
with fingers typing “nothing” on the blanket
over and over, I blamed nihilism
or adolescent darkness.
But no: I was absorbing
what to expect in order
to be content.
CLAUDIA GARY’s latest chapbook is Genetic Revisionism. She is also author of Humor Me (David Robert Books, 2006) and chapbooks including Bikini Buyer’s Remorse, Let’s Get Out of Here, and Epicurigrams, all available from the author. A writing instructor, health journalist, and composer of art songs and chamber music, she lives near Washington D.C. Her workshops at The Writer’s Center (writer.org) on Villanelle, Sonnet, Natural Meter, Poetry vs. Trauma, and other topics are currently accessible worldwide via Zoom. See pw.org/content/claudia_gary; follow @claudiagary