Word Poetry

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Site design: Skeleton

Sample Poems by Liz Abrams-Morley

Beholder

Georgia O'Keeffe saw in Manhattan, canyons made of steel. Critics saw flesh in her flowers. What are labia doing on Grandma's nursing home wall, I ask myself, my friend Felicia says. Her mother's decorated halls with Georgia's art, posters placed not to titillate but to camouflage institutional green for a woman who'd loved the deep purples and fuchsias of her gone gardens. O'Keeffe said, I thought I was painting irises, camellias; I thought pears were just pears. Red sandstone rises above me, skyscrapers to my New York eye on Utah, on Zion.
It's all in the eye.


Rebecca Expects Butterflies


i.

We dream little houses
We dream little houses of sand
on sky, on pinwheels, Lego sets
of little houses, as petals
of a pink flower, black and white
amid red ripe tomatoes.
Rebecca paints houses with little
hands. I collage little houses, glue
them into every landscape because
every landscape needs glue these days.

I am building collage houses
because everywhere now are the sounds
of tearing down.

ii.

Rebecca digs in the sand, unearths
clam halves, presses one to the small
perfect shell of her ear and claims
she can hear the ocean. She gathers
rocks at the breaker line;
I think of David, wonder where,
as she grows, she will sling her stone.

iii.

Each caterpillar she rescues from the wheel
of our car and places back into the woods

will denude another oak. You can't hear
the sea in a clam shell,
I won't tell her.

She says she is Wonder Woman.
She expects butterflies.

Already moth holes dot the umbrella
we crank open over the patio table.

Sunlight bullets its not quite shaded surface.
Rebecca sees tiny spirits dancing.


Liminal



Spume at the breaker line neither
sand nor sea, foam mica flecked,
not liquid, not solid.

Crabs, green in storm light,
brown under Florida sun;
this is what the eye does.

Dawn over Captiva Island's Gulf
comes slow, palms inked blue-
black against gray sky,

gradual verdigris
introduced into the scene
and then it's sudden.

Daylight defines beige trunks once
gray, rounds the contours, paints
on the landscape three pink


Adirondack chairs: shadows, outline.
With dawn, they become specific,
bright, reveal on each a plaque inscribed

private, private, private, as if

a word affixed could keep a weary straggler
from resting her feet, could draw a line
between mine and not mine, yours

and not yours. One word, antonym for
the extra cup on every Seder table,
for the door, even in the skeptic's home,

maybe not flung open but left,
every Passover, at least
slightly ajar.


Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale

After the painting by that name by Max Ernst, 1924

I see them, ducking, the way mine ran away from gulls, swooping, chasing them from breaker line up a September beach, Tashlich, Cape May: how did we not see this coming? Beaks sharp, squawks piercing sunlight and a New Year's Day One that nearly ended us, the celestial book open, our names as yet unrecorded. Pieces of fried dough flying, caught by what my husband dubbed those rats of the air or pigeons of the sea, powdered sugar stuck that night to children's sweatshirts and jeans, greased paper plates white knuckled in their small hands all that remained-the damned gulls were the only ones sated. We'd wanted to cast into the Atlantic one funnel cake and a year's worth of sin, enter redemption Jewish style before the ledger was blotted and shut tight for another year. Do we even believe in a hereafter-they asked- in heaven or hell?

The older I get, the more I can't tell.