Breathe

She pours the lavender bath salts into the tub under hot running water, lights one dark candle and steps out of her dress and panties. The tea is hot but not too hot: cinnamon spice, fragrant orange. The bathwater is piping hot; she steps in with both feet but then does a little dance, one foot up and one foot down. She lowers herself into the bath. Her thighs redden. A joint would be great right now but it has been years since she smoked pot, let alone had any in her possession. Maybe legal pot will come here. She has a medical necessity. Ah, yes. Perfect. The hot water, the tea, the soothing scents, the candlelight—she turns down the volume of her thoughts and arouses a new mind.

©2014 CLM

This piece was generated at the February 8th, 2014 Acadiana Wordlab led by George Marks. More info on Acadiana Wordlab can be found here: www.acadianawordlab.org 

NO MYSTERY HERE

The bullet hits while she is taking the first sip of hazelnut flavored coffee, from behind. Now it is a disaster in the pristine kitchen. He moves her body quickly to the backyard. The still-dark morning and tall wooden fence ensure he has time, and the place is already dug. He dumps her, shovels the dirt on top and opens the bags of ready-concrete.  He fights for a bit with the water hose that is kinked up but soon the flow is strong and he gets the job done. He lays a blue tarp on the setting Quick-Crete, and walks back, naked, into the house. The rags are large enough to swipe up the bits of bone and brain.  They will go with the mop into the fire pit. The smell of bleach and blood makes him dizzy but he keeps working quickly, a pace as though a boss-man is overseeing the task. The letter she will write (that he wrote) is already in the envelope and he will drive to Minneapolis to mail it. He goes over every inch of the kitchen with bleach and sponges and rags. When it is done, he thinks that an electric fan would help to clear the bleach smell and dry the room. He wipes his forehead with the back of his hand and looks up. Splatter on the ceiling. He steps up, barefoot, on the kitchen table and something glistens in his sight. Seems she had just polished it, and when he realizes it, he slips backwards. His neck strikes the hardwood edge, snapping. His corpulent body falls limp to the floor.

©2014 CLM

This piece was generated at the February 8th, 2014 Acadiana Wordlab led by George Marks. More info on Acadiana Wordlab can be found here: www.acadianawordlab.org 

First

The barrage of the diesel engine rattles the truck cab. He is fumbling with the buttons of his jeans. Levis 501s. The only kind of jeans he wears since he got the job at the Parking Lot. He buys them when they are on sale, but that is hardly ever. Classic—that’s his style. His mom bought him Tough Skins™ from Sears. He hated them. He roughed up those jeans riding bikes in the woods with the narrowest path that the boys cleared with a rusty machete, and fishing at the No Trespassing Lake that the boys had to clear a barbed-wire fence to get to. He wore those jeans so tough his mom had to put patches on patches, but it was all she could afford. Kids called him “Poor Patchy” at school and laughed too at the every-day-of –week bologna sandwiches and the Mason jar of milk his mom packed. He thumbs the last button of the Levis through the buttonhole and slips the jeans down his hips. She is already crying. He wonders for a moment and asks if it is okay. She says yes, puts her panties on the rear view mirror, and tries to smile, her mouth quivering. What is it? He asks, again. Is it me? No, she says, just the human condition.

©2014 CLM

This piece was generated at the February 8th, 2014 Acadiana Wordlab led by George Marks. More info on Acadiana Wordlab can be found here: www.acadianawordlab.org 

Tommy

This is what people who love each other do.  When you have a husband, he will want to do this to you. Tommy unbuttoned my pants and slid his hand down. We were in my room and he had put a chair up against the door and was sitting in it. I told Tommy no and he pulled a beautiful watch out of thin air. I bought this for you. The watch was gold-faced and had a thick, opaque-plastic white bracelet band. I adored it. You can keep it as long as you don’t tell anyone. I wanted that watch.  It was fashionable and meant for a stylish lady. Tommy kissed me.  He slipped his tongue between my lips. I felt awful and said no. You will like it. I said no. Tommy stood up and moved the chair. Okay. I will come over another time. You keep the watch.  Next time I will bring something else for you. Something you will love. I was confused and worried but excited too. What would he bring me? Tommy left. I showed my mother, who had been visiting a neighbor, the watch. It looked classy on my wrist. I felt important and glamorous. I don’t think I told her any of the details of what Tommy did to me. I was supposed to not tell. But my mother panicked and called Tommy’s mother. She did some detective work and found out that Tommy had stolen the watch from the mother of one of his friends. My mother took away the watch. I was very upset. It was mine. I cried for days because of how the loss of that watch made me, a first grader, feel.  I was angry with my mother for taking away the watch for a long, long time.

©2014 CLM

Between Land and Sky

Blue sky peppered with blackbirds. Blue deepens to black in the west. I am on the Dixie Chopper cutting grass. My lines are straight. Grass exits the chute and makes a pile of clippings to the right of me. I will have to make another pass to disperse the clippings, to make the yard clean. This is Mrs. Champagne’s yard and she is very particular but her sight isn’t great, so if I make a mistake she might not see it.

Blue-storm wind; a swirl of cool air reaches me on this hundred degree day. I am wearing a large-brimmed straw hat tied below my chin, a bandanna around my face to keep the dust out of my mouth, and old, faded clothing. Especially faded is the top shirt with long sleeves worn for sun protection. The sun has eaten through in places. There are patches of thin fabric through which I can see my skin.

As much as I hate the work, and the way my husband barks orders at me there is something very Zen about riding the mower, cutting grass and being outdoors more than I am used to. My head clears, my eyes wander to the birds, the plumes of steam rising from the sugar cane mill–the storm gathering upon itself from the coast. When I get in the Zen zone, lines of poetry come to me.  This is the reason I do the work, and helping my husband is secondary.

As soon as I feel the exhilaration of a new idea for a poem something happens. A grinding sound and then water shoots straight up into the air, twenty-five feet high. Fuck. The worst thing in the world has happened. I ran over a water supply pipe. Panic sets in and I turn the mower from the disaster to find my husband. He is already running towards me, yelling “What the fuck did you do?” He runs past me and stops at the edge of the road with a wrench in his hand. I am confused but soon the fountain stops. He walks over to Mrs. Champagne and apologizes. He then gets on his hands and knees and with his hands as shovels he begins digging in the dirt around the pipe I had sheared with the mower blade. He works quickly and I can see the frustration in his hard-edged movements. I can hear the curses in his breath but they are not audible to Mrs. Champagne, who is somewhat hard of hearing.

He gets up from the muddy spot and walks to his work truck, shaking his head and muttering. Somehow he had a piece of pipe in the pile of who knows what in the truck bed, along with the tools he needed to cut off the supply pipe. He twists the cut pipe from its connector and threads the terminal piece. The whole process takes about fifteen minutes and we were back in business. This is the first big mistake I have made in the two years I have been cutting grass with him. I feel awful, and he is surly for the rest of the day. But watching him problem-solve in a very short amount of time—witnessing his knowledge, determination and ingenuity at work inspires. I have seen my husband perform a miracle.

I offer myself to him this night. And for the first time in a long time I seek his eyes as he moves above me. I seek him, his deepest self.

©2014 CLM

February Events

Clare reading.

Upcoming Events, Readings and Book-Signings

We Wanted to Be Writers excerpted ten poems from the collection if you would like to read samples of my work. Here is the direct link: http://wewantedtobewriters.com/2014/01/excerpt-from-clare-martins-poetry-collection/

February

“Acting Unlimited Pop-Up Poetry Theatre”
6:15 pm to 7:15 pm, at the Second Saturday Art Walk
(by the statue of General Mouton across from Theater 810, Downtown Lafayette, LA)
Featured poets will be:
Darrell Bourque
James Blanchard
James McDowell (a.k.a. J.K. McDowell)
J Bruce Fuller
Carol Rice
Clare L. Martin

A&E Poetry Night 
Friday, February 14th, 2014
6 pm – til
Featuring:
Bonny McDonald and Clare L. Martin
hosted by Margaret Gibson Simon
A&E Gallery
335 W St Peter St, New Iberia, LA 70560

Voices Seasonal Reading Series:

Wednesday, February 19th at 7 pm the winter installment of the Voice Seasonal Reading Series will feature a special evening of literary readings by poets Clare L. Martin and Diane Moore at Carpe Diem! Gelato – Espresso Bar. 812 Jefferson Street in downtown Lafayette, LA. The public is invited to enjoy gelato, espresso, tea, and pastries while experiencing a unique and enlightening literary event. The event also celebrates the two-year anniversary of this highly successful reading series in Lafayette.

AWP Conference Events, Seattle Washington

MadHat Annual (formerly Mad Hatters’ Review) and the Plume Anthology of Poetry 2013 present:
Friday, February 28th, 2014 @ 6 pm to 9 pm
Tap House Grill, 6th Avenue, Seattle, WA

Robin Behn
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Jim Daniels
Mark Irwin
Katia Kapovich
Amy King
Clare L. Martin
Philip Nikolayev
Nava Renek
David Rivard
Jill Rosser
Bernd Sauermann
Tod Thilleman
Yuriy Tarnawsky
Rosanna Warren

and appearances by your hosts, Marc Vincenz, Jonathan Penton, and Daniel Lawless

Thursday, February 27th and Friday, February 28th from 3-4 pm (both days) at the Press 53 Table for the AWP Bookfair. Tables CC 35-36 (Press 53/Prime Number) Copies of Eating the Heart First will be available at the Press 53 table in limited quantity. If you would like to purchase the book ahead of time for me to sign, you can find online ordering info here: https://clarelmartin.com/buy-eating-the-heart-first/

More dates TBA

*Additional dates are being arranged now. To book Clare for a poetry reading or book-signing, please email martin.clarel@gmail.com or call (337) 962-5886

Flight

blackbird

I stand on the edge of a cliff. I believe with all of my being I can fly, (because it takes belief and not wings).  I stand on my tiptoes and stretch. I raise my arms to the sky, draw in breath and ready to soar: one two three— I am not. I am not rising in the air.  I try a different approach. I bend to the ground. Focus the muscles of my back and thighs, tighten my toes.  I tighten my whole body to my body: a coil ready to spring.  Up, and down again. The sky opens. Three crows form a triangle in a deep blue patch. Third attempt: I climb onto a rock. The rock is not flat and I teeter to balance. I desire to fly so desperately; to free myself from the burden of ground. The sorrow of my flightlessness turns to storm. Dark clouds gather in my torso. My arms crackle with lightning. The sky is smoldering black.   Rock upon rock of disbelief weights me. I will never fly. I will never be apart from dead ground. Flags of smoke and flame; the brush and fallen trees ablaze— Frantic fire in my path = no escape. A crow, impossibly large, swoons above me then drops.  On its magnificent black back, it takes me up, up and away.

Acadiana Wordlab product 2-1-14
© 2014 CLM

Skipping Stones

Lake Stones

I have seen a stone, a flat and colorful lake pebble, skipped seven times on the surface of a body of water. That is the measure of how well we skip stones, by how many skips you can get.  A man leaned in, his body angled to the lake, and with a quick and sharp swing and flick he let loose the stone. His arm followed through to the sky and I fell in love with him then, for his skill and patience. For his determination to make that smooth rock glide, touch and rise, glide, touch and rise upon the water.

He is good enough now, but once I saw him throw the cat across the room because it scratched him. (I cannot be pressed to testify but I needed to tell someone).  If he could have earned a living from skipping stones maybe he would be happy. If he had a loving father who had skipped stones with him, well maybe then, too, he would be happy. I cannot say what I feel for him: partly because I do not know and partly because I will not tell.

This blue pebble from Lake MacDonald in Glacier National Park, MT has kept me well and I have kept it well for a dozen years. I press it hard between my forefinger and thumb and it holds back the tears. But sometimes when I hold it, the tears come forcefully and I can only grip the pebble hard. My fingernails cut through the flesh of my palm.

Acadiana Wordlab product 2-1-14
© 2014 CLM

Word by Word

I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.  –Anne Morrow Lindberg

Writing saves my life every day. Word by word, I have clawed my way out of myriad hells. Tragedy after tragedy, writing has brought about resolution and clarity for me.  In more peaceful times writing has centered me, shaped my living, brought my self into greater focus and allowed me to express passion. I am writing it all out, at any cost. I do not believe it is sacrifice. It is necessary and vital for my survival. Without it I would become completely undone.

Writers investigate this life. We follow words wherever they lead: to the seaside houses painted blue, to the lioness teaching her cubs to hunt, to the paper cut, to the oceans of grief within us, to the dying star. The greatest gift a writer can give another human is truth. It is a mysterious thing to “get there” via language. I am not sure I can explain it. There is a path, though, and I can point you to it.

You need:

1) a comprehension of a language
2) certain instruments with which to write
3) the will to do the work
4) the curiosity to investigate what is below the surface
5) time

Believe you have something to say and go forth. Your skill will improve and you will perpetuate a habit. Your investigations will produce evidence of what I speak of, that elusive but very real thing: truth.

About process: I start with a blank page and put words on it. That is it. I don’t get bogged down. Sometimes I play creative games. Whatever works. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I don’t give it credence. Write. Do it.  Respect it and respect yourself for doing it.

DANCE

The room is the brightest blue. She unzips her dress, slips it off her shoulders, steps out and carefully places it on the bed.  She positions the arms of the dress one up/one down. She imagines the empty dress spirited with life. (She imagines the room is not blue, but black with bare red bulbs in the ceiling fixture).  The room fills with music: woeful drumming and softly struck piano keys—only the sharp notes. She picks up the dress and sways with it. She puts her hands into the sleeves and wishes for a body to fill the velvet bodice and flowing skirt.  The light is dim but bright enough to see a thin layer of dust on the cluttered vanity, the scars in the sun-rotted curtains. Her miserable cat, Mr. Bellows, claws the bedpost. The telephone rings. She shakes off her dance and rushes to it. Hello?  It is not who she had hoped it would be. There is weeping on the other end then a resonant dial tone.

©2014 CLM