Six Poems by John Oliver Simon

CALIFORNIA VENUS (1895)

            —sculptor Rudolf Schmid, Oakland Museum of California

You stretch out fingers to stroke her marble calf
that torques as it rises from disappearing earth
to knee and thigh and camouflaged honeycove,
windblown drapery foliage, spiral arms,

objectified whiteness, waking fantasy
and naked nipples shivering in the draft
of that sculptor’s chill studio, your grubby
fingers reveal herself, then and now: goddess

of marble shattered to dust, but dust in love,
before I can lay down the law: Do Not Touch.
The why is reasonable, soon accepted.
We agree: that lady’s nudie patootie.

Tesla Rose 33 months


TENUOUSNESS

Johnny B. remarks on the tenuousness
of normal existence, in his case girlfriend,
job, service commitment to community,
waking up tired, going angry to bed,

speaking as if this surface we skate across
shaving iridescent rainbows with our blades
day after day, in my case as well as his
could, I don’t know, he didn’t quite want to say,

crack, pop, reveal bottomless fathoms, or sludge:
iridescent gutter where someone changed oil.
Time that counts, that matters, I answer, thinking
of time that is made of numbers, that has weight,

is when I’m hanging out with my granddaughter,
who sometimes sighs ,“I want to be a baby,”
wishing wistful for Mommy’s lost white rivers.
Good luck, kid, I tell her, that time is over.

 

            Tesla Rose 36 months


ISHI’S ARROWHEADS

Frances, Oliver and Karl got arrowheads
lovingly fashioned by Ishi for children
white kids dressed in white, out to the museum
out of bottle-glass probably, flaked and knapped

Oliver renounced his arrowhead along
with the unreal planet’s sinful demonics
when he married a hyper-masculine god.
Karl used his arrowhead in business dealings

Kaiser Richmond hiring Southern Negroes
to lend a hand to Rosie the Riveter.
Frances’s arrowhead was invisible,

she used it to call my three Jewish fathers
I suppose it passed down to me and Kia
and gathers dust in Tesla Rose’s toybox.

Tesla Rose 57 months


SUNSPOTS

Sunspots crawl like spiders across the vast limb
of the disk projected through raspberry leaves
onto the narrow-lined page of this notebook.
Lens of leaves produces orbs on surfaces,
watch for it, and when goddess moon takes a bite
out of the glorious generative sun,
gibbous phases and ever-thinning crescents
till darkness falls at noon and a roost of bats

clitters unanimity of eclipsed wings
out of the cathedral’s spectral bell-tower
while ghostly coronae glow round a black disk
size of a 90 mph fastball.
Spiders don’t crawl, really. They hustle and spin
glittery 360’s lit by sun in space.

Orb-weavers, strung raspberry to raspberry,
do business inscribing predatory verse
at virtual desks on fibonacci nets
entirely attentive to syncopation.
Flies in bondage await mummification,
animals with a sweet tooth, I’m not unique.
Peer into the sunspot’s dark esophagus
where hungry passions boil inarticulate,

follow that tunnel all the way winding down
to inextinguishable realities
where indistinguishable carbon atoms
write this poem over and over: chains of
meaning forged in bellies of supernovae
practicing irrevocable handwriting.


NOT FOREVER

Stuck again at this godforsaken outpost
listening for whispers of the enemy
autocorrect to enema, nematode
what a gas it was to teach the little toads
what a wild ride we had of it, Master Toad,

what intimate perfumes, what flashmob concerts
what sanity rescued at last from the flood
the tsunami that drowned us all in the end

not forever, poets declaimed in Nahuatl —
my granddaughter absorbed that information
over her first five years on this satellite

that she had not signed up for eternity
“what if I live for hundreds and hundreds of
millions of millions of years?” Good luck with that.

            Tesla Rose 61 months


RATTLESNAKE

Worried about rattlesnakes all that backpack
visualized invisible at trailside
took a layover day in Dead Horse Canyon
good dog Buffalo followed me exploring

baffled a moment in a maze of bunchgrass
we burst through an opening and there it was:
castanets already whirring, eyes glowing
orange, I swear, rattles an ultraviolet blur

coming on but an an angle, implying
“I’m not attacking if you get out right now”
Buffalo whined I pulled his collar backward

once we had with all due respect retreated
I totally lost my fear of rattlesnakes
I still call Buffalo sometimes in my dreams.


Profile: John Oliver Simon

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