Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Three Poems by John Casquarelli

Paper Carnations

"If you can't be free, be a mystery"

                   -- Rita Dove

hope can be fool's gold
cloaked in syntax and codes
unable to recognize itself
in any given plot
or understand the natre
of progression when the solstice
offers more than a series of
unanswered questions in indigo
and sapphire under the enveloping silk

because hunger isn't just
about your next meal
a web of thoughts amid
the juniper-berry scented checkout
lines at the Safeway grocer
lights like shining asters
melting at the edges
while we argue
over our entanglements

vulnerable to a stranger's eye
in a sentimental fragmentary text
with rocking chair reverse logic
Faustian longing summer sunset
reflecting on windows and washlines
as we perpetually push our boulders
upward on a mountain of
weather reports and mass advertisements
seduced by a vague yet romantic farewell

from Havana Dialogue

No despiertes corazon
Si sun estas dormido
Tu que siempre has sufrido
En silencio y resignacion

          walking in circles like
          dead leaves in an afternoon
          storm suspended in mid-thought
          nurtured by the silence

Cuantos suenos de fantasia
Durante tu infancia anoraste
Y en tu juventud anhelaste
Despurtando en cruda ironia

          maybe it's because we spent too
          much time with too little imagination
          alone & urged by paper bodies
          under a cavernous sky

Duerme duerma corazon herido
Por los duros golpes de la suerte
En la vida todo te ha mentido
Solo es verdad la muerte

          with each image there is desperation
          a prisoner containing a scarlet letter
          affixed to their breast who longs
          to sleep beneath the billowing awnings

Defense Mechanism

mischievous late moon
rising over almond orchid
as far as the eye
                           or I
could see with
depths between fingers &
gold corollas         gravity
             spiral          corridor
inches from her paradigm
                            cosmic hallucination
that told us we were
petals expecting
our last autumn
but not too serious
             empty platitude
blow into the wind
& see if it responds
                          see if it gives another
              ambiguous answer amid the
cackles & clutter
euphoric hummingbird
                            of Aztec lore
                            nursing my wounds
               from the tempest roar
skin graft memorial to
                           the nine muses
feeding the young
recognizing every
last neurotic as
an intellectual leper
             shaking the sky
             of all its memories
                                        wiry curls
                            unscathed innocence
                            lingers on lip gloss
                            every day with a
                                          new exchange rate
                            of dream bubbles
                                        bodegas           stale beer
                            thinking the unthinkable
              during three-hour commute
              from provincial convention
                                          & constraint
sudden unbearable absence
a snapshot of the fishless creek
                          in Stevens' poem
                          seamless fabric of
                          my own undoing
greeting the tide
when the ocean waves
translucent sorrows sapped
dry red eyes
Prozac &
pink lemonade
                            scars that never heal
                            but why should they
music tilts            bodies between blossoms
                            between thighs
             turns to cantos
leads tongue to new adventures
perhaps this is what it means to
withdraw in one of those
                           unending songs
                softly aglow
a thousand portals behind
cables           &       viaducts
                                                      I used to refer to myself
                                                     in the third-person.  Now,
                                                     thinking back on it, did
                                                     John ever expect to under-
                                                     stand the myriad of mistakes
                                                     he made?  Probably not.
these are words for just about
more often than not
they're just meaningless
murmurs of morning dew
overlapping crescendos of
language plunged into the
moment        momentarily
              with no regard for
inventory or transparency
               churning whitewater
                             to purify our ears
I suppose nothing is ever forgotten

John Casquarelli is the author of two full-length collections, On Equilibrium of Song (Overpass Books 2011) and Lavender (Authorspress 2014).  He serves as Editor for Otter Magazine ( and is an English Instructor at Trinidad State Junior College.  He received his MFA in Creative Writing at Long Island University--Brooklyn.  John was awarded the 2010 Esther Hyneman Award for Poetry and the 2016 Kafka Residency Prize in Hostka, Czech Republic.  He is a member of a literary and art community called the Unbearables (  His work has appeared in the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association's (HETL) anthology, Teaching as a Human Experience (Cambridge Scholars Publishing).  Other publishing credits include Storm Cycle:  Best of Kind of a Hurricane Press, Suisun Valley Review, Ginosko Literary Journal, Pyrokinection, Visceral Brooklyn, The Lonely Crowd, and Kinship of Rivers.

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