A collection of poetry
by Patricia Wellingham-Jones
from Mongolian Art Exhibit
I turn a corner, stunned now by faces /
on the wall—masks of deities, shamans, /
in papier-mâché, carved wood, stuffed skin. /
Black brows pull down over glaring eyes, /
red mouths stretch in snarls or gentle smiles.
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Mongolian Art Exhibit
“whatever holds value may be divine…”
My eye pulls my feet
through artifacts gathered
from thousands of years ago.
I gaze at the human skull—
brown thin-ness. I ponder core stones
flaked for hunting and tools.
Hear the primordial sound
of the cosmos hum in my ear. Om
resonates in the crevices of my brain.
In vain I look for pictures of a people
who still traverse wind-laden steppes,
live out their nomad lives
in gray wool-felt shelters, take pride
in fleet and sturdy horses.
I turn a corner, stunned now by faces
on the wall—masks of deities, shamans,
in papier-mâché, carved wood, stuffed skin.
Black brows pull down over glaring eyes,
red mouths stretch in snarls or gentle smiles.
I draw near the image of the Heart Shaman,
likened to great poets of all the ages,
born only once each one hundred years.
The face I dream about
is a very old woman, the essence of sorrow.
Forehead furrowed, eyes close to weeping,
her ear-lobes hang past her shoulders,
corners of the full mouth droop
to her chin—the Brain Shaman. She can see
into the next thousand years.
Francia kneads the dough
on a flour-dusted board,
drops the mass, punched down,
into the big steel bowl
rattling on the counter,
covers it with a towel.
We go for our ranch walk,
let the miracle of flour and water,
yeast, salt, a bit of oil
work its magic again.
On our return
the aroma of rising bread
spreads through the whole house,
bringing its sense of home-coming,
complete as the loaves turn brown
in a well-filled oven.
Through all the years
of her marriage she has made bread
every week for her Basque husband,
more than the family needed.
Every week through those years
she’s carried fresh-baked loaves
to the Abbey down the road.
Monks and parishioners inhale
her visit, give a special thanks
to Francia and her bread.
From Hawaii you bring me moonstones—
opaque drops suspended in gilded hoops
to wear, jingling, on my ears.
Tropical temple bells
seem to bounce through my head
with each movement.
I thank you for thinking of me,
hope this new health fashion
really does promote strength,
then place them in a teak and brass box
to pull out when you next come for tea.
Sighing with pleasure, I hook silver ovals
of killer whales in my ears,
think of those joyous leaps
in northern waters.
The Wantonness of Peonies
I have trouble
connecting your peonies
with Chinese paintings, Japanese silks,
where they are treated
with formal near-reverence.
The peonies you gather
and thrust into my eager hands
are the blowsy broads
in your garden—all double
frills and flirty petals
prancing in the wind.
Their reckless swirls
toss pink raptures,
rain purple at our feet.
Even in the blue glass vase
on my black walnut table
their air of abandon
tempts me to turn up the music—
I need to dance.
The redhead in careless bloom of youth
peeks over the banister
of the old family home, hisses
to her mother, my sister,
Here comes Aunt Pat’s boyfriend!
They dissolve into giggles,
as do most local women,
at the gangly, ill-shaven man
lumbering up to their door.
They see only the rabbit teeth
under a crooked nose under close-set eyes
bracketed by large ears.
The boys know a different man.
They sweat with him
as they dig trails, build footbridges
over creeks, work to save
the woods around the town.
They do laugh behind his back
when he plants flowers
at signposts among the trees.
Old Boy Scouts, now the men of the town,
watch him driving his beat-up van,
hauling their sons armed with tools
and water for a day’s heavy work
in the forest.
The men never notice the shambling gait,
wringing hands, skin fiery around women.
Their memories see the confident stride,
swing of hammer and arm, balance
on a beam—skills he taught them
and is teaching their boys.
“Mouth of the Canyon” by Jeff Fennel, 2004
Out Hogsback Road
as far as he can go, he tucks
the truck in star thistle
out of the way,
strides across lava rock, potholes, cowpats
to the edge of the canyon.
Far below, Antelope Creek races.
His gaze drifts east to Mt. Lassen,
west where the valley spreads grey.
Dawn light filters across the Sierras,
shafts through left eye to brain
in a sneeze.
Setting up the folding easel,
he places the canvas, opens a tin
box of oils. Disappears
into pure existence.
The linen surface is spattered
with brown blobs then, with bold sweeps,
rocky canyon land appears on the canvas.
In a line of cobalt blue, Antelope Creek
pours through boulders.
The artist steps back from the painting
into his body. He nods once.
Packs up his gear, carries the still-wet canvas
between careful fingers to the truck.
Heads into his other-life day.
Don’t Turn Away
We’ve had our drinks, our plural dates,
talked about everybody we ever knew.
Shared many kisses, the last of them
deep, rubbed aching bodies
against each other.
Now you want to undress me.
I don’t know if I can bear it.
Sometime back, I told you
about the phony lump in my bra.
But soon, your warm hands will slide
along my ribs, unhook the flesh-colored lace,
gather me in for a long hug. Then,
when you step back and run your eyes
over my one nipple, across the dented
healing slash, up to my face,
will I see on your skin
the ripple of revulsion, a strained smile,
the cooling of heat?
Or will the softness in your eyes
bring tears of thanks to mine
as chest hair tickles scar tissue
and the northern lights flash?
Previously published in Lummox Journal, 2001;
in my chapbook, Don’t Turn Away: Poems about breast cancer, 2000
(poem for two voices)
our way winds
around jagged rocks
Stones black Stones
weep with moss
like ancient tears
Our bodies Our
on a shard-littered path
of night visits of
treachery of salt
human hearts human
in the sodden land
Needing a view of cottonball clouds
loose-packed in a cobalt bowl,
she checks out dog piles, stretches
full-length on the ground, points toes
downhill toward a creek full of algae
then yields herself to nature.
Brittle brown ends of late summer’s short-mown grass
prick and scratch her tan. She doesn’t remember
from her childhood that gnats
would swarm around her eyes, mosquitoes
swim in sweat behind her left ear, a cat
whisker tickle her lips.
She persists, focuses on sky, squints
into the glaring sun. Ignores passers-by
staring in wonder. Wiggles a little
searching for comfort on the hard surface.
She rotates, arms flung, fingers gripping the ground,
racing through all the winds of the universe.
Senses alive as they were at ten, she rides
the skin of the planet-ball. Eyes closed,
her body melts deep in the seared grass of August.
Previously published in Retrozine #4, 2003
Go Play in the Backyard
Little girls race in hide & seek behind the house
near a spreading oak, voices shrill as birds
under green leaves. The landlord in the back
seat of his car parked beside strawberries
opens the door, crooks a finger of his left hand,
holds right digit to lips, commands silence.
One child obeys. Clambers with dirty knees
and small girl sweat into the car.
To his lap.
Eyes big in wonder, she feels a grown-up hand
where no finger ever touched, holds back
a whimper like a fawn quivering in ferns.
At the sound of a zip, she sees
a shiny red cucumber, the ooze at the tip
makes her cry. As he forces her hand
around the throbbing, pulsing thing,
she wails for her mother, scrambles free.
Her friends, romping through corn rows,
fall silent at her tear-stained face, glare
at the dusty car, keep her secret –
and their own.
|Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Ph.D., R.N, a former psychology researcher and writer/editor, is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. She has had work published in numerous anthologies, journals, and Internet magazines, including Möbius, Red River Review, Rattlesnake Review, Phoebe, A Room of Her Own, Pebble Lake Review, Ink & Ashes, Thunder Sandwich, Edifice Wrecked and Niederngasse. Joining chapbooks which include Don’t Turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer are her newest collections: California: Mountain & Stream Suite, Bags, SkyWords and Voices on the Land. Her website is www.wellinghamjones.com.