Tuesday, April 2, 2013

poems: Vanessa Zimmer-Powell


Walking by the clustered ginger
I knew I should have it
if not for words alone
to celebrate how it rolled off my tongue
to say it softly
ginger  clustered  yellow green

It grows wild
you have to cut it back
create a frame
tame it
so that it doesn't spread
but my eye likes it long, endless out of control
fields of clustered ginger

I think of the wild blackberries
that I fought against in my back yard
the more I crushed them
the hardier they became
strangling what I chose to plant

It wasn't until Hurricane Ike arrived
drowning everything in salt
that I missed them
and wished I would have enjoyed
more of their tart sweet black fruit

Vanessa Zimmer-Powell

Grandpa's New Orleans Farm

Junk-land, wonderland
life buried in the crevices
of plantain leaves, falling mirlitons, pecans
and “whatyoumaycallits” seasoned with the salty air
of Lake Pontchartrain

I look for ripe strawberries
near the old Ford truck
alive with its own garden and field mice;
Jack is braying for me to come along and give him
a taste of that which is ripe, red, sweet;
the horses flick their tales

My grandfather calls my name
as he walks between clothes hanging
from the line behind the back porch;
the faint hint of my grandmother
still lingers on clothespins,
her scent brushes him as he passes by

The cry of “Old Smokey”
echoes from his green, paint peeling dog palace
left in place long after

And my grandfather calls our names
asking us not to leave anything behind,
“Remember the shed with the tools,
and the pin ball machine, and 'whatyoumaycallits'—
they been there for years”

My father's wife digs in the mud
under the shed whose door will not open
too full, too old, too tired,
too broken down
and she lifts these “whatyoumaycallits” to the light
saving them from themselves
and the growing “whatyoumaycallits” around them

My father is working
working against the “whatyoumaycallits”
swearing that he'll never have so many
as he puts a few in his pockets, in his car
and gives them to us for our pockets and cars

My grandfather watches
from his homemade hammock under the tree
his hat is low over his eyes
pecans and bottles, and “this and that”
are at his feet

I am inside now
taking a lamp and a chandelier,
“I will take what I can Grandpa
I will take some of the mud and shallots
I will take the chickens and the rabbits,
and the barking hounds
I will take the strawberries, plantains, and mirlitons
I will take all of the rusty old whatyoumaycallits,
and everything that grows from them

I will take Grandma's house-dresses,
her Catholic icons
some moon pies, and the memory of her pain
I will take everything Grandpa”

Grandpa talks about the whatyoumaycallits,
he talks about his Spanish friend and his bread route,
his corner store, pork chop Po-Boys, his brothers
little Lena and the Lezinas

He is still talking as I get into my car
and my father locks the rusty chains
on the gate behind us

Vanessa Zimmer-Powell

Vanessa Zimmer-Powell is a lover of language, literature, and poetry, and has been writing poetry for over 20 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with a major in English from the University of Texas at Austin, a Bachelor of Sciences with a major in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Master's Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Texas at Austin. During the work day she is a speech and language pathologist at a pediatric rehabilitation clinic. During her off hours she writes poetry, participates in poetry open mics, does yoga, aerial fabric climbing, swing dancing, and enjoys art in Houston. Since her move to Houston in 2010, she has become a member of the “Poets in the Loop” writing group and was one of the 2011 juried poets at the Houston Poetry Festival. She enjoys ekphrastic poetry and has been a featured reader at each reading of the Rice Gallery “Words and Art” reading series. Prior to moving to Houston two years ago, she hosted the poetry open mic at Mod Coffee Shop in Galveston, and was a member of the Galveston Poets Round Table.

Vanessa was a featured poet at our FPL Poetry Series in October of 2012 and we hope to have her back later this year.

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