Three Poems

POETRY by Lilly Lampe

Bird Whistle Door Chime

A swallow whistles outside
the sound just like my grandma’s doorbell.
I see her every few years
at most, making the trip when I can.
We share blood
my mother
but no language,
her Mandarin sounds
as incomprehensible to me
as bird song.

The last time I saw her
I was leaving for the airport
and turned in the elevator
to see her
stepping out of her apartment
past the bird-chime doorbell
to wave goodbye.
As the doors closed
cutting off her image
I burst into tears
for what?
all the conversations we’ve never had
and never will?

What have we ever talked about
but fruit?
For lack of conversation we’d name
what we saw
the same fruits on her counter
language exercises
neither of us remembered.
She’d marvel at the way
“grape” and “fruit”
merge to describe an enlarged citrus
engorged on its own bitterness
nothing at all
like the muted breath
of a petite burgundy globe.

I had to smile
at her correctness,
small violet thing
and sharp tasting citrus wedge.
She always saved the best for me
slicing them just so
adding a tiny fork
to keep my hands clean.

 

 

Hush

My hips brush
worn cotton sheets,
Luxuriating in a time-earned softness.
Sleep creeps in gently
like a kiss
Eyes closed, exhale: relax
Drifting into ineffable calm.

A jerk,
suddenly I’m thrown
My heart jumps
My head hits the deck
My legs spasm
I’m falling, falling
Awake.
Gasping for air
Drowning in sheets
Head banging, heart pounding
Back in bed but here: but nowhere
Confused in a moment, bereft of composure
My contentment revealed as a wisp of a thing.

 

 

Lemon Drop Storm

A storm may come later
or it’s already passed
no telling in this place
where tomorrow begins
and yesterday ends
surrounded by mountains shielding highways
from winds blowing dust and gravel
past still tankers and drills churning
at a pace
so excruciating
that the eye might never know.

I set my sights for Marfa
knowing the road can only
should only
lead to that dusty town
a somewhere
amid nowhere
teeming with concrete boxes
and smashed car parts.

I switch the radio on for comfort
my finger hitting seek
letting the dial do the work
but the numbers once started
churn past in an endless parade of digits.

My tongue rolls over
the taste of oblivion
sharp in the mouth
with an acid sweetness
biting at my cheeks
reminding me I’m still there,
wherever there is,
sucking this bitter drop –
the gift of infinity.

 

Lilly Lampe (MAPH’10) is a writer and art critic based in Brooklyn. Her writing has appeared in Art in America, ArtAsiaPacific, Paris Review Daily, The Village Voice, and Artforum.com, among others.