paulette callen, writer

 


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Bits

Welcome to Bits!

A dear friend has told me that I do not write poems, I write prose with funny line breaks.
 I think he’s right. So I do not call these things poems, just…bits.

 

Blackberry Juice

In The Light of Common Day

Raising Lazarus

Bly’s Loon Cry

On Finding the Body From A Death by Suicide

Portrait of the Artist

The Way They Were

Tiger Dreams

My Friend Cindy

 

Blackberry Juice

One blackberry
staining the hand
is worth the bush unripened beneath a cloud
or your mother’s voice
saying Open the jelly jar-
so lick the juice
off your hand.

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In The Light of Common Day

The old barn sags with memories
of horses.
                  A skeleton key hangs
in the gloom—what needed
opening is lost.
                          Cracked and dull
a harness clings to horsehairs
like an old woman clings
to mementos of a useful life.

Displacing horses—
descendants of Model T
left stains in forever
dark circles on the
cement floor.
                       Listen!
All that is gone
is here.  Dust
in streams of light.

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Raising Lazarus

"He wept, they say, when told of my death.
I always wondered why."

       -Lazarus   40 AD-

"Lazarus, come forth!"
shattered his hope.
Warm light
replaced by cold
stone and death-cave stench.

He struggled to sit up
(the command still pulsed through the sharp edges of broken time)
difficult
bound as he was
from head to toe
in linen strips
difficult
to sit
to stand
to shuffle toward the dusty shaft
of common Judean light
hardly knowing if he was coming or going.

Through a sagging strip
he spied his famous friend
arms outstretched
voice still echoing
through the Valley of the Dead.

He thought
The crowds must be inured to
mere healing
fast food
and traversing water without a boat.
Ah.  Well.  Death
has made me cynical.

They unwrapped him
and washed him
gave him his robe
and his old job back.

Lazarus shrugged
and waited for the years to pass.

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Bly’s Loon Cry

Off this shore
the lake is deep.
The loon's cry rises
like rune of ruin—
startlingly close—
the cry of someone
who shakes the bones.

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On Finding the Body From A Death by Suicide

What darkness shattered
And left razor shards scattered
That cut the thread that held me so?

What darkness separates
planets from stars and arbitrates
between the cosmic and those below?
Darkness is more than empty space
As it lies between a stranger’s face
and me as I come and go.

Without my thread, stays fall
And shutters flap.  I see through all
these empty places—

darkness—where dark clouds hang. Within
each cloud there’s something written
in common script with lines and spaces.

If I get there through the night,
With even a small and borrowed light,
Past the scribners with no faces

Through the echos from lost places
I suspect I’ll find an ancient script
Whose cipher was from my memory ripped
A hundred years ago.

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Portrait of the Artist

Leap of fish-
faint slip
of sound as scales
break the surface
pane. Head arcs
toward tail. Petite
armor plates shoot
rainbow sparks. This
ignition of fin to flame can only
happen when, unfiltered
through wet, sun
hits fish-hide.
Is this why
they jump—to hold
perfect form in
light and color
a moment high
in the element of
death for a fish?

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The Way They Were

Old barns and empty sheds
hold most of what
you need to know
of your uncles.
In the doorframe rows
of knife-nicks mark
the growth of
Jesse, Dale, and Jim.

Tacked to a low beam
like tenacious last leaves
of autumn—sepia
photos of little boys
grinning in home-cut hair
and hand-me-down clothes.

Under the stained and rutted
workbench, safe
in a tin box for half
a century—leavings:
a pack of yellowed cigarette papers
two steelies
a fish hook and home-made fly
a skeleton key
three limp, smudged ticket stubs to a movie show
a shell casing
a rusted pocket knife
a guitar pick and a chipped arrow-head
that look oddly related.

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Tiger Dreams

Last night I dreamed of tigers-
or maybe only one-
smashing through doors and gates
and gates.
She leapt up the side of my house
and hung there, roaring, her
claws hooked through the window screen
which gave and she pulled herself
through. 
                  I’m just a breath
ahead of her hot roar, her
scythe teeth, hammer paws-
and claws that will rake places in dreamtime already scarred in real time-
a reversing of scare and scar
that amuses me, awake, as some
profound, unsharable joke.
Tonight, I will
let her catch me.

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My Friend Cindy

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