an exhibition of collaborative works by artists and poets


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The President and the Poet
Come to the Negotiating Table

I only agreed to compromise when it became clear
they were already stealing them again out from under us:
words, one at a time.
Okay, I said, like some ambassador for language
facing him hunched over my yellow pad of conditions.
He was wearing his orange tie and with the graciousness
of one who believes they have little to lose, he said
There are far too many words, anyway.
Okay, then, I said, you can have CONQUEST and DOW JONES.
You can have BOMBS, but we want the SMART back.
This was fine with him. He had plenty of other words for SMART,
and would trade it for IMPERIAL and NUCLEAR.
TRADE is a word, I said, you might as well keep,
but don't touch SHADOW or PHENOMENA.
I gave up SOFT when paired with TARGETS
for the names of every bird. He said he'd consider
relinquishing CITIZEN for CUSTOMER.
I made my claim for CONSCIENCE, but he refused
until I sacrificed PERFECTION.
That's when he stood up shaking and wagging his finger at me.
He had spotted GOD upside-down on my list.
Under no circumstances, he said, do you get GOD,
and only calmed down when he heard me announce
I completely agreed with him.
GOD, I said, must be returned to God.
But this wasn't what he had in mind.
In his mind were SHOCK and AWE.
SHOCK was the word to bring me to my feet,
because poets can rise up angry and shaking
for what they love too.
SHOCK, I said. You can have SHOCK.
But AWE--over my dead body.

L.R. Berger
From “Shock and Awe”, New Pacific Press
L.R. Berger
Karen Brennan

Felt myself strange, wrong-eyed.

Felt doors & windows to be illogical.

Picnics abounded, little straw

A round ball with stripes.
A bucket which taught me futility.

The neighbors’ daughter or cocker spaniel
The Buick Electra the mown lawn

The train came with a fulfilling sound
My heart in sync with it

I taught myself algebra
I taught myself lying

Enigmas fed me
Long division organdy curtain

The trees were enigmas
What was I doing precisely

I slept like a princess
Slatted blue & gold

Laundry segmented into neat wedges
Each testimony precisely uttered

Maples were serious & tall
Drenched were the tulip heads

Regarding the arm attached to the hand
I felt a sort of fulfillment

copyright Karen Brennan
Michael Burkard
small paintings on paper

what were you hoping for?
what were you trying to do?
these are some of the questions
she had for her mother

or her mother had for her -
one did not know the other
had the same questions -
you were tapped by the daughter

as a friend
and asked to help
but you yourself hesitated -
trapped by words before and after

you could not see starlight
lending much of a hand
or a moon or a down thing
to help them

copyright Michael Burkard
THE ALCHEMIST'S ASSISTANT                                                         

Lovely as the native birds that fly overhead unseen,
the alchemist’s assistant feeds him corn gruel
and chilies, sweeps the pitiful grate.  Sings
in her primitive way.  Gathers
the base stones, silent as severed tongues,
which the alchemist cannot force into gold.
In the windowless tower, the workshop is frigid
with his frustration, dumb with his dogged
desire.  He has grown old here and still
the stones refuse to yield.  He mutters incantations
and spells, pale eyes unfocused, while around him
the world is littered with substances precious
and rare:  the assistant’s skin--copper ore, her black
pearl eyes, and outside the lapis sky and cinnamon
hills.  The myrrh-thick garden between her thighs.
He caresses the stones as another man
would her breasts.  In his dreams, she rides him
like a nightmare, a vortex his secrets
are sucked into.  Her hands roam over
his parchment skin and she plucks
at his power like a string.  And laughs.
She treats him like an arrogant child--
with his foreign formulas, his old world
computations, his numerical desires.
He’s stubborn and inert as stone.

Tucked away in his tower
of useless words, he withers.
But the alchemist’s assistant leaves
the workshop every day.  She gathers the stones
by calling their names--clicks of her tongue,
syllables of silver, turquoise and jade.
They flock to her and sing
their stories.  For her, the stones unlock
their shy mysteries and shine.  For her,
mistress of the new world.

copyright Lisa D. Chavez, from the book In An Angry Season
Lisa D. Chavez