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The Vignette (after Olga Broumas)

Poems collected from participants in Dave Johnson’s 10*10*10*2 Workshops!

Remember the evening aRoma

at the table just over the river
in the old Jewish quarter tasting
crunchy carciofi alla Giudea
and Carlo~our waiter~rolling in
like an opera divo reciting the main menu~
ahhh~La Traviata~what glory in the music
of the evening. Happiness, never so salty~sweet~~

—Dave Johnson

Copacabana Day Session
Doo-whopping and steady rocking
packed snug and sweet, late 50’s
day session at Copa on the beach.
Pedal pushers and midi blouses
arms pumping, hips rolling
girls rocking tight teen bodies
boys strutting, tamping down
stubborn, hot desire
as the waves su-su-sushed on the in, sighed
on the out, etching trails of silvery bubbles
on the dark, wet sand.

Beautiful youth, scattered now
in other countries, not lost, not absorbed,
carrying deep in our bones those younger selves
surfing on wailing trumpets, bubbling on throbbing drums
ska, rock steady, the musical DNA of our cells,
hardwired, that sound in our system.

—Christine Craig

Remember when we were
Relaxing under a citrus tree
The Sun warming us
You picked a plump, juicy orange
It was sweet and delicious
Like you
I recall when we arrived
on the island
It was Winter
Chilly, but invigorating
You prepared a meal
On the deck
The Mesquite was intoxicating
The fireplace warmed us
While the snow fell
From the heavens
Magic Moments

—Sophie Tucker

Remember that morning in Manhattan,
not too far from the Brooklyn Bridge,
and not too far from American Greetings
where we bought and exchanged Daddy’s
Long Leg Figurines and Angel Babies,
and Annie Lee’s Sass ‘n Class collectibles
almost every payday, and how we both
bought “Blue Monday” the same week
and wanted to quit our jobs back then,
and next thing we knew, there was this
big explosion and cloud of smoke around
us? A moment never seemed so long, the
Brooklyn Bridge never seemed so short,
and friends, family, figurines never so precious.
Oh, what revelation in a cloud of smoke
that chased many across that bridge
whilst many waited behind!

—Kiswana Dee

Remember the first time we came to New York?
We eschewed squawking tour busses
and took a city bus instead,
all the way to the Upper West Side.

We sat together.
I didn’t know then how lucky that was.
On the sidewalk, we saw a man with a cat on his head.
It’s front paws rested on the bill of his hat.

You tried to take a picture,
but all we got were reflections
of the dusty window.

—E.B. Fouts-Palmer

Remember that summer you drove up
to visit me on vacation?
Before we married, before children, before
we divorced. We were so young,
every look, every touch was exciting.
At dusk we walked down the long hill to
the sun bleached pier that jutted out into Hart Lake.
A haze had settled over the calm lake,
the day’s pollen floated on top.
Fish made small splashes as they snagged an insect,
creating circles of tiny waves that expanded on the water.
Light evaporated into the damp night air leaving only
the lake smell, stars, and a few small lights on the other side.
When we stood, the pier rocked gently beneath us.
We shared a single goodnight kiss.
Were we every happier?

—Jean Lamberty

Love Vignette
I bet you would never believe me if I told you that that was one of the most exquisite moments of delight in my life – you dancing across the bedroom in my great-aunt’s pink silk nightgown., its fluffy bell ending halfway down your slender muscled thighs, dark, scissoring against the hot pink brightness . You held your long long arms high, your dance stopped and started, hilarious geometry framing your round cheeks, your playful glance, your sweet pointed chin, the length of your nodding neck with the beautiful notch of your adam’s apple. I loved to press my lips on the silk of your throat. You loved your clothes – you were too modest to walk in front of me undressed. The nightgown was near at hand. I was dying laughing, laughing inside, you were so adorably, exquisitely funny.

—Devin Dougherty

It is enough can remember for the both of us—no one else ever would

Remember when you threw all those open house materials out the window after asking a question whose answer—my answer—you didn’t like as a response? You didn’t know that was going to be the boilerplate for everything coming after. Neither did I.

It was just one tantrum after another from a grown man who never learned how to use words, what words to use, when to use them, when to say nothing and just listen.

It was just something I’d never forget, all that new paper in new waxy folders lying in the rainy street at that traffic light on Kennedy and State Highway in Jersey City. These things will always be there, me whisked away when the light turned green and those papers on the wet asphalt. But of the two parties of collateral damage which was saved, and which wasn’t?

—Garth Ferrante

The Northern Light
Remember the afternoon at our old house upstate
Where we laid on the green and pink quilt, a giveaway from my parents’ house
It was our favorite temperature, on the cool side
Sun glinted through the northern windows and shafted down from the skylight
Entwined in each other with Norman at our feet, breathing in unison
Birds joined in with the Hudson Valley soundtrack you created, dear
This will always be my most perfect moment with you.

—Shellie Winkler

I Forgot…
I forgot those long warm fingers
wrapped around mine,
looking at Orion and the Big Dipper,
lying flat on the golf course at midnight.
I also forgot how we breathed together,
standing in the threshold;
that first kiss,
that one kiss lasting almost an hour.
I forgot all those handwritten letters
with pressed flowers,
vowing you’d love me forever.

I remember when you said “good-bye”…


A Brief Encounter

The old man sat on a Central Park bench,
watching turtles bob in the pond
abutting Belvedere Castle.
He hardly noticed the young woman
who stopped and sat at the far end of
their shared perch until the scent of
her quickened his senses.
He turned then and furtively glanced
at the youthful beauty beside,
paused in her flight, like a butterfly
alit on a bloom.
Fearing a scornful scowl,
he quickly returned to his book.
When again he looked up
she had risen, said hello and left
him a smile.

—Gerald Harris

I didn’t know I liked peonies after rain, shaggy heads bowed in humility

I didn’t know I admired the seeming immortality of tulips, survivors of another storm

I didn’t know I liked night sounds raccoons threading their way through
the trees raving under the cautious moon.

—Bhikshuni Weisbrot

Do you remember the cabin by the stream?
The gentle clear water
over stones, gentle, serene.

From the cabin window
we could hear its soft music.

You wanted to sit by the water’s edge
so, I put down the blanket.

We ate delicate sandwiches,
pressed with hot vegetables and cheese,

melting on our tongues. Sunlight
flickering, through sycamore trees.

Remember the stream sloping south,
its melodic music, my lips on your mouth?

—Mike Cunningham

Scribbles and Writings

My hands have
a grip on pens
A piece of ivory paper
Near a mahogany desk
Blinking cursors In
rhythmic fashion
With an intimidation
On the screen
And i start to write,
The scribbles, the clicks, and
The predisposition of one’s
Heart is on each line and page
Burdens lifted when
each word
Is written or typed
Words bring such power to us
A sense of love, bondage, or
Simply a feeling that is indescribable
In one’s soul, the mind is scrambled
The thoughts tied as rope to a tire swing
With a pincher grasp
We can’t let go

—Danielle Washington