Mortal, New Book by Lenore Weiss

My poetry collection, Mortal, the third in a trilogy of books about grief and love, has been published by Black Cat Moon Press. To order books, open links below.  (Books will also become available on Barnes and Noble and listed in Ingram’s catalog in 6 to 8 weeks.)

Debut of my new poetry collection, Mortal, October 13, 7:30 pm, Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Y’all come to my reading!

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From Indie Books

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Camp of the Sacred Stones


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We drive to Sacred Stone Camp
SUVS, trucks, pick-ups
from four directions,

stand by the sacred medicine rock,
touch the side of the mineral’s flank,
watch land and water

in the Cannon Ball River
turn red with blood,
an open trench, a scar dug

through a cascade of states.
The courts are slow. Judges silent.
Burial grounds and farmlands

bulldozed into the same pit.
Oil and pipelines guarded
by dogs on leashes who bite

those who protect children,
no trading futures
on an open market,

how the black gold
will help us god.
Come to Sacred Stone Camp.

 

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by Sinthop Katawanij

by Sinthop Katawanij



For the first time in years I could see the veins on leaves and recognize moles on faces, which was worth wearing a patch and completing a regimen of eye drops, except at the end, the doctors decided to find something else wrong with me but it didn’t have a recognizable name like cataracts. The problem was they didn’t know what was wrong. I hated that. I’d spent years getting things right, moving around from one job to the next, love affairs, children, divorce, the usual stuff, and after surviving all that, now they wanted to find something wrong with me?

The hospital thought it had to do with my heart, but why didn’t the doc order an EKG? First he said he needed a blood panel. Fuck a blood panel. Vampires sitting behind an oak table with long needles, probing my arm for a juicy vein. I hate needles.

I had no other plans for the day except to feed my cat, Knickers, named by a one-time roommate from Great Britain whose feet were half brown, half white (the cat’s). He’d had earned an MBA at UC Berkeley, then moved back to take a job with Barclay’s leaving me two dozen Darjeeling teabags lying on the kitchen counter.

The tea bags had nothing to do with it. For months, there hadn’t been a drop of rain. Northern California was in the middle of a drought. Outside my window, trees slumped over the pavement, and even worse, ash from wild fires up north cast an eerie glow over everything. It’s like we were caught in a magician’s spell. The sunsets were gorgeous, but that’s not the point. I wanted clouds to open up the same way a three-year-old rips apart wrapping paper on Christmas morning, only in this case, it would be thunder and lightening.

If I arrived at my doctor’s appointment too late, I’d be sitting in the waiting room for an extra hour thumbing through old copies of National Geographic.

Outside, my neighbor’s dog did its business on a hydrant. With one leg raised high in the air, the mutt seemed thrilled to take a long piss on a weird piece of metal.

One friend had been recently diagnosed with malignant polyps; another had broken her hip. Up until cataract surgery I hadn’t gone under the knife, but at any moment, I could get a call from the lab. The doctor had said something about fibrillations and lectured me about not taking care of myself. Back when my husband was alive, none of the doctors said a peep about fibrillations. It used to be all about thrombosis. Certain diseases come and go like designer jeans.

“How busy can you be that you can’t take care of your health?”

“Busy answering telemarketing calls.”

He laughed but I didn’t mean it as a joke. The doc wouldn’t believe me and I wasn’t ready to explain. I’d been too busy building an avatar on a video game called Top Dog Ramono. For months I’d been setting her up, knew her like the back of my hand.

faceMy avatar girl had to be clever enough to go through a bunch of colliding mountains, and if she didn’t get squished, collect gems from slime-toads that were actually people who’ve been turned into creature features by this Lord Grunion who thinks the world is his oyster. The problem is that Grunion’s got an army behind him and every time my spunky avatar drops glowing rubies into the crater of the volcanic colliding mountains, the army comes after her and locks her away, and if she doesn’t have the right key in her pocket that she hopefully won at an arcade game before reaching the mountains, she could die of hunger—shrivel into a stick of beef jerky. But I can think of worse ways to occupy my time like watching the evening news: shootings, bombing, and politicians clucking their tongues about how terrible everything is. I’m trying to create a place where I have good odds, where I have a chance of winning.

My avatar is getting better at fighting my battles. I named her after my mother and father, Morgan and Rena to become Morena, but she gets all her good looks from me.

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Just Like Fruitvale Bridge Park

Fruitvale Bridge Park

Fruitvale Bridge Park

1.
Fruitvale Bridge Park
where fresh water mixes
with ocean tides,
storm drains
from Oakland
empty into its mouth
wide open
rents are industrial
and zoned cheap,
homeless
hold out for fish
away from tent cities,
the favelas
that crowd source
highway exits,
Fruitvale
where a Monarch butterfly
sucks the life
from a milkweed
and lacy anise leans
on a cyclone,
gets off on it.
Now riding past me–
a man who balances
aluminum cans,
plastic bags
on the handlebars
of a bicycle.

2.
I prefer intertidal zones,
brackish places,
salt marshes of sweet and sour,
fresh and salt,
a sandwich of charoset and horseradish,
honey and the taste of root knowledge.

Fringes of the city where I grew up
amid warehouses and plate glass studios,
auto body shops smelling of motor oil
promising to fix a vehicle in 24 hours.
Dark, dirty ceilings
with batmobile things

and equipment only men
in overalls knew how to handle.
I fell in love with the blue collar
of cities—What it took
to make things happen,
behind-the-scenes

for stars to come out,
coffee breaks,
roach coaches,
deliveries and pickups,
and all the gravelly curses
that made a day go by

inside fans of corrugated
aluminum siding
wrapped around a city block
cooling its heels
against the whine
of heavy metal,

almost like the Fruitvale mudflats,
places that stink of low tide,
spangles of window glass
on sidewalks
bequeathed by minor gods
of the neighborhood

on their way to the courthouse
at the outreach edges
where rules
are broken and ignored,
for this
is an in-between place

that doesn’t attract attention
unless there’s a hip bar or club,
or a politician stumping for votes,
people who go about the business
of eating, sleeping, breathing
and making their own peace.

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Wellfleet at Olga’s

Wellfleet Harbor

Wellfleet Harbor

floating on my back
murmurs from the shore
a lifeguard’s whistle
boogie boards

water color red
a cloud of seaweed
hisses of bubbles
dissolve my feet

scissors to locksmith
time tumbles away
Einstein wears sunblock
count the waves

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The First Flying Woman

IMG_1278The old woman who lived in the bottom apartment called me. Her name was Basuma. Freckles covered her hands and arms and made her look like a ripe banana.

She pointed to a tree in our backyard. “Look! The momma bird is feeding the baby bird,” she said. “Daddy’s watching for cats. When he sees a cat scrunch itself up into a waiting rock beneath the tree with its mouth open and its tail ticking,” she continued, “he flies to the branch and warns his family to fly far away.”

I thought about that. “But how does a bird learn how to fly?”

She pulled out a brown and white feather from her grey hair and began to fan herself. “By watching the momma bird.” Sweat was beading off her forehead.

“But how did she learn to fly?” I asked.

“Sheesh, child, it’s too warm. Let’s go to the basement. I’ll tell you there.”

We climbed the winding wooden stairs to her small room. Basuma sat in a rocker. I sat on a blue rug and leaned my head against her bed. “Go on,” I patted her leg to begin.

“Once there was a girl named Liana,” began Basuma.

“Liana!” I said. “That’s my name!”

She nodded. “She was nobody’s child and everybody’s child. Liana was an orphan who had been brought to the village as an infant. All the families in the village helped to raise her. She grew up learning something from everyone.

“One family taught her how to listen. She could hear ants digging inside their homes. Another family taught Liana how to sing. “If you know how to sing,” they told her,” you can move rocks from your heart.” Liana sang a beautiful sad song.

“Why are your eyes sliding off your face?” asked a sparrow who had made a trek down the bark of the tree to talk with her.

“I receive gifts from all the families in the village,” said Liana. “But I have nothing to give.”

The sparrow scratched her head. As small as she was, she knew many things. “I’ll give you a feather. Then you will have a gift. Use it as you will.” With a tug from her beak, the little sparrow plucked a feather from her wing. “Here,” she said, and flew away.

Liana lived near a river that overlooked a thick stand of tall pine trees with Malley and her little brother Joosh. Liana was the oldest. Malley and Joosh’s parents were away collecting summer berries, but knew the other families would take care of them.

“The next morning Liana opened her eyes and saw that the moon had not yet disappeared. She held the feather inside her palm. It was speckled brown and white. Who would want a small feather that was no bigger than her nose? She tucked it inside a gold locket that she wore around her neck, the only thing she’d brought when she’d first come to the village.

“What’s wrong?” asked Malley, who stirred inside her bed of soft fresh leaves. “Why are you up so early?”

“Now little Joosh always slept next to the fire to stay warm. He never wanted to miss anything. He was in such a hurry, he accidentally tossed the edge of his leaf bark blanket into the fire, which began to blaze.

“Oh, Joosh, you’re so dumb,” said Malley. The boy stuck out his tongue.

The girls were scared. They tried to put out the fire. They had nothing except a rusted can to carry water from the river. Joosh kept filling up the can. But why did Malley try to smother the fire with a deerskin? And why did Liana throw rocks, which only created sparks that flew everywhere in the dry weather? The pine trees caught fire.

Liana remembered the sparrow’s feather. She took it out and rubbed it on her chest. Her back grew thick with feathers. The wind parted her dark hair down the middle of her neck, which spread over her arms into two wings. Liana moved so quietly through the air, she didn’t even disturb the wind. She grabbed the two children and flew to the other side of the river where she placed them safely on the ground. The Bird Woman flew away. From high in the air, she saw how everything was connected to everything, how the rivers flowed into the oceans, how the mountains sloped into the valleys.

“She called to Malley and Joosh good-bye. Her voice turned into a beautiful song.”

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Hummingbirds

    Istanbul doorMother of Pearl door, Istanbul

Nails cut red sea scallops into her thumb
Held back from digging deeper.
What was the point?
He’d shut his Facebook door
Disenfranchised her from sending
Text messages
Seven years of speaking
Every day
Slammed shut silence.
Read Pablo Neruda’s Lost Poems
Listened to hummingbirds
Chitter outside on her patio
Beak-sipping from red plastic flowers,
A sugar sweetness but no nectar,
Wondering
as she retracted her finger
If the hummingbirds knew
If they could tell the difference.

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00

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Bird Land

It’s hard to be a bird
Do what you were born to do
Knowing no one’s
Gonna come back
Flying through the trees
To feed you your grub
Like in the olden days
When all you wanted
Was to open that big beak of yours,
A hundred times opened and closed,
A shameless thing.

Now no more sounds of here I come,
Your mama, way too tired
With a flutter of signifying wings
To keep up the good work,
Knew you had it in you, your time,
Your turn to ride the air current,
That first dizzying plummet
Above the vent of a Fish Tackle Store,
Dunes whipped by wind
Into sand storms, purple rafts of seaweed,
The sun caught and spangled.

Bonus!

Rio Vista
Golden hills of summer
as I drive over drawbridges
named for vice mayors and state senators
who cared enough to sit on committees,
the Sacramento River a blue ribbon
pinned to the land that’s green with crops
I don’t recognize, windmills and cows
move in the distance, power lines drape
their cabled arms pointing
toward Rio Vista where I watch
people fish, a woman wearing
a green halter and pink shorts
nods something
to the man standing next to her.

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Zoe Keating Comic Book

I saw you wearing a NYPD T-shirt subscribed to your graveyard of ex-lovers buried behind the house near the burn pile incinerated from memory a lead-in to a song coming face-to-face with Spiderman a ruffled feather duster of clouds above San Francisco Civic Center where everyone plays a thumb piano of cellphones

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A Congress of Poets

Walk down the hill
from the Historic Mayfair Hotel,
the room is clean and the water hot,
costs less than other places,
forget about getting breakfast at the Convention Center,
at least I can buy enough coffee to open up both eyes,
but everything is closed on a Saturday morning. And this is LA.
Descend into a sunken shopping mall, a cavernous place
where the Chow Down, H&R, and Gold’s Gym
rim the edge of a plaza. Only one door opens,
security guards in blue jackets, women with yoga mats,
shoppers who know
there’s a Starbucks counter
hidden like a jewel inside a Target.

Near the pick-up area, bras stare
in B cups where I wait for my order,
drink coffee surrounded by a forest
of brick, cement, and glass trees
glitter from the king’s castle,
wonder what I must do
to return to my home.

Buildings have always defined my horizon,
not mountains, a skyline.
But I’m not sure where I belong anymore,
a belt of cars encircle the city,
don’t know if it’s my age or if I can’t stand the traffic,
or like B.B. King said, the thrill is gone
spectacles of billboards climb 60 feet high
for Harry Potter, Toyota, Coca Cola.

Travel back to the hotel after another evening of readings
men play soccer on the lawn of Lafayette Park,
wait for a bus in front of the Dollar Store
across the street from where the evangelist
speaks over a microphone in Spanish and English.
If I listen, I can hear crickets.

Links to My Work

Poetry Flash Review

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00

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