Cathy Colman received her B.A. at San Francisco State Univeristy and her M.A. at San Francisco State University.  Her book Borrowed Dress won the 2001 Felix Pollak Prize for Poetry and made the The Los Angeles Times Best-seller List the first week of its release.  Her poetry has appeared in The Colorado Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Journal, Mudfish, The Southern Review,The Los Angeles Review, The Spoon River Review, Barnabe Mountain Review, Quarterly West, Pool, The Squaw Review, Rivendell, Contemporary 88, The GW Review, Hair-raising, The Tebot Bach Anthology, Chance of a Ghost Anthology (Putnam/Tarcher), Writers on Writing(Putnam), and elsewhere. She has won the Browning Award for Poetry and the Ascher Montandon Award for Poetry.  She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize six times and was a former reviewer for The New York Times Book Review.  She collaborated with composer Robert Johnson and their vocal piece honoring the fall of the Berlin Wall was presented at the Kennedy Center.  For eighteen years she has taught poetry and fiction at UCLA and privately.  She has been a guest lecturer and reader at University of Southern California, California College of Arts and Crafts, University of California at Riverside and was a featured reader at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art Poetry Series, The Getty Museum and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.  She has also work as a journalist/reviewer for Artweek and Angeles Magazine. Her new book, Beauty's Tattoo (Tebot Bach) was published in October, 2009.


HOW TO
 
The secret is to rise early.
Listen to liturgical collisions in the jazz riffs.
See how that square of sunlight foreshadows

a bigger radiance in the day.
Drink strong tea.  Get up and sing
a lively song.  Or re-enact Galileo's discovery

of a heliocentric universe.  Sorry, I meant
Copernicus.  Then peel hard-boiled
eggs that roll wildly around the plate

reminding you vaguely of dating.
Slice the eggs so you're surprised
by the gold coin yolk and how painterly

they look on the blue Fiestaware
next to the Early Girl tomato.  Now
you might begin to suspect that

some duty needs to be discharged--phone calls
made, bills paid, or perhaps a fresh
elucidation of Oliver Wendell Holmes' aphorism

"We will twist the tail of the cosmos 'til it squeaks."
But resist these mandates.  Just laugh,
like some Republicans at welfare.

Sit down at your desk.  Whack the pinata of childhood
until something ugly flies out.  If you can't
find a subject, stare out the window.

Wait for an image to announce itself, or the mail-
person, whichever comes first.  Or use
a phrase from another writer's poem to get going.

For example: "The secret is to rise early."

                                                

ARTS AND CRAFTS:  A WARNING
 
An instant jumped out of me
as if I were giving birth to time.  I realized
the past was gone and what remained?
Only salvage, a ghost-clutch
of fresh asphalt, steamy after summer rain,
love's jump-start engine, and the coyote's compromise-the look
of a kind dog-who-is-not-a-dog, like a lover I had
who smelled of goodness, who brought loaves
and fishes, change from other countries
that spilled across my dresser,
who decorated me
silver tracery, but who practiced
the piano on other women,
until my body flayed out and became
a table of musical triads.
I read an article that said once you used
glitter
it lodged in the floorboards, the rugs,
tracked everywhere in the house,
years later you'd still find a tiny skin-glint.
You can never get rid of it.


 


SLEEP
 

I wake suddenly from a small red sleep
as if the darkness were oil rising up to my eyes.

I'd give almost anything to go back.
Even dream the one about the lost wallet,

the forgotten locker combination, teeth falling out,--
even the hanged woman, my double,

with her blue sash noose, her Raggedy Ann dress.
Entombed in my bed,

the sheets like marble in moonlight
my rebellious heart beats too fast,

an adolescent fist
dipped in red sealing wax.

I can sleep late, I tell myself,
because I have no children.

Only dust and the sly, early-morning furniture.
I have no husband

but the black mountain from whose shoulders
I can see the river shining like tin.

What kind of offering can I make to you, Sleep?
Haven't I already given you more than I have given anyone?



From Borrowed Dress (University of Wisconsin Press, 2001)


Cathy Colman Poet at Moonday Poetry

2010 Cathy Colman


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