Lynne Thompson is the 2007 winner of the Perugia Press First Book Prize for Beg No Pardon. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she authored the chapbooks We Arrive By Accumulation and Through a Window and her work has been widely anthologized, most recently in Voices From Leimert Park and Blue Arc West, An Anthology of California Poets and also appeared this year in Eclipse, Dogwood and Runes. Thompson is an attorney and holds the position of Director of Employee & Labor Relations at UCLA.

Short Stack with Switch Monkey

I'm a free wheel. Got no one telling me the can or can't do.
So when this jeans-too-tight-to-breathe strolled into Miz
Willie's Grill, I liked the cut of his kerchief right off. Knew
he knew things I wouldn't know in a lifetime: how to bail
it in, strut in company jewelry, and play the glory hunter.
That's why I wanted him. Him straddled out at counter's end,
nursing a cup o' joe hotter than Yuma's breath, looking neither
left nor right, just talking to Miz Willie who didn't look left
nor right or give a damn about anything he said. But I did.

So I sidled up to the counter, took the stool two stools away
and bought another cup while I listened to him blow smoke.
Listened to his world of slow train, hotshot, piggy-back. Heard
how he'd catch out ahead of the bull, drug runners, and ramblers
with romance on their minds, trying to follow him out past
San Berdu, all the way to Baxter Springs. Listened long enough
to know he'd never tie on to a can or can't do or to me. Finished
my cup o' mud and lit out - full on a cheap pie card, a rail fan
looking for a local load, all smiles from a stack of short love.

The Unworshipped Woman

                          beat her

break her down or            reek so
             the way she do

nothing got her unzipped mind
                   her fly-paper memory

she a riverbed                   will be
for a dog's millennium

                         she gone lost
to her un-borns          she pale smoke

shadow                 in the distance

           she a train whistler's whistle
    this unworshipped     this     woman

she come like salt lick     she go down
like a drowning man hollering for one last last

her story hung like seaweed

                         she come in              she go out

    like unworshipped women            supposed to

             knees bloody
                                 knuckles got somebody's
jawbone jammed on

                     hair coiled with September twatterlight
                 corkscrewed so tight even owls won't hoot

   until          she pass by them        longing, on long legs

                           lips the color of peril

bittersweet             folded round a hollow in her twisted back

         But                              her one good eye           it flash -

Seed of Mango, Seed of Maize

I saw one of the grandmothers only once
in a photograph.
Short and sturdy she was, a black black Carib
with a forehead wide as the sea
that kisses Port Elizabeth
and a nose broad as the nostrum of Admiralty Bay.
Breathing deeply,
her breath was fume of coconut and allspice,
mango and frangipani,
black bird and blue sky,
was the isle of Bequia.
She conjured a daughter,
then jinxed another,
and they bedeviled five daughters between them,
and I am one of those flying fish.

The other grandmother I composed from myth
and half-told stories.
She was a red-red Cheyenne -
scorched earth,
much chased -
sported a thick reed of braid
pulled off from her forehead,
wide as Dakota
before it was north and south.
She hisses warnings across ten, then ten times
ten more years to a son
who reshapes them for me
in my dreams, sometimes in my waking.
As flute, blue maize, dance of the sun, she comes
crow on the wing, singing up the ghosts,
and I am one of those - a ghost, singing.

Lynne Thompson Moonday poetry reading

© 2008 Lynne Thompson

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