Bio Note: This month, April 2021, my chapbook Checkered Mates is launching from Kelsay Books. You may ask, what are checkered mates? With husbands counting nearly three (that's a long story) and one of them is now my sister, I feel I have an authentic voice on this subject. I offer two poems to give you a taste – two others in the chapbook appeared in Verse-Virtual in earlier editions. For more information, visit my website (link is above).
Defining Checkered Mates – Multiple-Choice
A. Australian mates range from an impoverished widower from the same side of your freeway who paints houses gray to the girl with salmon-pink socks from your third-year French class. A mate is not necessarily the person you bed down with. That may be someone else. B. Imagine a frayed red-and-white tablecloth. Sunburned hands sop up the spill of pinot noir on an August picnic table set with more humidity than protein. You are sitting under one cloud of unspoken sympathy with a friend’s story of how she was raped. You also think of the young black teenager that police shot last night. C. Visualize a jump from a red to a black square on the board. You’re chasing kings, risking loss of pawn-power. The doorbell rings, the Portuguese Water Dog knocks over an aspidistra, smashing a green Shawnee pot. D. The crosshatched cracks in the concrete commons that will break your mother’s back – if you step on moss, do you believe you will hurt her? E. Hugging a former husband in front of neighbors known for gossip. F. The bullied high school teenager who hangs himself two weeks after graduation. G. The retired banker who leaves out one-eighth of a cup of antifreeze for his neighbor’s barking beagle. H. Moving toward candlelit lovemaking on a stormy January night. The power company hotline insists the lights may come on any minute. A squirrel fried in the rigging. Neither lover remembers which switches are flipped on, which off. I. A brain hiccough bigger than when one spouse spells checkered, the other chequered. More like when well-worn, stable plaids of relationship go zigzag, one squabble off-kiltering another. J. Do you seek the robot petting zoo to keep your loneliness a secret? All of the above? None?
Buddha’s Stallion and the Woman Who Married Wallace Stevens
Buddha’s white stallion carried him from the palace away from noble warrior games and jumped the river. When Siddhartha tied the proud Kinthaka to a tree, the young bridegroom fled for freedom, to roam, find his way, and broke the loyal horse’s heart. A heart that returned after death as a follower. This horse carved on stupas, painted, sketched – the Way starts as a mounted man on a path out of town. Elsie Stevens could have claimed I am the woman on the Liberty dime. She never did. Historians did, compared her image to a sculpture of her that Adolph Weinman made at another time, stressed that Stevens and Weinman lived in the same building. Liberty’s feathered cap for freedom of thought on a wife who kept separate worlds, rooms apart, strained and uncertain under his crystal chandeliers. Supporting actors, perhaps, of heartbreak, those who wait, never shake loose obligations and adorations. The reward to secondaries in the ranks, faithful. Who we each might be.
Originally published in Full of Crow
©2021 Tricia Knoll
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell her or him. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL