“After Chagall’s The Birthday” and Other Poems, by Carole Standish Mora

After Chagall’s The Birthday

Here in the fresh hangar of their private cabaret, the cinnabar lane gathers
up the dusty dreams of the dessert she had planned and shakes them off.  
He is into speleogy and she, in soft pink-tinged, handmade camisole, 
close to the skin, admits to being an Epicurean, a never satiated gourmet.

The epic Coq au Vin she just prepared, has hit the spot, and for dessert –
Millefeuille, presented on her best Bakelite, filled with sweet, somewhat 
thick Kumquat jam, fresh from the tree just outside the window of their 
romantic Mediterranean hideaway, a stones throw from the Orange Coast.

Home to Our Lady of Loreto, this has become their Balarean Island,
where they conjure nightly bonfires in her velvet boudoir flush with ju-ju.  
Tonight she serves up a mean Baby, Baby, Baby, just a jigger of Stoly, 
a little less Grand Marnier and half a jigger of Baileys, swished and swirled

over cracked ice and strained into a pony glass that glistens like the black 
patent leather and chrome stool–modernist, slick, a bit uncomfortable. 
Both so tired of being propped up like that, he makes her a Woo Woo
all peachy and tart with cranberry.  They unpack the theremin and begin

a slow dance.  Soon the calyx, campanula and baby’s breath bouquet
begins to emit sounds all smooth, spooky and innocent.  They both whisper 
mon cherie and yes, even the cicadas chime in.  This is no mare’s nest,
they’ve hung up the magic carpet and their bathysphere is complete.

No joke.  Their jouissance unfolds and they float, flesh swaying so gently,
they even forget to take off their shoes, so deliquescent they are with delight.


Today, when the ship arrived, while unloading the cargo 
of spice tea, limes and onions – I rolled up my sleeves 
and let the skin on my arms burn. The ropes held for once
and maybe I’ll eat something with a thick sauce 
this time tomorrow.

I guess I wasn’t really sure it was coming, even though
the birds behaved badly, in unison for nights on end, 
making a racket with their squawking and me just striking
rocks together for spark. 

             They smell it coming, 
             even if I can’t, 
             and am deaf and dumb
             to the even tide, 
             that has been trying all along to teach me
             to listen with my skin, 
             to the change in the temperature, 
             that signals some change in the pitch of her sails, 
             bringing her home 
             to the long sightless shore, 
             with no end,

                          to my empty bowl. 

Talk about writing poems.

It is like a disappearing act 
or the magic 
of slight-of-hands. It is art,
it is science,
it is none of the above. 

A blind person can do it, 
even the deaf and dumb. 
A kind of intelligence
is needed, but like too much salt, 
will ruin the dish. 

There can never be too much heart. 
for a certain outcome invariably 
leads to blind alleys. 

At the same time, getting lost, 
good and lost is 
advisable – up a creek even.

If you can put on a cloak and pretend 
you’re an ancient eardstapa, 
that helps too, 
even if you have to look up 
a word or two. 

Somedays the recipe is very 
difficult to follow, 
many ingredients 
unknown, or very hard 
to find, or way too 

The hunger is strange and impossible 
to appease.  

If the plums appear magically, 
eating them immediately 
is not advised. 

It is best to gather them 
into a bowl, a blue or yellow one perhaps,
and set them on a table
near a window. 

You might also leave them

for a day or two, 
practice remembering their smell, 
while in some other room.

While in this other place, take out a deck of cards 
and build a card house,
nothing fancy. 

You might also blow it down for fun.  

When you’ve run out of games to play, 
take down the dulcimer and sit for awhile 
playing, even if you don’t really know how. 

Then, as the afternoon light is giving way to twilight, 
you might go polish a plum, 
then, when you’re ready, bite

a sweetness will fill your mouth, 
with a touch of sour. 

Notice how wet the inside of your mouth then feels.  

And if you keep on like that,
soon you’ll reach the seed, 
which can be thrown away or planted.

I advise the latter.

And, whoever said there is a way out 
of this mess was wrong – there is no
way out. The trick is in reversals,
trial and all – it is worth it.   

There’s a trail of sorts afterall, 
that is made in the walking. 
Step by step 
a new land. Lost and found, 
arriving and leaving. 

Or maybe, it is a kind of circle dance with words, 
danced to a music only you can hear. 

So, become a magician, cook up a storm, wander, 
linger, enjoy the changing weather. 

Take shelter here.

Carole Standish Mora, MFA, PhD is a writer, scholar, and educator with poems published in Two Hawks Quarterly, The Prism Review, Red River Review, The Caterpillar Chronicles, Moronic Ox Literary and Cultural Journal, Between Literary Journal, Flint Hills Review, and The Seventh Quarry. She received a Pushcart Nomination in 2011 and in 2014 won the West Coast Eisteddfod Poetry Competition judged by Peter Thabit Jones. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing (poetry & fiction), a Ph.D. in Depth Psychology, and enjoys gardening, cooking, textile design, art-making, photography, travel, and research related to Jung, the creative process, and the arts.

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