Poetry Samples

Enjoy a few of Pattie’s recent poems:

The Air We Breathe

 
Inhaled you are a silken stream
exhaled, preheated velvet,
a medley of molecules,
a cornucopia of gases, particles,
even black matter —
which is not black and suffuses
the universe with all we cannot understand.

Sometimes something can be seen
through the bay window.
Is that rain? My husband asks.
No, a sort of scintilla,
tiny round speckles of not-nothing
crowding the air,
perhaps drifting souls of dead loved ones.
Have I not felt a whisper
brush my skin? A tingle
I cannot untangle?
If my mother, I would breathe her in.
She would fill me with grace.

 


“The Air We Breathe” by Pattie Palmer-Baker won Third Prize in Central Oregon Writer’s Guild Contest for Best Poem 2019.

Word Capture

Magenta —
my mind careens
searching for an image of that hue —
maybe a sort of pink on steroids
or red having sex with ultramarine?
If words were containers
filled with what they mean,
when I say —
magenta —
fuchsia would explode out of my mouth.

If write it, I can just graze the meaning,
not with a scanty scrawl
but with calligraphic pen strokes —
bold lines, graceful swirls —
although not enough to corral
more than a quick glance.
Eyes want color, gleam and glimmer.

I choose my favorite nib,
mix water, gum arabic,
red-pink pearlescent powder,
dip a small paint brush into the shiny liquid,
stroke a dab into the nib’s concavity.
With agonizing care, I press the pen
down on cold-press watercolor paper —
surface rough enough to form
tiny hills and valleys
throughout the line’s straight stretch —
let up the pressure,
then at the end of the stroke
push down again so that
both the beginning
and the end swell slightly.
I twirl the descenders,
flow the ending letter.

I need to begin and end the day
as tender and mindful —
press down
on the sight of my husband’s
good morning smile,
curl up against my dachshund’s
clever body at night,
stretch my life out in a straight magenta
not quite smooth line.

Not-Nothing

Inhaled, you are a silken stream.
Exhaled, preheated velvet.
A medley of molecules,
a cornucopia of gases, particles,
even dark matter –
which suffuses the universe
with all we cannot understand.

Sometimes something can be seen
through the bay window.
Is that rain? My husband asks.
No, a sort of scintilla,
tiny round speckles of not-nothing
crowding the air,
perhaps drifting souls of loved ones.

Have I not felt a whisper
brush my skin? A tingle
I cannot untangle?
If my mother, I would breathe her in.
She would fill me with grace.

 

The Moon and I Drive Drunk

Erratic oval
elongated bloated
pasted in see-through
not quite navy blue
eye-level moon
way too big
for the immature sky

not stark white this moon
gold-smoothed
no not smooth
moony holes patched
with ragged blotches

lunatic moon
slides over to the driver’s
right side
then to the left
then can’t be seen
then coffee-cream
magnet moon adheres
to the windshield

man in the moon
laughs and laughs
offers me a drink
I sip the missing edge
both of us are sliding
off the sky I am drunk
my body shines moonbeams
that slither through the sky
and streak the asphalt

I swallow
the moon whole
my body stretches
and stretches until the skin
glides open
my heart floats out
a new Moon.

 

The Hand-Off

The speedometer trembles at one-twenty 
but the Cadillac runs smooth, silent 
as my father steers left-handed, 
his right arm draped 
over the top of the front seat. 

I want to touch that blond-furred arm, 
hold his fingers in my hand’s hollow. 

My mother leans to the right, 
stares out the front window at the black asphalt 
unwinding into the desert’s lusterless gold. 
She doesn’t look at him or at me 
or at the fifth of whiskey 
amber-stilled next to her left foot. 

Out the window to the left 
a mountain presses purple up up 
until lead clouds block the ascension 
and through that metallic gray 
God shoots silver shafts just for me. 

Give me the bottle, Edith, 
he says to my mother. 
I see the dip of her left shoulder, 
hear the slap of the bottle against his hand. 
Her gaze never leaves the ochre-scrubbed sand. 

He tilts the Jim Beam— 
the scorched yellow liquid flows into his mouth. 
I hear him gulp and swallow, 
I see his fingers tender-curled around the bottle’s neck. 
In the mirror his crow’s feet gentle and his dishwater eyes 
flash a moment’s burnished blue —
not for my mother not for me not for himself
not for the saffron sand or the purple mountain
but for the brown-gold whiskey.

Out the window— 
still purple, the mountain— 
and the white-gold slashing the stubborn gray, 
not god-painted or angel-mounted— 
a trick of the atmosphere, 
a sleight of hand.

____________________________

Published in She Holds the Face of The World: 10 Years of VoiceCatcher, Dec 2015
and VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions, Summer 2013
Nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2013