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Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson

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Klotho the Fibre Goddess Describes Fate

Anything can be spun: mare’s tail, thistle,
     free will. My task is dust
and the sticky milk of love.  My birthright:

a spindle, phallic tool, daemon of destiny.
     From nothing I pull anima. I am
the umbilical sister.  Anything can be

spun: linen, ink, deception.  Which
      is true: the silk worm or its silk?
I have honed my skill more than any

young seductress.  Yet in temples I’m the
     spinster, Deity whose marble arms
long ago fell away, influence fading

with the first trip or tangle.  Those who believe
      hang my image in genome labs
where anything can be spun: prodigies,

left-handedness and chance, the crucial
     knot.  I work my treadle
and a hundred couples climb into

backseats, let out rope and ribbons
     with their fetal curl.  With all its flaws
how I love this task.  First to cradle

not the child, but its hunger, its wail,
     strands within its pliable skull: anything
           that can be spun.

From “The Fates”

Northern Colorado Writers 1st Place Contest Winner, Published in Pooled Ink



The Stone Masons

Not out of faith, but stone.  Two men,
atheists both, built the town’s
church.  Rock rivered
to the smoothness of loaves.  Heft
and sweat.  The mortar.
        This was no
cathedral.  No tower for bells.  No crimson
or indigo windows.  In those hard times
they toiled for food alone and a place
to sleep where silence breathed
its deep calm.  They seldom spoke,
yet there was always communion
between them.  July sun
called the house of god upwards
though neither of them believed; the war
had been too hard.

        They married
sisters. Lived in the city.  And after
one of them lost his mind, the other
sat daily at the bedside, accepting,
while the women prayed.  He recalled
then some remnant of Bible lore
from childhood when Christ, fasting,
was tempted by the Devil
to turn rocks into bread.
And he had refused.  Let stones

be stones, indifferent to weather,
worship, what breaks a man and what
builds him.

From “The Fates”

The Baltimore Review, First Prize Contest Winner



        for Ali

When death comes young it grows
alongside you.  Shadow a little longer
than your frame.  Sideways glance more curious
than compassionate.  A strange, cruel
envy.  You search

forbidden closets like pockets of a church
for receipt or sacrament to make
you seamless.  Voice among skirts
no longer hers.  In the Seer’s hand

the ordinary deck grows restless. What falls out
is the Ace of Spades, the black spear
of an upside-down heart.  They say she had
a heart-shaped face.  I knew a man

at ninety-nine who claimed the soul doesn’t end
until it has tried to become
every other life.  Definition of one-hundred.
But who believes?  You

need to knock down with your bare fist
all the persons and institutions and traditions
and icons who think they know
power.  You want for one hot moment to be nothing
less than assassin

until you turn the gun around. People
stop you on the street to say how many pieces
of you resemble your mother: her nose, her
gesture.  Martyrs are yesterdays

when we were brave.  Pick up this ragged life
it is impossible to outgrow.  Paint it
the color of her hair.

From “The Fates”

Emrys Journal, Nancy Dew Taylor Award Winner



The Planet Shakespeare

Ask any astronaut. No symphony, no
     second act, no stanzas. In the
vacuum of the universe, science states
         that listening is impossible;
no atmosphere exists in the distances
              between stars
for sound waves to travel. Arias fade
      long before the plane of the Milky Way

unless some heretic, facing the vast
     deafness, translates line or tone
          into passion which transcends
earth’s essential gasses
      to hitch celestial winds

and roll into a planetoid of sopranos, a
      blue moon of cellos, satellites of
the chorus of the first love song
          that an ironworker sang to his soulmate.

Shakespeare’s plays become a galaxy,
      each one a separate planet with famous
soliloquies creating rivers, lakes and
          oceans, and sonnets spreading seeds
that might be Edens

while to-bes and not-to-bes coalesce
     into meteors with no destination
but an ongoing sigh.

The final line of every masterpiece
     finds the furnace of a white hot
star and becomes a solar flare

seen five hundred years from now
      by an astronomer who discovers
these manifestations of exquisite
          noun and note. He will weep
that such worlds were denied
     throughout time, that the ear was thought to be
           lesser than the eye.

From “Believing the Body,” Third Wednesday First Prize Contest Winner