you are in the diode archives fall 2010



6220 Camp Street

                        Artist and local eccentric Ellen Montgomery, 85, lived with 33 cats in New Orleans,
                        refusing to evacuate during Katrina because she did not want to abandon them. 

The morning of the strange wind,
                     I opened tin cans,
scooped chicken livers into pie plates.  The city

                                  emptied of trumpets, neon,
loaves of bread.  All around me,

a shotgun of nails.  I unpacked boxes
                     of tempera, acrylic,
synthetic bristles. 

                     When the oak fell across the lawn, 
           I sat in the hallway and drew

its chalk outline.  The city
           became soft, there,  dark
water slashed across paper.  I counted
                                  shed claws in the red rug,
           rubbed whiskers with my thumbs. 

When the light rose again, its bright splinter              
           cracked every surface: broken
window, the street

                                  a canvas of roof tiles.
                     I filled my pockets

with black slate, these chipped
           relics.  In my hands, I painted this
ruin into a strip of starlight,
                     slash of half-moon.  For days
           there was nothing but oil smears,  gloss
of orange, my cat-circled shins. On a napkin,
           I watched water turn each greenburst, pop

of blue into shredded leaves, mold-blooms, a buried sky.


The Wishing Tomb

                        In St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 there is a vault bearing the name of Marie Laveau and
                        is distinguished as the "wishing tomb” where young women can go to petition the
                        great Voodoo Queen when seeking husbands.

Each night, women come with baskets
of fruit, rosaries, clippings of their own dark

braids.  Leave candy, and tomorrow
a flower will appear on the doorstep.  Tears,
and no one will break

your heart. A love spell scratched in brick:

three red Xs chalk-marked
over her name.  Place your hands

over your eyes and circle the weeds, the half-
filled bottles of rum, the bright
beads.  Knock three times against this

whitewashed tomb.  Listen

to birds rise from magnolia, a man
decanting a saxophone on Iberville.  Everything

becomes possible: a plastic rose blooms
to a diamond ring.  Broken glass,
a divorce.  Do not idle among the candies

and coins, the others tapping out their offering,

but touch your lips to your fingers, your fingers
to each X.  Give her what you wish:

bread crumbs, earrings, your high-heeled shoe
and she will show you what you’ve earned:

a rain-smeared kiss, a letter, or nothing
but nights of teacups, an empty bed.


Lighting the Candles

                        Mission San José Catholic Church, August 2009

Let me speak to you now, you
who belong to the white-washed

frescoes, roses carved
into crumbled stone.  You

who have no face left, not even
in memory, no voice, no hands

to lift to my eyes.  Here in this soot-
shrouded chapel, I touch

sand, wooden stem, flame,
make you again of light, my burned

thread of hair caught in the blue
votive.  I light the dark wick,

give this offering a name.  I give you
the sweat of my body

in early August heat, the silver roots
of dusk between us, the coins

slid into the empty metal box.  I want
to keep you to myself inside my mouth,

watch your smoke drift over the lip
of the cross-cut cup, stain

the walls.  Let no one enter
this room, open the doors, stand

beside me in grief, strike the match.  Listen
for my breath, how each word

comes for you, an echo of this burnt prayer
rising through the high arched windows.  


Amanda Auchter is the founding editor of Pebble Lake Review and the author of The Glass Crib, winner of the 2010 Zone 3 Press First Book Award judged by Rigoberto González, and of the chapbook, Light Under Skin (Finishing Line Press, 2006).  A former Theodore Morrison Poetry Scholar for the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, she has received awards and honors from Bellevue Literary Review, BOMB Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, and others. Her writing appears in American Poetry Review, Court Green, Indiana Review, The Iowa Review, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and teaches creative writing and literature at Lone Star College-CyFair.