you are in the diode archives diode v8n3



Another Projection

I can’t remember the meaning of, close
to protection. Projector in elementary
school, darkened room, white dusty light
where children look to see what will appear.
You are the screen that much is clear.
In the lost museum, originals have vanished,
the body’s ragged keyhole opened. White inside,
crumpling. Criss-cross star
along her upper middle back. Near her heart,
the ax struck, thumb-sized open flap
shadows black. Profane I can’t define
like the everyday propane, fire
and heat, the fuel I need through winter
at the water’s edge in this many
windowed house. Blurry in the mirror
forever watching who is viewing. A man
runs a finger along each of the cuts. Explaining,
his finger seems to enter each wound casually,
my own back alight.
With a sort of chalk putty
to rebuild her body. Reflected
by glass or some transparency, tourmaline
ash. Other gems pink around her face, she’s scraped alive.


I speak in tongues

I go to Charlottesville to hear her sing   
Nicole said you could wear
your hair like that    Hera nodding at the folk
So I did    pulled it up     Drove to Appomattox
where the war ended    signs everywhere but cars
move too fast to read      A woman held my hair
in her hands  said   Don’t be afraid to drive slow  pull
over      In Charlottesville    a woman sang
I liked a song or two    In Lynchburg a bee tried
to pollinate the flowers on my dress — hundreds
tiny red      Man on sidewalk:
Are you ok? He’s watched me turn
circles in tiny flowers flouncing
beside a religious school      entrance to the right
of where I turn in the Panera parking lot
My mouth silent to the man    but moving    speaking
to the bee    for all he knows    I speak in tongues
Bee still green hum though summer’s
done     A white door built into a hill
is the portal    railroad overhead
Xandra says that door’s just gateway —
whole buildings on the other side
The man sees whirl    Demonic or ecstatic
A woman alone    dervish   arguing on the other
side of glass from people eating pastries
It’s a bee I call to him   It’s just a bee? he asks


I tried to find the river

For all he knows I speak in tongues
which sometime contain diamonds
kimberlite        Hay is for horses   little
clumps under foot    but the horses
are gone    Come see me if you need
any more nightwear for your little
woman      I slit my own
throat many times a man
said   & patted my back
so hard I rattled
inside aluminum
cans     When I open the door
almost late   another man flung a gold
curtain over the cavern I’d made —


In the morning I tried to find the river
but the buildings were old    deerskin
mounted on the wall with a bullethole
near the bottom    fire around the round
edges   What do I want with the past
In the coffee shop    a woman wore a gun
on her hip holstered in black    ordered to go
A ship on the wall & a ghost ship
What do I want with the woman & gun
Ghost ship    Why not just find the river
Down 9th street the counter man said
past the playground      There’s an island
Give the river a curtain
When the tongues begin speaking what
kind of gold is that


I step through a door

The next morning I tried to find the river
but stopping for coffee    I step through a door
Two men alone in a restaurant    one missing
a tooth clicks the lock: We’re open
Coffee so full of cardamom
my mouth seeds      It’s the first cup
The best  the owner said    his ear hurting
sleepless    driving all night from Maryland
The walls white    the other man faces me
but I feel the edges of a room where
three men murdered me
I know the door’s behind     but it feels too far     
Five men come in     go upstairs to sit on cushions
A few tables lead straight into a kitchen
like a shotgun house where a breeze can
blow front to back a bullet    
The owner mis-hears my request for baklava
cooks falafel   boxes it      I’ll take it down
by the river   have lunch   The other man said
I have to go   they’re going to slaughter
a whole lot of lamb    It’ll be $2 a pound
Workin workin workin      My teeth leafy
with cardamom     It cleanses your breath
For kisses    the owner said


Ride the long hill down to the river
roller-coasterish to a cluster of men all
dressed alike on the river bank    striped
orange & white pants     A car askew
beaten into layers of dust      One dark-haired
man in the center of the cul-de-sac eating
but now he’s watching me see I’m in a circle
of prisoners: INMATE WORK FORCE a
sign says      They’re having lunch     I’m in one
inmate’s sights    When I turn my jeep
to pass him on my right his mouth open
tongue out      Eyes on me as if
eating     I could park further down the river
but he’d see me    maybe even now.


The first time I couldn’t save myself

I forget the black seeds           
but in the forest     near the pond
are two handfuls                     
Hold my palm out high                
& the first wild bird
lands   talons wrap around
my smallest finger like a ring  
        — marries me
a moment     swish swish swish

Chickadees let go of their neurons
every fall     brains small    they make
room for something new by forgetting
what they know          
Relinquishing     a kind of amnesia       
Paper wasp nest in the trees I reach
toward feeding birds —  
a paper lantern      tan, smooth-grained           
The queen built it by chewing wood
into pulp     raised her workers
this nest expanding all summer     house
nearly a foot high
& now everyone inside will die
from the cold this fall     except
the queen who’ll find a place
to wait out the winter alone.  


Kelle Groom is the author of three poetry collections: Five Kingdoms and Luckily (both from Anhinga Press) and Underwater City (University Press of Florida Contemporary Poetry Series). Her memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster), is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice selection, a Library Journal Best Memoir, Oprah O Magazine selection, and Oxford American Editor’s Pick.  Her work has appeared in AGNI, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Groom’s awards include a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. She recently completed her fourth poetry manuscript, Spill, and her second memoir manuscript, How to Cure a Fright. Groom is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, and is Director of the Summer Program Workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.