Poems by Carol Mikoda 2018

CAROL MIKODA teaches writing and new teachers in upstate New York. She lives in the country where she walks in the woods, studies the sky to photograph clouds, and grows vegetables and flowers. She also sings and plays piano, guitar, and bass. Although she enjoys travel, her cat, Zen Li Shou, would rather she stayed home.

Vague Sense of Relief

The shadows harbor
several snakes who slip their tongues out
test the air
then slide from here to there
which isn’t far so how can I miss them? Every nerve
in my body ready for
the jump
the shudder
when I feel I might
leave my skin
although I cannot say
I’m not distracted
by the tiny, suffocating cave
of this Otis Elevonic 401
hurtling to the depths of the Mariana Trench.

The scratching of the bear
who puts his paw through the ceiling
every once in a while
is not nearly as loud
as the pounding of the Nazis
at the door. Too bad for them:
the door is jammed so they will never get in.

Perverse

Try to cast me out: Call on the names
of the dead. Sprinkle holy water. Pray
copiously. I am comfortable here and will resist.
Not much required of me: Waken this host sometimes
to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, binge
on potato chips, roll drooling on the floor. Make
this host search for love in dangerous places
[a sit-com premise I must pitch to someone at Netflix
as she sleeps: hilarious dialogue ‘twixt demons and hosts,
madcap chase scenes through downtown Williamsburg, skinny
black jeans drinking overpriced coffee, jumping into Ubers
to shop for upscale kitchen appliances or IKEA
accessories]. But I digress. I insist, rather,
that you update your notion of demons as you’ve recently done
with vampires (kudos, Anne Rice). We are NOT
interested in Latin or glossolalia. We ARE
interested in a good French press. Don’t listen to Lucifer;
a fallen angel really has no idea
of the inner life of a demon. We’re complex
leeches, developing our sensibilities over centuries,
as humans have. Ignore at your peril the fact
that I, for example, have strong opinions about how
to roast Ethiopian beans to prepare them for careful
grinding and steeping in said French press. Leave off
your provincial notions of possession. You can pluck diseased
worms from a man’s heart and flick them into a deep
bin of kerosene, but we’re nothing like that.

We are not cast out so easily.

Memo from the National Sleep Foundation

In these eight hours of fantasy
every night, go far
from this madding crowd,
these yawping maws
of celebrity and hype that sell
and buy and move and shake.
Retreat to rock sweetly
on the lethal waters of a nightly journey
to mostly a better place, even if
sometimes dreams confuse.
Be the star of every night’s
show; play every part,
if some dream readers speak true.
But it’s not about speaking at all.
No words. No words.
Listen only to deep breathing.
Let thoughts go where static stays
when the radio’s off.
Get to that deep hyacinth darkness:
no sloshing around in the dozing zone,
a mere nap in the afternoon.
Listen to the wind in the branches
of the tall Norway spruce; be the trees,
and then be the wind, then travel south
at great speed, looking
down at a magical marble.
Spin out into spandex space?
It’s a choice to make.
Let go. Let go.

Parcel

Hawk, sweeping blue heights,
speaking secret tongues, I ask:
carry my heart, too.

New Perspective

My house, you are my home. You are my castle,
my sanctuary. Lovingly I consider your spaces,
large and small, your floors, your oddly turning
hall, the mysterious cellar warrens, the close
stairway down.

When I was just a girl
I wanted to be gone from here. I slammed doors
dramatically, with feeling. Sometimes I seemed to glide
in and out with no substance but only
emotion, only blossoming exploding emotion.
I spent hours at the piano, filling the house with sound
and fury of Beethoven or Bach, Mendelssohn or Mozart
o one home to hear it. I wallowed in the music,
wallowed in the emotion, counted down the days
until I could leave for college.

And returned, over
and over again. Somehow, miraculously, or seren-
dipitously or at the distinct will
of the universe, I returned. I emptied each room of pack rat
portions, piled high papers, aging antiques
of no value, magazines with no current
meaning.

Now I bring and keep only
what I love. Warm wood floors stretch before me.
Colors and music surround me. Windows draw
the eye to consider wild vistas: feeding crows,
ever-taller tree tops, nesting geese,
swooping goldfinches, mating turtles, daffodils
emerging, deer crossing, mink frolicking.
This house is my base camp for the woods and hills which save me.

Second to Last

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, and everywhere …
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity …

W.B. Yeats, from The Second Coming

The garage door is stuck; the wi-fi is out cold.
The kitchen faucet drips, the cloth of middle class frays;
Ethics and democracy are shaky, too, these days.
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.

Politics is pornography; materialism’s flag’s unfurled.
Sirens blare, eclipsing the music of the spheres
While childhood starves or suffocates or disappears.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Who will lead? Who will put themselves last, or first?
Circuses proliferate. Distraction abounds.
Attention spans dwindle. Evil makes its rounds.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst

The worst, in the spotlight, unaware of their own density,
Hold forth, with one foot on the neck of art, grasping at fame
Followed by news cycles where pundits weep, exclaim,
And their apostles are full of passionate intensity.

The Hill and the Rock

In her dream
she holds the parasail’s lines tightly
struggling to make it rise and carry her
but her feet dip into the water
touching off concentric rings.
She call out for him,
happy knowing that he will be there soon
but when he doesn’t come
she remember that he is gone,
her heart jolted by pain,
that he can never be there ever again.

So she resumes her anxious wrestling
with the parasail lines.
Her toes slide into the water.
Her new desperation calls out to him.
Relief floods over her
until the memory burns in her again.
The pain shoots through her again,
this memory as heavy as Sisyphus’ rock.

Playdate

White insists on coloring only with the black crayon
Lines stay outside no matter what

I burn to touch you but I am frozen in my loneliness
You look into my eyes — then turn away

I walk through crowds feeling lost and alone
Driving as fast as I can, I still evolve too slowly

Joy greets the dawn while sadness settles in at dusk
The clouds flop damply underfoot

Ring by the Side of the Road

You were walking when you found it along the road near the big pond
(Hunter, your eyes never missed much) and you gave it to me.
It couldn’t be real but still it glittered, substantial,
on my finger in a way I couldn’t ignore.

Did someone yank it
from her finger
and throw it out
of a car window? Was she
driving? Alone in the car?
Or passenger, in heated
argument?
The air in the car,
did it rush out
after the harsh words,
after the ring disappeared?
Did he stop the car,
make her get out? Did she
stop the car? Did anyone
look for it?

Or maybe it was far quieter, sadder, less dramatic: a loosened ring
slipping from a hand unnoticed as fingers played with the wind,
tapped the door’s metal, the loss undiscovered until
too many miles had passed.

Grace

Seated at the yellow table

early

I let silence

fold around me its

soft

cloud. I gaze up

at my trees in their

quiet

grace and I am

calmed.

In this blanketed

cell

I reclaim my beset mind.

Silence

banishes all: gone

are the moneychangers,

the shrill sellers of

beauty

or ease, the gunshots of fear,

the bursts of worry, the

low

dull thud of sadness. Silence

heals

if I start each

morning at the

yellow

table with the

trees.


Flame’s Collapse

On the horizon, notice
the purple cloud
with its vacant glare.
It’s a recent addition,
a spill from the vein
of the body politic.
Two more will make her
regain her slight edge,
but when asked
to share, she told us:
she did not want that.

Back to the Start

In a field
I wait.
I gaze north, east, west,
searching for you.
I expect to find you.
It isn’t right,
our parting.
No field, nothing,
should be
here between us.

When I walk, I look
closely at each indent
to see whether I have
lost you in
one of them, but
nothing comes
to mind.

We each
wait for someone,
something. I wait
for you to find
me, again.

With Banners Flying

Walk into my house:
taste and see
at every window, color:
rich, deep, inviting,
cashmere or silk,
cotton or rayon,
shawls vivid and touchable
with hanging fringe.
The line of eastern windows

in the dining room
floats delicately with
yellow, pale lime, orange, and rust.
In the living room
inexplicable pink, crimson,
magenta somersault
a noisy red circus
arriving from the west.
Olive and spring green dialogue
in the north-facing den.

No metal machinery,
no stiff-lined jacquards
draw dustily across my views
but only color and festoon,
fabric that slides
to let in or keep out
sun-blazed snow shine
or agitation of full moon
or sadness of false dawn
after sleepless night.

A happy consequence
of this colorful collection:
I am free to wear this shawl or that,
to pull down a window covering
that matches the day’s smile.

Three O’Clock Sonnet

Hard to say what wakes me at three in the morning.
I may forget to draw that next breath, a dislo-
cation of the automatic. Paralysis of the center
in the brain that controls those needed actions just

below the level of conscious thought. Might be
a tapping on the window that branches, wind, weather,
can’t explain. My snoring, or attic squirrels.
Sudden nausea, shallow breaths, sweat

in response to the figure of Dread crouched in the corner
where moonlight never reaches. Empty stomach.
A to-do list scrolling through my dreams: none
legible but each item earth-shaking, unnameable,

important.
I may miss you in my forgetful dreams.

Inescapable

Seeing a face
at the window
crows leave off
scratching
beneath bird feeder.
Variety in the field:
scattered waste
of spoiled tomatoes,
onion skins,
rejected leftovers,
newest installments
from the house.
Another from
the team of three
summons them to
bloody offering
on road surface.
Busy schedule:
hawks to chase,
blackbirds to worry
at their nests.
Calls echo,
circling the roof
in every day’s
soundtrack.
Hard to imagine
the landscape
without them.

Anticipation

We cannot grasp ahead of time
The time our time will end.
And so it would behoove us all
To value the time we spend.
The end may come like a thief in the night
Or as a rainstorm, loudly.
We should live in color, the amp on eleven,
Dancing and singing proudly.
“How we spend our days, of course,
Is how we spend our life.”
So spend your days immersed in loving
Before you encounter time’s knife.