Laurie Byro has been facilitating “Circle of Voices” poetry discussion in New Jersey libraries for over 16 years. She is published widely in University presses in the United States and is recently in an anthology: St. Peter’s B List. Laurie has garnered more IBPC awards (InterBoard Poetry Community) than any other poet, currently 47. Two books of poetry were published in 2015″Luna” by Aldrich Press and “Gertrude Stein’s Salon and Other Legends” by Blue Horse Press. She will receive a 2016 New Jersey Poet’s Prize for the first poem in the Stein book and is currently Poet in Residence at the West Milford Township Library, where “Circle of Voices” continues to meet.
A Tale of Canterbury
In Canterbury, my bicycle tires are scuffed
from cobblestones that in turn break apart moss
that grows in between. Each morning, I peddle
past a woman who tries to dissolve me like salt
into her husband’s soup. He gathers
utensils: knives and stirrers to go off to work.
He pinches the air as he passes, blows a kiss
through the mist off sun-drying earth as it rises.
They grow peppery beans that she snaps and tears
then mixes into their evening broth. I sit at a table
outside his café day after day. I notice he has an extra
finger on each hand. After a week of lunches,
I have gathered enough familiarity to ask.
I read his palms as an excuse to examine
his oddness. I sniff each Mount of Venus—
he has water hands, his lines are a little naïve.
One day I ask for a knife and hack off one before
he can protest to plant as a souvenir in my garden.
He screams louder than the whistle on my homebound
train. Alone at night, I beg St. Augustine if this man’s
will is free, or I freed it with my knife. The last time
I see him, he removes his ring and threads it through
the chain that hangs round my neck. It brushes
the pulse on my throat like a fingernail. Then,
something deep and guilty rises through me. I watch
his cool grey eyes fill like a cloud. Before I go back
to my room to pack I plant a row of sunflowers in their
yard under the black beads of a crow. She watches
me through the window, moves the curtains
with claws that no longer grow.
The Gamekeeper’s Forest
After DH Lawrence
Old friends, Mellors loved the forest when
you were young. The grey eyes of the forest shut
its lids, remembering. This time of year, frost lay
mossy and blue in the cracks, mice hid
in the crevices of stone walls. Rheumy eyes
blur the edges loose. We are no longer held captive
to the boundaries of skin. Tight patches
of blackness hover where greenman fires
were lit. I summon trees to recall floaters and moats
as forest dust stirs and settles. Through the bracken
and oaks, the heart of England rests. Dense and bony
branches fill a cemetery of trees. There is no one alive
who remembers the deer and archers, the monks padding
along on asses. Trees in their hooded robes guard birds
who safely flit among them. This forest remembers,
still it remembers. Brushwood soot clings
to the brown hems of trees. A parade of trees,
like ghostly monks, honor their vow of silence.
For John Feeley
A peace is of the nature of a conquest; for then both parties nobly are subdued, and neither party loser. William Shakespeare
We are props of a sort, let’s not forget it. From her tarot,
she draws The Chariot which follows The Lovers, the impulse
that pulls her out of the garden. They are the heroes
of their own story. Afterwards, beneath snowy twigs,
the rabbit’s steady breathing. Closer to fir tree than human,
closer to the wilderness, darkness than to Saints, starlight
thumb-tacked to snow, the chariot as swift as reindeer.
This garden has gone entirely to seed. Imagine the creatures,
who have clucked their waters for her. Beaver and duck
who have thrown down their bodies like gauntlets. Snow
blankets the land with Russian-winter ermine. Meanwhile,
beneath the snow, the rabbit’s breath rises.
Lady Macbeth’s Ambitions
Place a barren scepter in his hands, but know I knew
you and what you were capable of, my son, even
before the forest dissolved into flesh and faces
of those oak trees leaned over our birthing bed.
My sisters at the cauldron coveted your fingers, birth
strangled babe—I made sure there were ten before
I gave you away. I, your fine Lady-mother knew
the danger of you, before you were born, even
in my suck-tempest—I knew. With you at my breast
I could smell blood in the darkness. Each ghost-child
who wandered through the halls wanted to play
with you, wanted indeed to be you. You were my own
Love’s undoing, with you at my breast I was no longer
unsexed. I see a future, lands filled with pheasants,
lakes that smell of turtles and not blood. There
is no risk nor lust for greatness with men who are satisfied.
With you at my breast, I can hear my sister’s chanting.
I looked at the world and covered my mouth.
I covered yours next with a ribbon lace veil,
diamonds, tear shaped, knowing his ambitions are as dull
as his balls. Knowing I would have to set the world
spinning, set his mind to his future as the next King.
Jabberwock: The White Queen
I shall begin by talking about battles, because I was born during
a surrender, and it is my privilege to retell this dreary epiphany.
Captured on the white mount, so too the raven watches over the souls
who fall bloody, but it all began when he told me it wasn’t a one-
winged dove that I heard, but a white one, like me. I am spider-worn
and used, but a trickster with no compass and no theme to guide me
out of this curse. I invent him out of nighttime, the way a hound
can lead a man from a bog, the forest with its ragged trees,
some bearded-old not wise, or soft and springy-birch and pushing up
for air, so the fated acorns gifted him to me. Just lately, I have forgotten
how to breathe. Sometimes I skip the important parts in my own
crooked life. Just this morning, when I dressed, my breasts
parted, thorns overcame my broken columns, I was to be a tattered
paper-white garden. Vagrant bees seemed to overtake my limbs, buzzing
angry, my marble-skin loosened and fell away. Wild roses that climbed
and clung, hurt me with their chatter— they had imbedded deep
and ingratiated themselves with their sweet-mother’s milk revenge.
Finally they dropped, dead-headed and sour from too much sun.
Their milky petals bled, orange and red rain ordained me human
no longer Queen. My under-skin pierced, the flutter of wings and bees
lifted me, uprooted out of this messy place, this unruly nest
of leaves, all those altercations with the red-rose flowers. I was prodded
out like a bad tooth. No matter what you have heard, a virgin
is the stained glass all ladies want to become. But what hand
would release me, summon me out of this mysterious walled
yard? Consider a girl who keeps slipping off, going back to sleep
among the briars. A cats-eye stone is hidden for good luck, swaddled
in a denim pocket, safe for borrowing, not really for keeping.
Jabberwock: The Red King
You could say I will go out “bang” like a candle,
the moment the Red King opens his eyes. The air
over our head will dissolve into rain, I might not breathe
if I only exist in his brain. But think of it this way,
if he did invent me, as all of those cards thought,
at least conjure me wearing silk, a peacock-paisley
pattern and then invent me with Rapunzel hair, more
than a handful, enough for a brick-tower, enough to lure
our next ex-King. His snore, the Brothers said, was more
than a growl; it awakened the planet. How do they see me,
homely or pretty, do I raise a fist or hurry fearfully away?
Do they want me to eat the cake and become the size
of a mouse or have them grasping my ankles while I loom
over their roofs? Are we real or just another
King’s lightning-tempest? The Red King’s snores expel
into the air, see the ghosts rise from his lips, spirits
scatter from his unreasonable demands. Me? I choose
to believe six impossible things before supper.
I hold each one of his ghost-walkers by the hand.
We skip merrily away, slip into the next dreamer’s morning.