3 poems by Valerie Bandura

January 8, 2014
By

Vagina and Cross-Cocks

 

For their flag,

……….a sliced pair of white boxers, and on it,

………………………………………………………………in marmalade,

 

the diamond shape of a vagina

……………………………………………………….slightly open

………………………with wisps along the lips for pubic hair,

……………………………………………………………….and under that,

 

a pair of penises

…………………..criss-crossed

………………………………like femur bones under a skull,

 

the shorts clipped to a flagpole and hoisted

………………………………………………….flapping

………………………………………………………….into eggshell blue air.

 

………………………………………….Sorry,

I should have begun with a narrative:

……………………..a houseboat rented by five older couples

 

who went a little slaphappy or skunk-drunk

………………………………………………….or both for a week on Lake Powell

………………………………………………………….to steer clear of

 

what everyone wanted to hear

…………………….not one word about—

……………………………………………………..the children,

 

the summer of cancer, winter

………………………………………..of divorce, and how

………………………………..the hell they got from that country to

 

this one, and then learned the language

………………………………………….of middle,

…………………………………………………………………then old age—

 

I would have started there

…………………..had their friendship clarified

………………………………………the image waving above their heads:

 

a sign of fornication and death,

………………………………………….lust and loss,

……………………………………………………………….two Great Absolutes

 

born of the same primal impulse:

…………………………………………to pronounce the self

……………………………………………………………..against a dying life

…………………………………………………………………in a desperate

 

gesture against surrender

……………………………on a house that’s a boat

………………………………………………on a lake that’s a desert

 

…………………….where they are young and intact and can

………………………………………………………..still make love

 

to a world decent and just,

 

…………………………………………………….like fireflies

dying on the ground,

………………………………but still blinking:

……………………………………………………………fuck me, fuck me.

 

 

I’m Sorry I Love You

 

We never said these words in our house.

 

I’m going to repeat them

as many times as it takes

 

until I no longer hear what they mean,

 

until the vowels become high and low

notes, consonants

 

beats. I may have to commit

a year, a few months at least,

 

but what music I’ll make.

 

 

No One Said a Word

 

It wasn’t until someone I’d just met

leaned across her plate of linguini

to ask, So, I hear you came from Odessa?

that in answering, the memory returned,

 

and in speaking the words, made it so. I’d been riding a tricycle

for who knows how long around our apartment,

which had been emptying a pair of chairs, a box of books,

a row of photos at a time, the trike’s rubber wheels

 

on the wood floor calling, hurry, hurry. And no one said a word

while the suitcases were arranged side by side

in the trunk of a car already running, a family leaving

on vacation, relatives on the sidewalk

 

waving as the car pulls away from the curb, the moment

lifted from time the way a rind lifts from the fruit.

Even now, as my mother dices onion for hamburger, she has the habit

of one who is leaving and of the left behind.

 

She says during the Stalin years, her father disappeared

into a gulag. Avrom’s baby was found at the park,

but no sign of Avrom. Lidya swore her child’s teachers

were fishing for clues from the child, but clues about what?

 

And when Kostya’s whole family was moved

—but to where no one knew—all anyone said was,

He must have said something he shouldn’t have.

She says two men in gray suits

 

barged through the door and dragged him out,

leaving a busted coat rack, torn curtains

where the struggle had been, and no one said a word,

not their neighbors who heard shouts and thuds, and later,

 

not friends, family, or colleagues who didn’t.

They were like trees in a forest, stiff and trembling.

What came in the mail were called invitations.

What they were, mother said, were nightmares.

 

From behind a fence, my mother, her sister, and her mother

would wave to her father, and should he,

brought into the courtyard, slumped between two men, step forward,

one man lifted him under his arms

 

while the other raised an iron pipe

and wham, whack him behind the knees

so that he fell into the man who hit him

and hold onto the man who held him.

 

But after a few years, even those visits

weren’t allowed. After a few more, she said,

her mother stopped speaking to her. And I bet

there were days for my mother

 

in the seven years before he returned

a grayish, greenish, hollow color,

a man she mistook for a burglar

as he raced toward her, crying her name,

 

her backing off, my mother too may as well have said not a word.

 

_______________________________________________

val

Born in the former Soviet Union, Valerie Bandura’s collection of poems, Freak Show, was recently released from Black Lawrence Press/Dzanc Books.

“Vaginas and Cross-Cocks” was originally published in Best New Poets of 2005 and is from her book Freak Show.

“I’m Sorry I Love You”  and “No One Said a Word” are from Freak Show.

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One Response to 3 poems by Valerie Bandura

  1. Carolyn Cooke on January 12, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Terrific poems all, Valerie. Congratulations on Freak Show!

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