Kundalini Rising, poems by Beth Copeland
Beth Copeland is the North Carolina Poetry Society’s 2018-2019 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the central counties. She is the author of three full-length poetry books: Blue Honey, recipient of the 2017 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize (The Broadkill River Press 2017) http://broadkillriverpress.com; Transcendental Telemarketer, recipient of the runner-up award in the North Carolina Poetry Council’s 2013 Oscar Arnold Young Award for best poetry book by a North Carolina writer (BlazeVOX books 2012) http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/Shop/Poetry/transcendental-telemarketer-by-beth-copeland-292/; and Traveling through Glass, recipient of the 1999 Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award (Bright Hill Press 2000) https://brighthillpress.org/product/traveling-through-glass/. Her poems have been published in literary magazines and anthologies and have been featured on international poetry websites. She has been profiled as poet of the week on the PBS NewsHour website.
A cobra from a copra-rope
basket climbs to the charmer’s
note, undulates before the flute,
mirrors the motion of the master’s
hands, the sway of his turbaned
head, deaf to the tune
of breath blown through gourd
and reed. A vision
furls from my third eye’s
amethyst light: Am I the snake
awakened? The charmer
or the charmed? The cowled
cobra dancing to the circling
sun’s command, or am I coiled
at the bottom, blind
to those beckoning hands?
A boy sticks out his tongue and shoves me
down the slide. If I had a thousand eyes
like the night in the Bobby Vee song, I’d spy,
all-seeing, from a perch above the playground
with its rusting swings and splintered see-saws,
to peer through rebar, steel and asbestos siding,
through the plaster walls of that boy’s house.
Hey, bully, I can see through flesh to your bones.
I want to see what no one sees, to be a black
cat in the dark, green eyes glowing like kryptonite.
Call me whatever you like—Goggles, Four Eyes, Miss
Magoo—but your words bounce off these Coke-bottle
lenses like bullets from Wonder Woman’s wrist bands.
I’m the Spectacular Spectacled Girl! The Pince-nez
Princess! The Goddess of Glare! You think I have four?
I have more eyes than a peacock’s tail. A galaxy
of sizzling stars. I’ll zap you with my death-ray stare.
When we brought the old dog home, you wouldn’t
touch him, afraid
of growing close to a pet without much
time left. The ghosts
of lost dogs guard
your heart. Kasey curls
on the couch, tracking you
with doleful eyes as you settle
into the gold love
seat to read. He howls
at the door when you leave
when you return. I’m the easy
mark, the heart
sleeved woman; you’re the alpha
male who fires
the grill, the scent
of meat on your hands. Mine
smell of mint, basil
and soap. You throw a stick he won’t
fetch. He licks himself,
naps, and ignores the tennis ball
you bounce, staring at you
as if to ask, Why are you bothering
me? You scold him when he leaps
on the love seat you’ve claimed
as your throne. Kasey
cuddles with me on a couch covered
with a sheet. On the second day, he scarfs
a doggie treat from your
hand. You scratch the scruff
above his collar, just
once but enough
to let him know you’re coming
around. He follows
when you whack weeds
and whimpers when
you leave. We laugh
when he writhes on his back
in the grass begging for belly
rubs. Later, you kneel
and nuzzle his snout with your
beard. Finally, you lift
his paw to teach him shake, sit,
speak, but he’s already mastered
the oldest trick.
Crashing into the picture
window, it thuds
on the sill, stunned
for hours, barely
breathing, its head
tucked down to dun
ruffled in distress. We peer
through the pane and tiptoe
out to check if its wing
or neck is broken, this stone
bird pretending to be
dead. By noon, it hops
to the floor. When we turn
away, it sidles to the edge
of the porch where it perches
as if trying to decide
to leap down brick
steps or stay, a nut-brown
ball of down behind
the rocking chair. By mid
afternoon, it’s flown, or so
we suppose, to its invisible nest
in the long-leaf pines.
The Coke bottle stopped
like the hand of a broken clock.
I puckered for a peck, expecting
a prudent press of lips
to lips, not the reckless
plunge of his tongue
as he lunged, diving
like a dipstick
into my mouth. Cringing,
I stared at my Piccadilly Pink
lipstick smear on his chin
while he grinned,
pleased to be the first
to probe that unplumbed
plum. Until it was time
for another spin.
Dust fogs shelves like frost on a field of winter
wheat, whitens the black DVD player
and coats the coffee table like a fine layer
of snow on our gravel road. I haven’t cleaned
in weeks, surfing for ways to save
Winter Daphnes from an unexpected ice wave.
By the end of the century, scientists predict, dust
will double, draping the Earth in a drab curtain.
For now, cobwebs tie corner to corner.
Should I knock the fragile doilies down
with a feather wand or yield to the Second Law
of Thermodynamics—The universe tends naturally
to disorder—in a room where motes float
in slanted sun like snow in a shaken globe?
Ice shelves calve into the ocean. Sea levels rise.
The future holds heat waves, drought, floods.
My ex-husband wrote DUST ME! on a table.
Why didn’t you dust it yourself? I asked.
Wouldn’t it be just as easy to wipe a rag
over the surface as to print that message to me?
Lighten up, he said. It was a joke. I rubbed
until the oak grain gleamed amber and gold.
Will drought destroy the trees in fifty years? Where
will owls live? What will happen to the honeybees?
When my mother was a girl in the ‘30s, dust storms
swept across the family ranch in New Mexico.
Grass died; cattle lowed in hunger. Lariats of grit
lashed her face when she left the house for school,
air so thick she could barely breathe. Even at noon,
she had to light the lamps to read.
Like Sisyphus, she shoved that stone up the same
damn hill, day after day, cleaning up after all of us.
At 80, she hauled bottles, cans, newspapers, milk
cartons and cereal boxes to recycling bins to save
the planet from a plague she wouldn’t live to see. I honor
her memory by trying to leave the smallest carbon footprint
possible: driving a Prius C, turning off lights, spraying
vinegar and Dawn instead of Roundup on weeds.
I snip plastic six-pack rings so turtles, whales,
dolphins, and seals won’t be trapped in the holes.
If I tackle one room each day, maybe I’ll win the war
of woman versus dust. I wash curtains, vacuum the rug,
wipe smears from glass, struggling against micro-invasions
of lint and dog hair until the clean slate
of morning appears. In another room, dust
descends from the rafters like rain.
© Beth Copeland