Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Volume One, December 2020.
Charlotte Innes is the author of Descanso Drive, a first book of poems (Kelsay Books, 2017). She has also published two chapbooks, Licking the Serpent (2011) and Reading Ruskin in Los Angeles (2009), both with Finishing Line Press. Her poems have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Hudson Review, Tampa Review, The Anglican Theological Review, The Sewanee Review and Rattle, with some anthologized in Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Beyond Baroque Books, 2015) and The Best American Spiritual Writing for 2006 (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), amongst others.
The Uncertainty Principle
after Infinity, a painting by Annie Clavel
“Can love change?” you say, “not ours of course,”
as you flip the burgers in a pan. I force
a smile. “What do you mean?” Meanwhile, fleets
of Nazi warplanes buzz my thoughts and the heat
of the kitchen turns my sweat to blood. “Now sauce,”
you murmur, searching the fridge. Some say divorce,
oddly, can topple liberty – with remorse,
or grief for good times, sucked on like a teat.
Can love change
so much you want to ditch it all? “It’s Claus
and Marguerite,” you say. “They’ve split.” But the source
of what you’re thinking – we both know. I retreat,
warrior woman facing fire, till a sweet
smile turns wasps to diamonds. This shifting discourse.
Can love change?
Naked again, she twirls along my street,
sits down in traffic, picks up stones like plums,
inspects them, throws them away. Katha screams,
Miguel, Miguel, where are you, Miguel? He comes
at last, lays down a blanket and they sleep,
unless they’re high. Then it’s a night of curses,
screams. By morning, the sidewalk’s inches deep
with litter. For Miguel and Katha, home. For us
sheltered people, already fearful enough,
their life’s a deluge flooding ours, a madness
we can’t control—for all our meetings. It’s rough.
The screams break us apart, ignite old sadness.
Worried for our health, we envision viral
droplets filling the air. Two people, I tell
myself, of hundreds. All the numbers spiral.
To the East, more madness. This won’t end well.
Stone, Glass, Wood
after a visit to Lincoln Cathedral
A dog is peeking round a pillar,
with an impish sideways glance.
A fiddler—what? both man and lizard?—
sings to a sprawling girl in back.
With eyes closed, she seems entranced
or smashed. A party. Carved in stone.
Why not? Today, through high windows,
the late spring light conveys a canny
whisper from the sun: enjoy!
Savor the lacy canopies
of wood, the polyphonics of
misericord and reredos.
Applaud the colorful scenes on glass
that glorify the Lord, the pictures
of sinfulness, or hell, the sequel,
that kept the people terrified—
so clerics thought. Praise the masons’
skill in carving human cravings,
viz., the lecherous serpents curled
round Adam and Eve, the sweet bottom
of a naked boy dancing, or comic
replicas to tease their friends,
two men with pudgy cheeks, a louche,
an almost toothless man, yawning.
If glass is sacred transformation
and wood can soften into beauty,
earthbound stone smirks at how
we scorn each other, why we laugh,
like the impish dog who seems to breathe,
play on, but careful, trouble’s coming.
After Driving Home from the Crematorium
Remember how you forced yourself to wait
in the sparse shade for ten slow minutes
for the No Parking time to end, and how,
except for the distant river rush of cars,
there was quiet, the late light deepening
till even your dusty feet seemed to shine,
and how in the awful weeks to come, you hung
on to the way that light at certain times
can thicken pastel colors, thicken the air,
as if it were a presence, and how that made you
think, not of the stillness that is death,
nor of the body that is not the body,
but of quiet afternoons, of waiting,
the back of your neck burning in the heat.
© Charlotte Innes