Janet Joyner : Six Poems



We do not expect birds

to drop out of the sky onto our heads,
nor seeds, nor bulbs, nor sun to falter.
We do not expect gears to strip,
nor cogs to slip whatever wheel it is
that turns such a vast and symbiotic order.
We do not expect Inquisitors in white
robes and red hats, or Klan heads
in pillow cases with eye-slits,
to come barging into our living rooms,
barging into the rooms where we live,
barging into the rooms where we sleep.
Because we are modern
and imagine we keep
some truth to live by.



With my unsteady feet I walked today
a path often trod when love was sweet.

Though eye and ear now trick the brain
and lie about the upright force and who
or what is spinning, they truthfully remain

acute to first flush of trout lily’s yellow
drooping, ashamed, perhaps, at not being
the fish.  And who knows what pride may spine

the garnet Trillium’s upholding of shade
for the warty toad?  Or what science
may unravel whether the Ovenbird is singing

teach or cheat? or decipher if the warbling
Yellowthroat is a reincarnated bird of faith,
submissioning females with warnings of witches?

Alone on a log by a lake, one has to play all roles,
and in time there came into view
a clot of helmeted turtles

out floating on their own limb,
sending back shots of sun,
like shields deflecting arrows raining fire.


Post-Modern Regrets

I so wanted Modernism to last,
for natural orders to remain,
to taste our own fields in the peas
and their liquor on my rice,
and not those crowder hybrids
void of soil legacy and spice.
I wanted Dark Ages and Crusades
gone forever, and the glory that is mind
to soar in explorations universal
and molecular, unfettered by
rivaling faiths. I wanted dependable
connections, technologies to count on,
and now I find that even my GPS
is subject to stormy sun spots
and can loose its sense of satellites.


Outside the Box

There’s something to be said
for the inside of boxes,
for the evils held at bay
beneath the lids
where possibilities
are not yet denied
by the calculus
of roads taken.
What to wager?
Shall we strike first?
What to do
with an excess of the subjective,
obsolescent instincts,
the inability to imagine
our own insignificance?
Cat alive, cat dead,
what collapses
when we lift the lid
is our ignorance.


 Dawn Over The Aegean

Out of the sea,
in front of the sun,
a dolphin leaped
full into the air;
one fin vertical
above his head,
his tail in a curve
beneath him.
He hung there,
black against the light,
as he must have appeared
on the shield of Odysseus,
giving me a shock,
as if he were a messenger
from a depth
I was seeking.


 Narrow Days

You goddamn lesbian bitch

is what he called me
knowing nothing

not one jot
of  how much more I am
nor of the social grit

that grinds sharp  edges
down to a deeper deep.
So what can I possibly say
about Jack Lyons

the boys’ coach
who did know enough
to ask if I really wanted
to make first string forward
for the Lassie Foxes,

and what it would take
for the Superintendent’s
daughter to do it
in an obvious enough way.
One hour of free throws,
another of pivots off the dribble

and two more in scrimmage
against the man who invented
the outside perimeter jump shot.
Daily, six out of seven,
during the whole
of my fifteenth summer.

Some generosities
can never be repaid.
Only recycled.