Archives for April 2021

“…Aut Pluvius Describitur Arcus”

-For Cecilia

And this makes me remember an invention for making signs appear in the sky,
which would cause great wonder in those who were ignorant of the causes. —Descartes

…or the rainbow is described. —Horace

I (Air)
Remonstratively warbling, robin feels all out
Of sorts as orioles quick-shot repeat her themes,
Yammered by mid-air finch in cinch-winged turnabout—
(Giving as well, caged cockatoos their jungle dreams).
Because of this, the gnatcatcher’s potsherd nest still seems
Inevitable, like the bunting’s bumbling song.
“Verily!” the martins cry. “Spring, be long! Belong!”

II (Earth)
Restless to be wintered out of ash, the fey rose
Obliges poppy fields to keep their ground en masse;
Yes, and grazing dandelions scatter to impose
Gossamer parachutes across vanity’s grass.
Bountiful chicory, meanwhile, disheveled, crass,
Inveigles prodigiously with the rattleweed.
“Verily!” the crocus cries — thus discrete — so decreed.

III (Water)
Resurgent wing and stem aside, the blood and will
Of men, in urgent altitudes of liquid sunlight,
Yearn (as perhaps Noah for chardonnay) to fill
Gangly veins with chlorophyll — chartreuse-bright.
But first to dare the waters, bird and branch alone might
In Saxon dyes anoint and indelibly remark,
“Verily, creation’s arc empurples creation’s ark!”

IV (Fire)
Resplendent as Stravinsky’s shrieking-red firebird,
Ocular as God’s own gold-smoldering vine,
Yawning a blaze of aural variety, the word
Gains a verdant glow: pluvius arcus. The line
By Horace sparkles a certain cerulean shine —
Iridescent bolt from the cobalt to bestow,
Verily, a premise, a promise — the rainbow.

V (Quintessence)
Recurring to causes, his eyes flame-tipped with red
Of dying day, Descartes juices a bitter orange,
Yawning at yellow-bricked truth — the one only road.
Green is time, though. Clearing the air, winds rearrange
Blue thoughts to arc along electric lines. These strange
Integrations involve midnight’s lonely indigo
Verily with lowly violet’s inviolate vertigo.

My Pronouns

My pronouns are he, him, and his
Because I’m in the sperm-making biz
Or at least I was
Till I met Dr. Buzz
And now all I’ve got is plain jiz.

But the I and the Thou are the ones
That make me wanna shoot off my guns
For the love of Buber
When I’m catching an Uber
And hitting the driver with puns.


When I asked GK for a blurb
I worried that I might disturb
The genius at work—
But he didn’t shirk
Providing a blurb so superb.

And then there’s that Jonathan J.
Whose blurb lit some fire to my hay
For a great conflagration
Of sweet adulation
And mythmaking making the day.

Now Ms. Wright can blurb with the best
And her blurb came last but impressed
With fantastic words
That gave flight to birds
From a Petrarchan palimpsest nest.

If I Could Fly on TWA

Burn and Break: An Insomniac’s Anti-Aubade

The three pre-dinner martinis
Compete with the two strong coffees
That brought a cheesecake to its knees;

Eating away at emotion,
My Dead Sea, a bitter ocean,
Nauseates at the mere notion

Or romantic coincidence
(Discount the eclipsed resplendence
Of shared bed space as indolence

And our dawn walks in Radio Park,
Dead signals in a channeled dark —
Like a coronary infarct.)

Now the heart’s a hopped up toad;
The blood flows, arteries corrode,
And the night’s black caffeine cathode

Twitches the clock and tricks the brain
To confess the blunted edge of pain
That bleeds through dark a darker stain.

This vigil’s tortured entropy
Breaks the stars’ monopoly
And burns a private astrology

Of headlights that loom, flash, and crawl
Slow tracers down the bedroom wall
To speed the car of Ezekiel.

In fading hiss of passing wheels,
The Doppler hum of engines feels
Like time reversed in movie reels.

These hours are hounds that found and treed
That possum called sleep — and the need
To meet her fangs becomes a creed

In a molten heat each bitch moans —
And this magma liturgy groans
Tenets my inner ear intones.

Too easily, antacid quit
And its pink liquid conduit
Chalks my tongue on a turning spit:

So are Cupid’s barbs chemical?
Is Venus a blocked ventricle?
(Maybe Mars is too clinical.)

But the bedroom’s uneasy poise
Snags my conscience — just so much noise
Light may know but the dark enjoys.

My fingers range across the quilt
That you had stitched against my guilt —
The flowered pattern in constant wilt.

Then monotony blinks an eye:
The lampstand yanks alive to try
Fabricating my alibi.

With ceiling’s conclusions foregone,
I lie and write this poem on
My heart as upon volcanic stone

Tied with pups in a sack and cast
In a sullen lake, deep and vast
Enough to digest the shotgun blast

Square in the chest which, burning, breaks
With too much love, too many cakes,
And whatever in hell it takes

To leave me waked by dawn. Forget
Reasoned search for scorched regret —
I’ve made my bed. I’ll sleep in debt.

Inchoate riposte

Tulips Sans Chimneys

Tulips for Elsie cover image

Mr. Potter’s given us a bold adventurous book with plenty of sharp turns at high speed, with some gestures toward Neruda and Merwin but also “Sk8,” a gr8 skateboarding poem, and sonnets, and brave ventures into rhymed verse, poems for friends and relatives, “Stopping by Blogs on a Frosty Evening,” and poems of passionate love with angels looking down from above. Plus tulips and Elsie. —Garrison Keillor

I have enjoyed the company of Jonathan Potter’s poetry for years and rejoice at the arrival of this new collection with its unabashed delight, authentic intimacy, and emotionally convincing, often playful music. Potter is at turns a graceful, organic monologist and a wry, deft formalist. These are poems of generous mythmaking, self-deprecating humor, passion, and the glories of fatherhood. They inhabit a Seattle of historical icons and the poet’s own skateboarding youth, a London of “tidy grime” and love, and the derelict and divine streets and poetry community and waterfall of Spokane, this poet’s answer to Williams’ Paterson. By the time Potter wishes he could “become myself with vengeance / and take you with me,” he has done both. —Jonathan Johnson

In an era of poetry that plumbs humanity’s darker depths, it is a pleasant respite to read Jonathan Potter’s Tulips for Elsie, a collection that wears its pathos and its prosody lightly as it confronts life’s familiar concerns—love, sex, family life, and his beloved native place (Spokane, Washington)— with full-bodied affection and gentle irony. Many poems here are sonnets—not just Petrarchan or Shakespearean but also Onegin stanzas!—yet Potter makes rhyming in these conversationally-toned fourteeners look effortless. Particularly engaging are the portrait sonnets featuring poets and writers associated with Spokane (Alexie, Howell, Walter among them), the longer poems about the poet’s lively and accomplished daughters, and the poetic palimpsests replying to or parodying well-known classics. By the time we finish reading, we may feel ourselves, with the poet, to have “co-authored  . . . a beautiful book of longing.” —Carolyne Wright

When I Was Broke