Sunday Jul 14

PenceCharlotte Charlotte Pence’s first book of poems, Many Small Fires (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), received an INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award from Foreword Reviews. The book explores her father’s chronic homelessness while simultaneously detailing the physiological changes that enabled humans to form cities, communities, and households. She is also the author of two award-winning poetry chapbooks and the editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics. She is the director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama. Her next poetry collection, Code, is forthcoming May of 2020.

On Watching Three Women in G-String Bikinis Meander
through a Muslim Town
No cars on that remote island where cows crossed
intersections and men bought colas to sip by road-side
stands. Looked and tried not to look at three Danish
beach-goers walking through town uncovered, unbothered.
My friend said the men must be used to it. The flagrant
breaking of laws, lovely audacity of skin, of breasts and butts
that rise instead of fall. But she’s wrong. We never get used
to youth. Like born-again atheists, we admire it too much
one minute, try to ignore it the next. And sometimes,
it just ticks us off. Today, I could not be farther away:
a week’s worth of work distilled into eight hours.
Winter digging in long past March. So, I replay the memory:
sun breaking down, lingering like their steps, their voices.
Whole afternoons of space between their sentences.
They wondered, of course, about what to do next. Which
beach or bar. Maybe a nap. Or boat ride to that other paradise.
Years are not the main difference between young and old.
It’s the minutes—and the freedom with which they’re spent.
When I remember the three women, I remember
the ruddy cow on the clay road, bird on its shoulder,
and the bored dawdle of youth’s beautiful, unmarked feet.

A Pantoum Inspired by the Headline: “Y-Chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve
Never Met”
You always suspected there was more to Adam and Eve,
and now you read that they never met, lived apart,
like contemporary cyber-love. Comfy in pajamas at their desks,
connected but not connected, claiming a love never tested.
Couples who never meet live apart from the rest of us, remain
in pre-lapsarian puppy-love during an era of post-coital tristesse.
Connected but not connected, claiming a love never tested
by the rickshaw of kitchen cleaning or tick-tock of biological clocks.

Oh, pre-lapsarian puppy-love does avoid post-coital tristesse,
for love is simpler when only molecular, allowing Eve to bypass
rickshaws of kitchen cleaning, tick-tocks of her biological clock.
Time differs. Apples remain polished, unbitten,
for love is simpler. When only molecular, Eve bypasses everything
that makes humans, human. Binds herself not to us, but atoms.
Time was different then. Apples remained apples. Red. Unbitten.
You always suspected. There was more to Eve than Adam.

        *Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve are theoretically everyone’s most common patrilineal
         and matrilineal ancestors. Recent studies suggest that they need not have lived at the same time.

My Daughter Asks If There is A Mermaid Cemetery
Of course, there is no
seaweed in this spot
where the ocean’s blue
abyss jags against
the underwater cemetery.
Geologists analyzed
the shell layers by color,
assigned dates and labels
to each swatch of beige.
Created a 3-D movie,
above-ground diorama
of clam-shell tombs,
sensory pool of mermaid
hair and crab claws.
The mermaids, though,
aren’t the main attraction,
being dead and no longer
tweeting. The gift shop,
the knock-knock joke-telling
robot who vacuums,
the in-store deli with
hamburgers served between
two warm Krispy Kremes….
It’s hard to compete.
The mermaids, they
got that. They became
comfortable with being
the past, which means
being forgotten. Why else sing
all your life to sailors, who
by sobered sunrise, claimed
them unheard, unseen?