December 22nd, 2013

pinhole camera

Ideogram: Cuttlefish


Unadulterated envy. That’s why divers long to spear me, slice and
dice and fry me. Because they don’t have as many arms as I do,
and can’t take ten babes by the hand for a walk along the strand.

Because they don’t have suckers to hold on to them, and the babes
always manage to slip away. Because they don’t have jets, and no
matter how hard they break wind, they can’t scoot through the sea.

Not with the greatest of squidly ease. Because they can’t spit ink at
their enemies. Sure, a tidal wave may someday leave me high and
dry in the foothills of Fuji, but what an incredible thrill the ride’ll be!

Joe Smith poet
Honoria Starbuck illustration
pinhole camera

Ideogram: Rickshaw


High-class geishas who wouldn’t permit a commoner a touch, even
give him the time of day, happily snuggle their sandalwood-scented
silk-kimonoed plump and pricey posteriors into my cushioned seat.

Divine but as yet undiscovered geniuses who pawn their inks and
brushes for a few cups of gruel power me, handsome men with legs
like muscled pistons and lungs like the bellows of mighty organs.

Their cries clear me a path through crowds shopping on the Ginza.
From one street corner I see Fujisan’s fashionable new winter cap,
from another, rain clouds headed for Hiroshige’s Ohashi bridge.

Along the road I go, past merry teahouses afloat in the Sumida and
cherry trees weeping blossoms into the imperial moat guarding the
castle where the emperor himself breathes dust from my wheels.

Joe Smith poet
Honoria Starbuck illiustration

Alternate illustration:

I found the painting in a 2009 sketchbook.  Yesterday I looked through my copy of 100 views of Mt. Fuji and did this little ink sketch.  Then I looked through the ideograms collection of over 300 poems doing a search for "Fuji".  I found 2 poems, Cuttlefish and Rickshaw.  Both had reference to Mr. Fuji.  But I also had an ink drawing of a cuttlefish so the illustrations aligned themselves to their ideograms.
pinhole camera

Ideogram: Marabou


Imagine a bird as ungainly as a flying contraption with landing gear
about twice as long as its fuselage. Take that bird and beat it with
the ugly stick till it’s so ugly it has to sneak up on a glass of water.

I’m that bird. You’d have more luck finding a rhyme for orange than
finding a wader uglier than me, meditating on stilts of legs at sunset
in the mouth of an African river among flowers that dwarf hippos.

Yet ugliness is useful. That other two-legged creature, the ruffian
without wings who kills for a reason as light as a feather—one to
adorn, say, the frilly Easter bonnet of his female—didn’t fancy mine.

Ugliness is holy. Ugliness is kismet. Ugliness saved me to be a
hermit, a storky savant musing on the creation like a postman with
a pouch full of letters addressed all higgledy-piggledy by a maniac.

Joe Smith poet
Honoria Starbuck illustration
pinhole camera

Ideogram: Cheese


You should never ever write or even speak the name of the Big
Cheese—oops, sorry, my bad—up above, never take the name of
the dairy product made with rennet in vain.  Same goes for me.

You may think I’m only a blue-veined squirt of a Roquefort or a
Swiss full of holes, but listen to me.  Someday a cunning devil with
a black demon box of a device will urge you to relax and to smile.

The cunning one will ask you to say the word that begins with C
that tells what I am.  Don’t.  It’s a trick to steal the moment.  You’ll
squint at nothing throughout eternity.  You’ll need a haircut forever.

It’s a scam to capture your soul, a fatal game, that looking at the
little birdie and saying the forbidden C word.  If you do hear a click,
a snap like the snap of a very tiny mousetrap, you’ve already lost.

Joe Smith poet
Honoria Starbuck illustration
pinhole camera

Ideogram: Cat


No mystery where it comes from—every feline on my mother’s side
lisps some.  But I’ve got a quantum lisp.  My lips turn the sonorous
noodle recipes in Tuscan kitty cookbooks into Polish place names.

Mostly what I do—wait a sec, a grubby paw needs licking—is meow
and purr my way through.  Good thing.  Certain consonants make
me choke, stick in my craw like uncooked letters in alphabet soup.

Some of my littermates talk about lovers’ lisps to cheer me up.
What tosh!  No matter how much your fur bristles to make you look
large, you can’t cow tough old tomcats with bared teeth and a hisp.

Joe Smith poet
Honoria Starbuck illustration
pinhole camera

Ideogram: Goldfish


I’m going to get out of this glass prison if it’s the last thing I ever do,
if I have to leap like a frog or play dead, float golden belly milky eye
up in a Sargasso Sea foul with uneaten food flecks gone to slime.

What a fate—to be dumped into a plastic bag of tap water and won
with a toss of quoits at the fair!  If goldfish had shoes with laces,
and a neck, and knew how boy scouts tie knots, I’d hang myself.

That swimming philosopher who claimed life’s a brief journey from
bowl to bowl had it right.  The final item on my bucket list is a joy
ride down the plumbing when my jailer gives the toilet handle a tug.

Joe Smith poem
Honoria Starbuck illustration

Alternative illustration

pinhole camera

Ideogram: Flower


I’m not shy.  Pink, naked, a showy flower on a long, leafless stalk, I
emerge from the earth—almost overnight, it seems—in July, when
the grass in the coastal hills is bone-dry.  Can you guess my name?

More hints?  I might be telling the sad tale of Orpheus’ wedding day
backwards—Eurydice risen from the dead, seeking her beloved
among the living.  I might be a shepherdess in an eclogue of Vergil.

Right here is where a descendant of Sacajawea died, fleeing the
very race of men her daring ancestor led through perils to the
Pacific.  I might be a ghost, a new memory.  Surprised to see me?

So is the pickerel surprised at the sight of a winged ouzel swimming
underwater, and the keen-eyed gull at the leap of a flying fish into
its portion of sky.  I thought you knew better.  Don’t you get it yet?

Earth to air, air to water, water to fire, all in flux.  Boy to lily, bird to
rose, whale to lupine, each nourished by the other, sad and happy,
for returning is such sweet sorrow, whatever the flower’s name.

Joe Smith poet
Honoria Starbuck illustration
pinhole camera

Ideogram: Paint


Not all paints are created equal.  Some, ground by a master, are
apprenticed on a palette, then sweet-talked onto the bristles of the
master’s brush, to become part of a Primavera or the Mona Lisa.

They play a role in the aura glowing around a savior rising from a
gloomy tomb or the rosy aureole of a Madonna’s nipple, sucked by
rosebud infant lips.  We common factory paints have no such luck.

We never flow like music from horsehair, or figure in an odalisque,
a scream on a bridge.  We end up on the fingers of kindergarten
Goyas.  We’re a diversion after basketry for broken-down nerves.

A pasatiempo for those with more time than paint on their hands,
we get no r-e-s-p-e-c-t.  More of us is washed down the sink drain
than ever tints cheap Kraft—with a capital K—grocery bag paper.

Joe Smith poet
Honoria Starbuck illustration
pinhole camera

Ideogram: Zucchini


I knew about zucchini envy long before Farmer Freud.  I was barely
out of blossom when I began noticing that every okra in the garden
longed to be a squash like me.  And what a magnificent blossom!

Bold, orange, shaped like a trumpet to herald forth my grand entry.
Stage left.  Sleek skin with manly ridges, rough stem—my outsie
navel.  What farmer’s daughter doesn’t dream of grabbing hold?

The way a knee-high to a grasshopper hefts me, I know he dreams
of unzipping my like at a urinal someday, no longer looking up at
the tiles, cut down to size by an alpha male peeking his direction.


Joe Smith poet
Honoria Starbuck illustrations