January 17th, 2014

pinhole camera

Ideogram: Ideogram


You see me as a kind of black and white magic sketch.  A circle,
say, a couple horns, a line or two and voilà—yang, the word for
goat.  Great for you, your tomes and texts, poems and billets-doux.

But what about me, forever stuck here on this cage of a page?  Oh,
how I long to be the thing you say I mean, to butt my way out of this
snowy wilderness with the very horns your brush drew to make me.

I’d lick off the glue that binds the spine of this prison, nibble an exit
with lips soft as flannel, chew to shreds the ideogram for leaves or
worm, gnaw through the ink for dandelions, for doughnut, for angel.

Poem by Joe Smith
Illustration by Honoria Starbuck
pinhole camera

Ideogram: Goose


I’m the silliest fowl?  The highlight of my life your Christmas feast?
Before you cook me, think.  When long ago Celts invaded Rome,
who gave the alarm of their nighttime sneak attack on the citadel?

The sentinels?  The watchdogs?  No, Juno’s sacred geese it was,
spared despite famine.  Their cackling woke a sleeping soldiery.

And what bird did wily Aphrodite choose to mount for her flights?

The trim goddess rides me side-saddle in a drinking cup with a pair
of handles for a two-fisted wine bibber.  In the tondo—the circle at
the bottom.  Head tilted back to empty the cup, you can’t miss us.

A strawberry blonde.  Love charm in one hand, flower in the other,
destined no doubt for a vase on Olympus.  A red shawl.  And me,
beak forward, wings spread, legs tucked under my tail for speed.

Sandals on her perfect, pagan feet.  Oh, for those days when no
carols cluttered the crisp winter air and none talked of laying golden
eggs or of a squat mother with rhymes to soothe a restless child!

Poem by Joe Smith
Illustration by Honoria Starbuck
pinhole camera

Ideogram: Jungle


Even if there were enough oxygen for me to shout, I wouldn’t be
heard above the howl of chainsaws, the growl and dull rumble of
bulldozers and backhoes.  This is not the time for parlor games.

Nevertheless, maybe I can explain in charades.  Here is the blue
vanilla tree choking.  Here is the liana lovers use to swing across
the torrent, gone dead as Sanskrit.  Here the tiger grows torpid.

Here an orchid mops its brow in the heat, and a chatterbox monkey
falls silent.  And here the blue and green ball all creatures inhabit
takes its temperature.  See it shaking the thermometer in disbelief?

Poem by Joe Smith
Illustration by Honoria Starbuck