By Patrice Boyer Claeys:
after Ruth Stone’s “White on White”
A yellow flag iris,
a lick of flame,
glass of Sauternes.
Blinking lights at intersections,
the bills of mallards, old knotty pine
paneling, sticky to the touch.
Lemon meringue pie,
spent elm leaves, the fish brought home
from the fair in its water-filled bag.
Caution tape to mark the murder scene,
the road to Oz,
a wobbling flan, chicken fat.
The burning hydrogen of Arcturus,
A cheesy joke, wheezy phlegm,
the running rheumy eyes and shaded
teeth of jaundiced men.
Mustard, pus and broken yolks.
The nicotine-stained fingers
of Johnny Cash and Vonnegut.
Slimy bile, old bruises, the pulsing
membrane on the poisonous gland.
The dusty, bitter sex of crocus throat.
Today’s poem first appeared in Volume 5, Issue 1 of Bird’s Thumb and appears here today with permission from the poet.
Patrice Boyer Claeys enjoys the freedom of the empty nest. She thanks her writing group, Plumb Line Poets, for keeping her chiseling away. Her work has appeared in Mom Egg Review, Found Poetry Review, Blue Heron, Avocet, ARDOR, the Aurorean, Beech Street Review and Bird’s Thumb, and is forthcoming in Nassau Review. She was featured in Light, a Journal of Photography and Poetry. She was nominated for Best of the Net.
Guest Editor’s Note: On the surface, the literal and the metaphorical are given equal weight in this poem by Patrice Boyer Claeys. Each item anticipates the next, and the effect is a list of things that are yellow that might or might not be favorable in spite of the title “Favorite Color.” The poet references Ruth Stone’s “White on White” to give some direction for reading, which feels like an excavation, a mining for truth in the scrutiny of the color, its denotation and connotations.
Each line of the poem seems innocuous until the fifth stanza which ends with “xenophobic dread.” This metaphor stops the speaker’s examination of the more benign imagery that includes mallard bills, knotty pine, and “Lemon meringue pie,” and illuminates the “blinking lights of intersections” that has become a portent of imminent threats.
The final three stanzas do not disappoint in providing perilous symbols of imminent dangers, both familiar and unfamiliar. The depictions of disease—the “wheezy phlegm,” the “rheumy eyes,” the “old bruises”—succeed in changing the tone and in producing a mood of ominous expectation. The speaker observes instances of yellow and presents those that are the most necessary to the theme which seems to be a warning and a lesson in keen observation and meaning in context.
A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:
After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.
Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB