Anthony Carbajal

                                               Anthony Carbajal

Laura Kolbe

 

Kombucha mother

for Nellie Carter

 

                                               Anthony Carbajal

                                               Anthony Carbajal

Sewing a white cap over herself     

like a baby buckling its fontanelles

 

the mother I made bobs and breathes.

If the air is moist, she’ll answer when I ask:

 

who is my true love? why do we suffer?

what does Bill Merwin apply to his skin?

 

I respect her Silent Sundays,

her Thirsty Thursdays when all she does

 

is peer from her brown drift

and burp and gloop.

 

I won forty-five dollars

on the mother’s numbers.

 

Oh mother, I chant,

you teach the clouds to hover

 

and hold together. You instruct

the gas station canopies.

 

You are poufed and on patrol,

a Macy’s parade mammogram-

 

-balloon: govern us, o governess.

Next to her I’m a dentist’s chair—

 

my too many parts,

my scrubbed unplantable womb.

 

Next to her I’m buzzing

upholstery and I tip back at a touch.

 

Lately she’s cranky, her bog head

liver-spotted. Her answers are questions

 

or jokes, I’m not sure.

If a tray falls and no one hears it,

 

do you still tip the waitress?

What is the sound of one hound crapping?

 

There’s a question blooming under the question.

Blue-rotten, many-spored.

 

How much Woodford could Chuck upchuck,

if he would chuck?

 

I’ve got to use her while I can.

I tell her I’ve always wanted bangs

 

thick as a Gouda wedge,

my neighbor’s wifi password.

 

The mother’s skin is scaling to plaster.

She demands simple syrup and public radio,

 

calls Beethoven the great decomposer.

She wants to be “fed like a Twitter”

 

even after I explain.

I cover her jar with cheesecloth

 

and she hums “Here Comes the Bride.”

In the banana’d garbage

 

she flirts like a thirties foundling

tapping “Animal Crackers in my Soup,”

 

cheeks of her old egg face

chubbed and greasy-painted,

 

sweetness deluding as the word “sweetmeat,”

which sounds like flesh

 

but has no animal at all,

none that I could come from or consume.


Danger Bird

 

The library books are due again,

bamboo’s on the march. Everything old

or uncontrolled: just now, hailstones

from a month put to bed dodged the night

nurse, slugged the bright narcissi.

Rooms that smell of pencils will soon

smell of pencils and mud. Crack them

open: outside, a brown grapenut

shivers little in its blue bowl:

first bat of spring. Oh bat, night tinder,

riptide-kerchief, danger bird: safety us

from April, feast into our air. Echo out

this failed plot of garden, fasten down

at least what’s here: buried garlic,

poisonous bay, yellowed stalks of thyme.


Laura Kolbe's poems have appeared in Agni, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Awl, The Cincinnati Review, The Colorado Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Yale Review, and elsewhere. Her fiction, essays, and criticism have appeared in Bookforum, The Literary Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She is a doctor in Boston.