Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Two poems by Cameron Conaway

In Season



in a Starbucks 

in a supermarket

in a six-story mall 

in Bangkok



watching watchers



    a professional fruit basket maker 



labora balance 

mangosteen canopy 


      in bundled electricity      concentration



all red rind ball and yellowing ray

the sun’s son

a material day

fraying like we

flaming white heat in center sweet



    the woman 

in gator pumps 

    jostling with the man 

in silk suit

no pleasantries, no eye contact, a throwback dance 


    ages past that is still 

in the code


short steps and shoulder shrugs. She’s won.


A tall old foreigner looms behind them

crammed in a black shirt to flaunt

fat rolls for muscle

shakes his head in disgust 

lowers levels from his height

to the Thai wife a third his age

tells her he has and could get better for cheaper.



I was lucky to sink into a chair here.

All spaces are filled with rolls

of durian paste.


There, a man reads the Bangkok Post.


There, a waxy American apple.


There, four blonde kids with Thai nanny.


There, waxy Argentinian blueberries.


There three college co-eds in tight white tops

and short black skirts bat their eyes in

handheld mirrors, elbows on a tableful of textbooks.


There, waxy Peruvian plums.


There, a waxy woman, stitched, fresh



Wounded on lips and nose and in.


There, waxy South African grapes

top each basket, then plastic

covers the whole thing, then a hair dryer

melts the plastic to keep everything from

falling out and in its place.


None of us holding our

burnt Costa Rican coffee sees the from in

these impossible Burmese rattan baskets

or in each other. 


Here I’ve judged

in laptop from California with parts from

Taiwan and China 

those closest.

Complained of complainers even though

everything closed has a door outside—

the basket, the apple, us people.


Believe that. 

And outside our outsides a male magpie-robin

from Asia or Africa or other bird from anywhere dances

all the same.

Driven from something in 

them to puff their feathers, strut for mate, take 

a gecko then bathe in the rainwater collected on a tree’s leaves.

From there it watches watchers watching 

the clouds.


Migrant workers in

dried bamboo huts in

still postcard mountains in 

rainy season

know the fruits are best

to pick when the humid air hums with the ripe

husking of mosquito wings cutting sky,

know the rainy season is the sweetest season,

is malaria season, is when the fullest baskets

may weigh heavy with the cruelest emptiness.


It’s often this way.

The poor going to war for our 

sweet wants

masked as needs.

One storm stops job

to be done.

Two storm from store impatient

without forming story.


Three, let there not be.


We’re all staring 

at baskets and seeing nothing.



Density Slant


For Dhaka, Bangladesh



On these rusted roads

are so many people

there are no people,

only one watered wave

of rolling rickshaw

and feet b-boppin’

and rickshaw

and pulse beating birdwing

and colors, so many colors

dulled in the dust of the drum.



They find ways

to find no way

out, she says.


The rusted red rake

must dig

before it drags.


Easier to muscle a moment

than to move

or make memory.


The must dig

drags before

the rake rusts red.


Tough seeds more

or less bitter

than fear’s juice.


The before drags

the must rake

digs red rust.


Easier to ask

the fraud

to bless the crowned


crane, and, when arrow

is airborne,

beg forgiveness again.


The red drags

must dig the rake

before the rust.


A poet works

when looking out



So, tell me, how

many windows

are here? she says.


Four more gone. Thought:

Has death become an excuse

for celebration?


Infinite prophylaxis will

feed all

who swallow.


The dig before

the rake rusts

must drag red.


Easier to praise

haves who give

than plead needy.


Easier to burn sketches

of secretary birds,

pray it stomps the snake


that killed. Easier

to gift the gone

than give the living.


Five down. Thought:

Has death become an excuse

for art?


Before the red

the rust rake

must drag digs.


Six. Thought:

Has death become an excuse

for business?


Seven. Christ-o-mighty.

Death has become an excuse

for life.


Dense pulses all will

still. Culture can culture

when it’s killed.


Cameron Conaway is the 2014 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona. He is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet (Threed Press), Until You Make the Shore (Salmon Poetry), Bonemeal (Finishing Line Press) and Malaria, Poems(forthcoming from Michigan State University Press). His work has appeared in RattleJuxtapositionFictionWeek and Ottawa Arts Review.



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