PoetryMagazine.com
Since 1996 Volume XXI
A Summer Of Poetry ahead.

Rhett Watts

Rhett Watts is an award-winning poet born in Beirut, Lebanon who has lived in New York, San Francisco and now lives in Massachusetts. Her poems have appeared in journals including The Worcester Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Ekphrasis, Yankee Magazine and others. She has had a poem in Best Spiritual Writing 2000 and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry. Her chapbook No Innocent Eye (Seven Kitchens Press, 2012) was co-winner of the Rane Arroyo Chapbook Prize. Her book of poems is Willing Suspension (Antrim House, 2013). Rhett facilitates writing workshops in CT and MA.


CROWN JEWELS OF PERSIA

(in memory of Neda Agha-Soltan)


The most stunning thing I've ever seen:
two pink diamonds cut from the same rock--

Sea of Light sister stone to Light of the Eye.
The Eye set in a tiara, the Sea in a brooch

so large & clear I saw my brother through it. We
gawked at them during our visit to Iran's Treasury,

the Jewelry Museum in the summer of '73,
year the Shah, like oil, began to peak. I remember:

an emerald velvet coronation robe strew with gems
like baby fists & poodle skirts twirling over bobby socks

in the film American Graffiti while in Tehran's alleyways
anti-American graffiti that foreshadowed revolution.

A woman in a chador aimed a wad at my knee-length
skirt while our driver parked his prized '64 Impala.

In the Museum, my brother reached for pearls spilling
from a treasure chest as the burly guard scolded in Farsi.

Behind alarmed glass stood a globe of gold studded
with emeralds for oceans, rubies & diamonds for land.

Earth spins heavy on its axis. Nothing new under the sun.
Another century, another revolution unwinds lengths of 

green cloth through the people's hands. 'Down with the 
Dictator!" The latest one. Neda, whose name means voice,

is silenced by a sniper's bullet in the street. Cell phones flash
her death image around the world. No hand small enough

to stanch the finest rubies trickling out her mouth, cracked 
chest & pooling in her eye.


EDGES


I can't hold on to quarters,
twenty dollar bills,
the taste of sausage and peppers.

Things pass through me
like the potted geranium did
when the worn wicker seat gave way,

like the babies that tunneled
through the weave and channel
of my pelvis.

They drop, kitten from cat's jaws,
his pants, her stitch,
the first handful of dirt.

So much that's watched remains
unseen like muscle, fern spores
scattering into air,

fresh blood clotting, 
or a mare in flight between
hoof beats.

Contoured cup of morning
glory crumples, perfect spiral 
of dust disperses

until it seems vision is a trick,
and the hours' varying shades on the lip
of a vase always round the bend.



ONE FOR ALL


Sometimes there is no way out, only in.
I'm thinking of the Lotto clerk who jumbled the cliche,
You can't play, if you don't win.

And a birthplace is a turn of the wheel. Your kin
determined by a countries boundaries, by blood, DNA.
Sometimes there is no way out, only in.

I'm haunted by the scene of a young Syrian,
starving kid interviewed in a news video verite,
That boy can play even if he doesn't win.

He and his friends, some dead now, imagined
themselves Musketeers. All for one! They'd say
trapped in the city, no way out and they all in.

Undaunted, he went within, If they are going to kill
us with gas, make it smell like bread, that way
we can die happy. He parried with words they can't win.

The unbroken line of migrants has been
a hunger game of borders closed to weary emigres
who found a way out but not one in. In war's 
convoluted lottery, you can't play if you don't win.



ODE TO MY BELLY


Bell-shaped, you sound
growling with hunger
round me from sternum

down to the space between hip bones.
Hitting bottom, you rest in the bowl
formed there

hammocked by pubic bones
pliable as a sow's ear purse
silken, you expand to hold a meal.

Pour out enzymatic juices,
break down bits of lamb and potato,
passing along the more fibrous celery

and psyllium husks, emptied, you fold in
on yourself, spasm with hunger again.
       Mounded like yeasty bread dough,

you ripen, stretched thin through the years
by kneading of a husband's hands, torso,
and babies that bulged like curled ferns.

You spill out abundant over jeans, perhaps
over a dancing belt. Shall I wear a naval jewel
while you undulate, rhythmic,

coded with fat and muscle in striated layers
like so many colored scarves? Then roll you
       swaying in sensuous movement

bordered by one illiac crest then the other,
snapped in seismic shifts
pulchritudinous while I perambulate

with accented foot tap and spinal slip
to loll and laze in fleshy splendor.
          Yellah, Habibi, Yellah!

I celebrate your appetites my piquant friend,
always present, yet always changing
my belly, my own.


ELEMENTAL


The swan sways in flight
banks over the nest,
lands a bright boat on brackish cove.

We live on the surface of things.
Wonder at the skin covering Earth,
our island home, freckled with age spots

like our mother's hands, our own.
Tall grasses lie mostly underground
rooted in soil like miniature trees.

You recognize their blonde heads bent
in wind though you've never stood 
on the disappearing prairie.

O Pioneers!  You have journeyed over
rolling plains, the tender scalp of the world
if you've read Willa Cather you've seen

savannas canopied by oak. Heard the boughs
of trees sound like bows drawn over strings.
And let's not neglect Earth's private parts--

wet deltas, necessary marshes, sea buffers
where the swan swims. Must we climb
to migratory height to see our mother's face?

Claim her as kin?  Let's rocket, fly
if we need distance to see our way clear.
See rivers start as weedy bogs, fill with melted snow,

spill coursing on forked as lightning, falling over
granite shelves--the river's flowing hair.
We strain leaving water, leaving land.

Awkward in flight, may we awaken in air
like the swan who lifts with labored strokes,
water-walks, achieves sky.

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