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Selected Poems

Poems by Jim Morgan

Ode to Coccinellidae

lady who art everywhere

denizen of earth and air

and now
my winter-closed

scientists prefer
I call you ladybeetle
since you’re neither
bug nor bird

but as ladybug
I’ve known you
since childhood
so I greet you now
as snow and ice
press into layers
deep enough
for core samples
and you criss-
cross the ceiling
traverse a faucet
scale a window
or walk the floor
where last week
I was too slow
to swerve the vacuum
cleaner but was
relieved to see you
the next morning
atop the coffee maker
miraculously reborn

no wonder the English
call you ladybird
wearing your cloak
spotted seven times
with Mary’s seven
joys and seven sorrows

lady clock, lady cow and lady fly
god’s little cow, shoe cobbler, and little sun
to some
but ladybug to me
when I offer a fingertip
in the shower where
you slip
toward the drain
and cling so
that in trying to set you
on the window sill
I must shake you
until you fall off
tiny Gregor waving
six black legs
in six directions
and when I try
to right you
you clutch again
and we repeat
over and over
until I become gentle
enough that you
relinquish your fear
and toddle off
as if nothing

you went too far
in the toilet bowl
one wing
and I threw
you a life line
of tissue paper
you climbed onto
your black spots
turned white

and this morning
three of you
a trinity
a superpositioning
of ladybugs
traveling all
possible paths
until an observer
compels you to select
one but you
refuse to choose
a single life
or at such times
my ladies
my black-headed
Ostrogodo family
costing me a tiny
measure of air but
a blessing that
you don’t drive me
to the frozen garden
perhaps because each
time I find your shells
faded and brittle
as winter drags on
takes longer
beneath your wing

a blessing that you
do not talk loudly
on cell phones or play
Grand Theft Auto
all afternoon or poison
me with the toxins
exuded from your joints
to drive off predators
since I have no wish
to place you
in soups or salads
and the bemused
cats only watch
you scuttle along
by your red flag

a blessing that you
are not the brain
sucking zombies
I see ravaging
the populace on
television and in

I almost wish
for an aphid for you
to crack in your jaws
and suck the juice
or a mustard plant
whose pollen you crave
hungry as I am
for windows and doors
to slide open
and release us


from this crypt
this mausoleum
this living death
we share

Dawn of the Living Dead

Each night they fumble in the woods toward the house, tightening the circle.
Any day now we will awake to their red eyes staring in the windows,
the undead risen from the ground where they sucked the sap of tree roots
for seventeen years and now their unintelligible language clouds the daylight like pollen
a smoke blinding and impossible to breathe,
unworldly cacophony undreamed of in Star Wars or Star Trek.
Klingon can be deciphered and spoken by humans, but no tongue commands this antiphony.

Yoda can’t raise a spoon in this drone.
No Data or C3PO has the translator file in their databanks or protocols for this transmission from the afterlife,
aliens on earth whose overwhelming numbers ensure success,
unstoppable as death unwrapped from the amber sarcophagi.

George Romero couldn’t imagine these zombies with no taste for our brains, no need to snatch our bodies or inject their spawn in our viscera.
They are oblivious to our movements and habitats and efforts to repel them.
Captain Kirk’s logic will not dissuade them.
Dr. Who’s sonic screwdriver will not turn them.
Resistance is futile.
Epistemology will not dispel a nightmare we are not in,
where the dead invade green in tooth and ovipositor
and with no thought to exterminate but to mate with one another
until the full moon wanes and the larvae worm into the ground,
the next wave planned, the watches synchronized.

My Best Friend

In the evening the dog that died two years ago comes to visit.
When I enter the house, he’s curled on the sofa with one of the white cats.
He jumps down to greet me, and I sit on the floor with him,
petting his apricot coat, his head on my chest.
He forgives everything.
Forgives having to live alone with my father, unable to walk him for ten years.
Forgives being left, after refusing to stay alone in a strange apartment,
in the car with the windows partially open at my nephew’s graduation from a state university,
an announcement over the PA system in a packed auditorium for the owner of a green VW
Massachusetts license plate 730L K01 to report to his vehicle where I received a talk from the animal officer on not leaving water in the car.

Forgives sitting together in the car’s back seat while the vet searches for a vein.

He doesn’t talk or anything but tells me he can’t stay. I say I know,
that I’m happy to see him, and he’s gone. Then I’m gone too.

Musée des Aeroplanes du Papier

And this is the paper airplane room. The walls are lined, as you see, with planes collected over many years, some too quickly, I admit, some slowly as if they were a cabernet requiring cellaring for at least twenty years. You will note as you tour the room the changes that appeared over time. I believe they improved, but they are not strictly in chronological order as they were folded. Some have been placed due to type of plane, color and texture, span and number of wings. Once a decade I take them all down and rearrange them for some purpose soon forgotten. At times they were more grandiose, drew from nature, sought sleekness or ugliness or the deformed. Most, it is true, were failures in terms of flying. Some left the hand veering suddenly out of control or diving to the floor. Some boomeranging as if to attack their maker no matter which way they were thrown. You see the dented noses and crumpled wings. Believe it or not, there were even more that never flew once, stillborn on the table and dumped in the trash. Some have been refolded so often they sport crow’s-foot. But these were kept for reasons I cannot determine other than a color here, a line created by an unusual fold there, the one or two that took flight like an extension of my arm, dipping and then soaring up before slowly descending to glide across the room. Occasionally, I take one from the shelf and perform some small trick learned through trial and error to refold, juxtaposing two colors or altering a line, improving the flight so slightly. Of course, none but a few close friends have seen them here, even fewer in flight. Folding paper airplanes is a solitary endeavor with little appreciation other than the presence of the object created from such ordinary materials and the arc of life the flight briefly inscribes. They are not beautiful. Such planes reward only themselves. Yes, it’s unusual in such a small museé to devote an entire room to folded paper airplanes, lining the walls, floor to ceiling, but what would you do with them? They harm only their creator. Some day, long after the last visitor has left, I’ll toss them into the recycling from which they can be reborn like the phoenix and take flight as something useful, grocery bags perhaps, or newspapers.

Coffee Roll

I gaze on you from afar
your fragrance strumming like the chords
of a Django Reinhart tune we swung to
beckoning from behind your window
a plump whorl on parchment
naked as a tulip
feigning sleep
a pale sheen
on your dark skin
whose sweetness I taste
on the tongue of memory
stirring a desire to reenter
your body’s soft folds
lined with cinnamon spiraling
like seven silk veils to be
torn one by one
on the way to your dark center
forgetting our past
of arguments and jealousies
how quickly you vanished
from our trysts
leaving me to stir my coffee
with the shame of my need to devour you
and afterwards lick your shadow from my fingers
only for you to reappear
an hour a day a week a month later
rekindling my hunger
despite the deceits and betrayals
I pretend to ignore
how cheaply you sell yourself
your trans fats and cholesterols
the empty lies of your carbohydrates
fattening my cells
filling my arteries until
my blood cannot breathe
and I flee into the street
telling myself how much longer
I would live in the armless embrace
of a whole wheat bagel

Analysis and Interpretation of Literature

Another class. Another poem read in a troubled
voice flat as the rings on a tree stump. Another
plaintive cry: Who reads this stuff? Who carries on
about the hand’s desire to rest on a knee that doesn’t
desire the hand upon it?
How much simpler
love and sex seem for them than for me then or now
when the sweet birds sing less and less and I
catch, turning the page, a few heads listing
untroubled in the arms of Morpheus and the rest
wondering in what far realm beyond their ken
such is the stuff a teacher’s dreams are made of.

My Father’s Garden

I thought you’d like to know we cut
today the dead canes from the raspberry patch
early April the first pale green furz spotting the living
and no signs yet of shoots rising from the weedless ground
stocked from plants packed in Styrofoam coolers
one May for the trip east from Ohio a few years
before your patch died from the rainwater dripping
from leaves of the walnut trees we kept cutting back
thinking rain dripping from the leaves was the problem
when the roots were the poison.