Jasmine Mann
 

Babel Tongue

I.
Here and there the sound
of a dumbek can be heard through
the toes of this third story apartment.
The noise is an ever-arcing crescent,
the beat waxing and waning:
doum doum doum

I imagine the man: sweaty palms, and
seasoned fingertips gliding over the smooth
surface of the leather.
A thousand years of Islamic history and culture
wanting to be heard
and remembered.

II.
You bang the pots as loud as
any three-year old with chubby hands.
A thousand days of exuberance
waiting to be exorcised from the body
like some uncontrollable demon.

“Mommy, look” you say;
and you want to be heard,
so your feet stamp and shake the floor -
ten tiny toes thrumming the carpet’s surface
like dancers in a harem.

III.
You are the language I speak
and we won’t understand each other
with dry tongues.
But sometime after midnight
when bellies are full
and the laundry is folded neatly,
and your voice is a breath,
you’ll shuffle out, sleepy-eyed
whisper, “Mommy, look”.

Palms sweaty and fingertips grasping yours,
we’ll remember to turn off the lights,
leaving shadows on the walls
and crawl back in bed
like the slow beat of a drum.


 


 

Viva Mexico

Para Sonia: mi amiga, mi hermana, mi curandera. Te quiero mucho mucho.
 
The streets in Mexico are built
upon the spines of the Aztecs.
The cobblestones and concrete
fusing into one another like the
bentback vertebrae of the poor.
Buildings give leeway to alleys
lined up like soldiers
where children play with a make-shift ball
from old linen scraps as I walk by.

I'm back in a church where
morning mass is being assembled,
and my best friend is whispering
the priest's homily in english,
telling me precisely when to kneel
and when to stand:
"Levántese", he lilts
(stand up)
"Siéntese"
(sit down).

On the streets we walk to her cousin's Quinceañera
and her father stops to buy us mangos frescos,
or fresh mangoes, as best the crude Mexican accent
of the street vendor can recite.
I still remember the man carefully choosing
a heavy, ripe mango as full of juice
as a mother's breast,
red as a nipple freshly suckled,
its nectar trickling down my chin
and sliding through my throat,
my tongue lapping my fingers for more;
I have never tasted a mango as sweet.

When I was sixteen I danced with my best friend
to the mariachi horns and guitars of Mexico
on the carpet in the middle of my room,
while my stepfather wondered why we
were listening to that "tacorena bullshit."
At night we rebelled and ate mango slices
with a drizzle of chile sauce on top,
just to spite his big, stupid, penile ideals.

We grew up in Houston
where the Confederate flag
flies as high as the American one,
and prejudice is as abundant as
pick-up trucks, country music and rednecks.
The wetbacks toil in the fields,
building the gringos bigger and better houses,
until their backs are not wet at all with
the waters of the Rio Grande, but sweat.
I remember a brown, plump Mexican woman
in a grocery store explaining to her daughter
as she shrugged shrivelled green mangoes into her cart:
"Miha, esto es el sueño Americano"
(My love, this is the American dream)

Back in the slums of inner-city Houston,
a Mexican girl is raped by thugs, crying:
"Soy sólo un gringa sucia!
Soy sólo un gringa sucia!"
(I'm only a dirty white girl!)
but the only answer is her
virgin's blood shed on concrete;
when it is over she will hike up her skirt,
wipe away her tears and hope
the child conceived and birthed in blood
will not have to suffer the ripe,
red sweetness of mangoes in Mexico.


 


 

0101060150 epact (palindrome)

barren and cold; it's winter again.
i would hold my hand to the window, sitting at your feet,
framing the doorway, limbs leaning on the edge,
you would smoke a cigarette,
but you quit your addiction.
obsession comes naturally to you, compulsion pulls you,
and for now your only concern is the distance between us.
you tell me about the forecast tonight,
but i just want to hear
your lips speak
"you're my daughter"
"you're my daughter"
your lips speak
but i just want to hear
you tell me about the forecast tonight,
and for now your only concern is the distance between us.
obsession comes naturally to you, compulsion pulls you,
but you quit your addiction.
you would smoke a cigarette,
framing the doorway, limbs leaning on the edge,
i would hold my hand to the window, sitting at your feet,
barren and cold; it's winter again.
 


 

Seraph's Cry

I.
Concrete cracks
and flowers force
underneath to nest
vital roots.

II.
The rats have eaten
through her skull.

Anorexic bones
mend among ivory,
discolored keys
and the roaches
are crawling putrid
as hands seek
nourishment.

She used to say
I had piano fingers.

III.
Gunshots batter
like gentle raping
through flesh and
the window pane is
palmed crimson
fingerpricks on
sharded glass.

Firing synapses
are the only noise
in stereo ad nauseam
as ears bleed
and widows weep.

Peace was always
this way.

IV.
But who of you
know the weight
of a child's tear?

 

 

Sandpaper, Bone And Grace

the orchids will die:
all purple and white,
then brown,
whithering into sandpaper
and bone.

outside the crow
answers the raven's call:
shrill and dying
as the last echoes fade,
as I shut Bukowski's ghost closed;
write, he says, write.

I was a poet once,
writing cracked words
between skin, sinew
and grace.

but now
what's
left?

somewhere between
shopping lists, doctor's appointments
and 3 a.m.,
I was a woman:
all legs and hips and breasts,
bone and grace.

I was,
once.

and now what's left
of orchids,
of Bukowski?

they were,
once.

who weeps for their ghosts?

who weeps for mine?


 

Elegy For Autumn

The magnolias are
gone, love. The winds have blown and
shook the seeds to sheathe

someone else's thighs;
water streaked they ooze her red
petals: nectar you

suckle, ruby throat,
until the winds blow and your
silence feeds my rain.

Until my stems are empty.


Copyright © 2009 Jasmine Mann

 
 
Jasmine Mann grew up in Houston, Texas as a bit of a writing prodigy: her first short story, written from the viewpoint of a slave at age six, garnered local acclaim at her school; at age ten she began studying the philosophy of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle under her father’s tutelage. Later she would grow up to become the classic underachiever. She now resides in Manchester, New Hampshire with her husband and son, where she attends the Medical Assisting program at Hesser College. Her future plans are to eventually obtain a Master’s Degree in English.