Partners in Crime

Can’t seem to find many Dodge photos, but I did find this one. Next to me (left) are poets Joseph Legaspi and Phebus Etienne. We met at NYU and have been friends and coconspirators for more than 10 years. And while our lives have gone in different directions, we keep in touch and always always always manage to make it to the Dodge Poetry Festival every two years.

Joseph cofounded and is program director of Kundiman, a program dedicated to the development of Asian American poets. He’s been published in more publications that I can name, and his first book, Imago, will be published in fall 2007.

A Poem About Apples

It was like the dream was having you.
The orchard spread across the valley,
a shaggy carpet. A basket slung
over my shoulder, I picked
the fruit, fructose-heavy,
sleeping red birds dangling
from skinny branches.
Each tree gasped as I
severed what seemed like
the head of the queen of Washington.
After gathering my share,
I sat leaning on a well,
ate the basketfull until I'm filled
with the mush of chewed apples.
I slept my second sleep,
to wake-up feeling my two
front teeth loosened.
I twiddled them with my tongue,
tapped the tough enamel, swinging them
backward and forward until, like dripping honey,
both fell softly onto my hands,
both brown-speckled, exposed, little peeled apples.
I washed them in bitter water,
they were white again.
Bone-hard, sharp, smooth, I made one
into a pendant suspended from a silver chain,
the other a bracelet around my wrist in gold.
What has this got to do with apples?
Maybe this is about teeth.

Copyright Joseph Legaspi
You can find more poems by Joseph at La Petite Zine.

Also having too many publications under her belt to name, Phebus was first runner-up for Tupelo Press's 7th Annual First Book Award this year. And, in 2002, she was a “Poet Among Us” at Dodge. Incidentally, Phebus and I are both Cave Canem fellows.

Black Enough

I traveled to Paris and the pork free,
lactose intolerant sorority sister questioned
how could I walk the decadent grounds of Versailles
when I had not traced my Dahomey roots.
Even Dessalines danced the minuet.
Europeans swim in my blood, surfacing in Victors
who walked ahead of me, signifying beauty
with cafe-au-lait or mulatto skin, straight noses and silken plaits.
They left or were driven from
milkweed forests and sugar cane acres,
after learning the simplicity of dried cod tossed in vinegar
and served over cornmeal at midday.
Luxury was siesta, open air baths at dusk,
lemon leaves scenting a tin basin.
Parisian men praised my pronunciation
while their women appraised my brown shell. Some secured
purse straps, pulled husbands closer
as we shared bridges arcing above the Seine.
Two centuries since we raised a flag,
rice farmers and professors sail wooden ships
through another middle passage.
I know the taste of Bordeaux, crème brulee,
the sweetness of standing over Napoleon's tomb.

Copyright Phebus Etienne

I was going to close with something gooey about friendship, but the truth is I just love these guys. Nuff said.


Catherine said…
It's great to have good poet friends.
I just went to the Dodge festival website to check up on Brian Turner - not the New Zealand poet, after all. There are two Brian Turners who are both poets! Oh, well. Maybe one day you can come to New Zealand and hear poetry here, too.
January said…
How strange. Well, I'll be sure to look up the work of both Brian Turners before I attend Dodge.

twitches said…
Your love shines through. No need to elaborate.

And thanks for all those great links!
paris parfait said…
These are great poems - thanks for sharing them. And how wonderful that you and your poet friends have encouraged each other all these years.

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