rapunzel in texas with a ruby red grapefruit
Mostly, the intimacy of red is too much
for morning. My tongue, I hold with sugar
spoon. I could eat a whole magnolia
blossom, full-bloom/silver filling
in his back tooth/two blonde French
braids/red clay and bull thistle, a ditch full.
Why is this the inside of everything? It is
catfish heart or pussy or tomato rotting
or peony or you. I don’t keep my sweet
where you think. I keep it in my spit. I tell
the waitress I don’t need no honey/drool
unbroken over all that blush.
My mama’s mama I resurrect nightly. She
polishes my fiberglass belly on the factory floor.
I let the water lilies devour me.
I think I will stay.
& how I am full.
& how I am shaking as much as she is.
Stripped, I am inspected for structural integrity.
I am almost a bride in my veil of fishing net.
There is no milk, but I suckle
upon execution, mata hari observes her body
& thirteen rifles glittering away—
so many colossal bolts of lightning
akimbo/single bolt of silk: I weigh
as much. Look, my jasmine is bleeding
& bleeding out of my kimono. Oh,
it’s blossoming—my brain. This garden, I’m
ablaze. It took me forty years to grow
& bloom into grey matter & gross climb—
I, the corpse flower I saw in Java.
The inflorescence: my filmy stockings
he traded for the contraband vodka.
There, see, he’s watching mud & bright blood clot.
I’m proud I refused to wear the blindfold
& all I saw was muzzle flash—gold.
When did you first realize poetry was what you would do with your life?
I don't know about realizing that poetry is what I'll do with my life, but when I observe my life I know that poetry has been essential for my own survival. It has been a world that I've created around myself, some kind of amniotic sac, and it always will be. It's not something I do, it's how I operate.
Who are your favorite writers?
I'm so in love with C.D. Wright. I've half-joked that she's my patron saint, but her writing has shifted my entire world. I adore Frank Stanford. I perpetually have books by Wright and Stanford in bed with me. Other writers who really blow my hair back: Marosa di Giorgio, Natalie Diaz, Sylvia Plath, and Ntozake Shange. There are many, many more.
What imagery do you find yourself going back to again and again?
Snakes. I can't get away from rattlesnakes and water moccasins. I keep building these poems that are like haunted houses: full of ghosts and eaten up by ferns. I like heat. I like green.
What message do you want to relay in your work?
I feel that the act of writing poetry has been a way to battle the invisibility of my experience. It can kick teeth out. It can braid your hair. I want to pull something out of you.
How does place affect your content?
This is a question I face often. I don't like to be categorized as a "poet of place." I think it's just plain natural to be heavily influenced by the flora and fauna of a place. Every poet is a poet of some place. However, I can't deny that my poetry takes a lot from where I was raised: that liminal space where the Ozarks meet the Southern Plains. I've inherited the accent and culture of my family who migrated from all over the South to the fertile farmland I was raised on. All of this has weight on my writing, but I aim to reach a whole lot further.
Canese Jarboe doesn’t have a coat of many colors, but she does have a pair of cowboy boots in every color. She was raised on a farm in southeastern Kansas on the cusp of the Ozarks. She is currently an MFA candidate and instructor at University of Idaho where she serves as Managing Editor for Fugue. She also founded an online ’zine that is a collaboration between visual art and poetry: www.velvet-tail.com.