Lisa Cheby
Lisa Cheby is an amazing new poet who's now got her MFA in Poetry from Antioch University. She writes with keen awareness of contemporary poetics and older traditions. She is smart, serious and hip--but not hip in a pretentious sort of way at all.  I have heard Lisa read many times, and she reads her poems with both conviction and passion. She is now starting to feature often at readings around LA, and is starting to publish poems as well. I believe she has completed or is about to complete a poetry manuscript. I somehow doubt that manuscript will languish in her drawer for decades; it will be out for us to consume before too long, and for us to appreciate the full range of her talent.


Ghazal (left behind)

Peeling apples meticulously, each skin intact, left behind.
Except for the seeds, you devoured the cores, not even extract left behind.

The turtle knows patience.  Her movement unheard in whirls of chaos.
She emerges with stillness, the ebb of the Pacific: left behind.

Apu smoked as he etched an edelweiss in delicate slivers of silver;
Now, just a wisp of him is, by cancer in his intestinal tract, left behind.
 
Hangnails bloodied by puke green hanging files and ragged time cards.
Ch-cht, check in.  Ch-cht, check out.  Boss says, "don't come back."  Left behind.

I wait in the maroon lazy-boy surrounded by the TV remote, clipped
articles of inspiration, a glass of tea:  my mother's artifacts, left behind.

Teens lollygag through the halls.  The weight of state-approved tomes
against poverty and apathy, which no student lacks, are left behind.

I drive, burnt by sun.  A wall of rain approaches. Opposites attract.
Collision course.  I don't stop.  I feel its impact.  Left behind.

A lychee nut is not what it seems.  A scaly exterior hides luscious fruit. Peel
the skin to taste its sweet soft meat.  Nothing is, as the tongue retracts, left behind.


Tonight I Want to Say Something Wonderful About Cassandra

for her hands' impulse to touch the withering skin of my mother,
a touch that reminds her she remains
alive, though winter 's breath fogs her windows;

for the way this caregiver laughs
where fear demands funeral whispers,
a laugh that could exhume the expired from a tomb;

for the way she always returns, despite the chapped lips,
the dirty undergarments, the pus-oozing ankles, to give
care like a mother who loves her child's excrement;

for this I celebrate this woman in nursing shoes and scrubs.

I can only wipe the condensation from the window,
follow Mom's recipe to make chicken soup clear,
and bring applesauce to cut the taste of her morphine.

But Cassandra breathes life into my mother
like the puffs of oxygen flowing through plastic;
she is a magician pulling hours, days, years, out of gauze patched hats;

she is the wave that shifts sands
to bury tired feet, only to wash them
clean once more, making them ready. 


The Stand-in
           
based on lines by  Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery

My quietness has a man in it, he is transparent.
Through his eyes I hear him whisper to me:
Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you.

I stare into stillness. I fall into pupils
like black holes. I bump into fear of
quietness, and the man in it.  He is as transparent

as the curtain through which you make love to me.
My eyes are windows to my ears in which you
hear someone, somewhere, traveling furiously toward me.

To give me or to take me away, you do not know.
Do I run to him or wait for you to leave?   I only hear
my quietness.  A man steps into it.  He is transparent,

this man I seek by waiting, this sketch of my desire,
this echo of my blood and tissue surging to speak:
somewhere, someone is traveling furiously toward you.

I nuzzle hollow space. I stare into each face
I pass on the street, into the skin, the bones, the hair,
into my quietness, into a man who is not transparent,
who is somewhere traveling furiously toward me


2011 Lisa Cheby
Lisa Cheby was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the October 2011 Second Sunday Poetry Series