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Part 3 Contributors

 

Michelle Bitting
Laurel Ann Bogen
Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Lucille Lang Day
Corrinne Clegg Hales
Marsha De La O
Charles Jensen
Eloise Klein Healy
Glenna Luschei
Clint Margrave
Henry Morro
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Phil Taggart
David L. Ulin
Jonathan Yungkans
Lorene Zarou-Zouzounis

Part 1 Contributors

Rae Armantrout
Bart Edelman
David Garyan
Suzanne Lummis
Glenna Luschei
Bill Mohr
D. A. Powell
Amy Uyematsu
Paul Vangelisti
Charles Harper Webb
Bruce Willard
Gail Wronsky

Part 2 Contributors

Elena Karina Byrne
liz gonzález
Grant Hier
Lois P. Jones
Ron Koertge
Glenna Luschei
Rooja Mohassessy
Susan Rogers
Patty Seyburn
Maw Shein Win
Kim Shuck
Lynne Thompson
Carine Topal
Cecilia Woloch

Part 4 Contributors

Tony Barnstone
Willis Barnstone
Ellen Bass
Christopher Buckley
Neeli Cherkovski
Boris Dralyuk
Alicia Elkort
Mary Fitzpatrick
Michael C. Ford
Kate Gale
Frank X. Gaspar
Dana Gioia
Shotsie Gorman
S.A. Griffin
Donna Hilbert
Brenda Hillman
Glenna Luschei
Phoebe MacAdams
devorah major
Clive Matson
K. Silem Mohammad
Rusty Morrison
Harry Northup
Holly Prado Northup - In Memoriam
Cathie Sandstrom
Shelley Scott - In Memoriam
Daniel Shapiro
Mike Sonksen
Pam Ward
Sholeh Wolpe
Gary Young
Mariano Zaro


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Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Siobhan Harvey
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
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Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
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Joseph Koerner
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Click to enlarge picture Corrinne Clegg Hales
Corrinne Clegg Hales
Californian Poets Part 3: Three Poems
by
Corrinne Clegg Hales


 

 



The Motel Clerk Ponders Cleanliness and Grace and the Ghosts of Joy

It isn’t as weird as you’d think—cleaning up
the afternoon rooms. Today there’s only one,

and the housekeeping crew has gone, leaving you
to decipher when the couple in room 38

has vacated, leaving you to ready this room
for its evening reservation. You listen

for the slamming of car doors, you watch
until the faded blue station wagon exits

the parking lot, returning to the consecutive
world of traffic, brake-lights flashing

bright for a second—as if the driver
is considering turning around—

then vanishing into the hover
of fog across the wide river road.

You tack a please-ring-the-bell sign
onto the office door, drag a full cart outside

and knock loudly on door 38. Housekeeping,
you call, and turn the key. You prop the door

open, even in winter, to clear the air—
as the boss’s wife has instructed--and quickly

pull sheets, toss towels into a soggy heap
on the floor. She calls herself the boss lady

and spends Sunday mornings
monitoring the staff. Her hand-printed

note above the supply shelves reads: Leave Nothing
Wet! Leave No Hair!
This is her bottom line

regarding cleanliness, and you take it
to heart. You shake bedspreads and blankets, swab

finger smears and lipstick stains—pour red wine
into the sink, replace plastic cups, sop up

every puddle and spill. You remove
a candy wrapper, a stray bobby pin, a gas station

receipt; you empty ashtrays, you polish
every flat surface with a dry towel; and you begin

to imagine—you can’t help it. It’s as if
the ghosts of joy won’t leave the room--their small

humming sounds—their skin sticking, their wide
open eyes, and their long fingers sifting

through each other’s hair—and somehow
your own deep loneliness begins

to evaporate. You work fast to wipe away
all traces of moisture, to replace the lingering

scent of bodies with the coolness
of Pine-Sol and Windex, to make it seem

as if nothing has happened here—as if
it might be possible, after all, to exile

a moment of grace to the confines
of a clock—possible to contain the blossom

of human bliss between solid lines
on a calendar. But when the room gleams

back at itself in the mirror, the ghosts
remain, an immutable gift, melding

into an ecstatic pillar of clean, bright light
above the bed, and you step softly

outside, lock the door, push the cart
full of ripe sheets and towels

to the laundry. When the evening
reservations arrive--a young couple

with a fussing baby, tired and cranky
from their long drive--you are happy

to sign them in, happy to hand key 38 over
to the wife. You hope it will unlock

the portal to a world of joy and bliss. You know
it will open the door to a room filled with light.





The Motel Clerk’s Lucky Day

It’s your lucky day, Larry tells me
as he offers me the job. My regular girl
broke her hip last week
,
and he assigns me night shift
on the desk. Luckily,
nights are mostly quiet here, and Larry
lives right upstairs--above the office—
where I can call him at first sign
of any trouble. He says there won’t be
any trouble. His wife—
who doesn’t
live here—tells me
to lock up the office by 10. She tells me
the place has been robbed
more than once--and Larry, she says,
has more than a few
enemies. But she tells me
not to worry. She says Larry
has a gun. I’ve seen him
take a hammer to the skulls
of dark bats dozing
in the covered walkway, and heard
him bang on doors, yelling
at customers to shut down
a loud party or a fight. But usually
he goes to bed early—and I feel lucky
to have the lobby to myself.
After folding sheets and washing
glasses, I make sure keys are tucked
into their right slots, double check
the cash drawer lock, then lean
back in the rolling desk chair
with coffee and a book. Tonight
a friend calls just to chat—and luckily,
the desk phone has a long cord. I roll
back and forth, as if my chair
were a porch swing, so immersed
in conversation, I don’t even notice
when my right knee bumps up
against the small, silent alarm
button—a converted doorbell—beneath
the desk. My friend is still talking,
and I’m still slurping hot coffee
when Larry crashes through
the back door in undershorts
and old-man undershirt, shotgun
pressed tight to his shoulder, aimed
at my face above the desk--so close
I can almost smell it. His thin hair
is scattered and his face
wide open--frantic. I drop
phone and coffee cup and crouch
close to the floor, and I stay
down, not even breathing
until he finally lowers the barrel,
points it at the floor, and moves
to the front door. He slides the dead bolt
open with one hand, looks into the dark
parking lot. After a minute, he pulls
the door closed, taps the lock, and turns
to me. You’re lucky, he says.
You’re alive.





In Fresno

—for Philip Levine

Today the air stirs and draws
too thin—like when you have no bones
for the stock pot.
Because one of us
no longer hums or whispers or speaks
into this valley’s massive river
of exhales, the rest of us
breathe a little rougher
without the poet’s breath
seeping out from under
his front door like steam—
or smoke—rising into
the giant eucalyptus tree, ruffling
the slick feathers of a self-righteous
starling—responding to the blue,
persistent yawp of a scrub jay—
a long, essential conversation
winding through extinct
fig orchards, catching
the slight breeze going south
on Van Ness Avenue, trailing
the hunched-over bicycle rider,
the reluctant dog walker, swirling
into the vigilant ear
of a mother pushing a stroller
past the old garden shop, and further—
until that string of breathed-out
words would scatter and sift—
with all the other sighs
and murmurs of this city—
through our screened windows, into
our kitchens, where some evenings,
the dry Fresno air was so ripe
with the poet’s voice, that we’d leave
the dirty dishes and the unswept
floor, and we’d move outside and breathe
only poems, and we’d understand
how the heft of those words
fed the air, how they made it
sweeter and more full—
how they made the air sing.