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Sample Poems by Sandra Becker


Letter from My Brother


My brother says that my poems are depressing;
I respond that without the awful turmoil

it takes to push past the boundaries of a body,
its odious needs: to eat, drink, defecate, sleep,

itch, work, digest, lust, snore, weep, bleed,
the ignoble sorry efforts to satisfy

this involuntary beast of burden
we are saddled with from birth's first wail,

without giving voice to the body's humiliations,
its cries of injustice at having to perspire, salivate,

ejaculate, secrete, hemorrhage, urinate,
in spite of our lack of choice that we must preen,

clothe, clean, embellish, display; victims of acts
we would prefer to abandon, flee, desert;

without speaking of the forces we struggle
with each day, from when we open our eyes

to when we close them,
how would we recognize ourselves?



The Broken Column

Painting by Frida Kahlo


My body knows no other sense than pain;
this corset is a viper around its prey.
My spine a broken column now remains.

Flamenco is my nature, born of flame.
The bird upon my brow must have its say.
My body knows no other sense than pain.

A bed, an early grave, is my domain;
Diego gone-my passions kept at bay,
my spine a broken column now remains.

My tears at least are fluid like the rain,
for bone and blood are stone, the heart is clay;
my body knows no other sense than pain.

Color, brush and canvas help to sustain
me, monkeys and parrots keep me company by day,
while my spine, a broken column, now remains.

My unrelenting longing knows no shame;
again I beg my lover to please stay.
My body knows no other sense than pain.
My spine a broken column now remains.



Shuffling the Deck

For my father who died at age 42


This game called Speed appears simple
at first: flip of the wrist, dart of the eye,

past all sense of time, intoxicated gasp
and dash of hands, giving everything we've got.

The sideways gaze of the king, queen, jack
(they could not look me in the eyes).

and always the countdown from high
numbers to low, more to less, dwindling

sand where every second
counted until all was lost.



No Body, No Mind



Night screeched and jammed its brakes
early at our doorstep. Dad's death, mom's Miltown,
kids' relentless jeers. The sun might have shone
for all I knew, but the days choked closed.

Young boys threw rocks at seagulls on the beach,
the government told us what to do
when the nuclear bomb would strike
and from what I could tell, God was inconsolably
pissed off at the whole lot of us.

I did not believe the mind and body
could sing in its own holy voice,
deliver its own pregnant dirge.

Buddha's words: life is suffering, desire its root
a liberty bell to my old Sadhu ears:
Amputee of the sea, strangled weed, shard of shell,
dried mollusk, abandoned anemone, beached whale,
food for the piper's belly-
if only to merge with ocean, Bodhidarma, no body, no mind.

I would not bow to moon and tide.
I renounced life before I had lived enough to die,
before I had self enough to empty and forget.
My refusal, a cilice, lashed
against the soft skin of each new day.