Laurel Blossom

How Can You Tell It’s a Poem If It Doesn’t Rhyme?

I was watching the US Open
nis matches on
TV when
I got up, putting my whole weight down
my sleeping left foot. I heard it crack. X
            rays revealed a fractured fifth pin
kie metatarsal bone.
My first sports in
jury. I’m proud of it. But I’m lucky. I’ve
            always been

lucky. The sports med doctor, no
            surgery, put me in a big black boot like an
aut’s, and said, whatever else you do,
            don’t put your left foot down
without the boot, not even
(ha ha!) on
the moon.
He did say I may take the boot off by un
doing the Velcro straps when
I’m in
            bed. But I might forget to reboot. Especially since I’m a little bit in

ent and have to get up every night at
            least one
time to go to the john.
TMI. My cautious husband says I’m in
discreet, which is, as far as he’s con
cerned, just an
other form of in

ence. He says take baby steps, he says
            wait, wait un
til I’m ready before I put my foot down,
which makes me want to put my foot
all the way, to misquote Anne
who was talking about the sun.
Impatient, impetuous, un
grateful, mad, i.e. an
gry and a little bit in

It’s my life, I tell him. Pelicans, I tell him,
            are mon
ogamous for breeding, but in
dent away from the nest, which is, as far
            as he’s con
cerned, just an
other word for in
discreet. A poem may rhyme, I tell him,
            but on
ly if it wants to. My foot may be broken
but I can


I read an article about ravens. Next thing you know
I’ve been invited to take part in this poetry reading

About ravens. How intelligent they are. Then I’m at the Yale
Art Gallery, where there’s an exhibition called “Fox,

Henhouse and Crow” by Robert Wilhite.
I know they’re not exactly the same thing. Ravens are bigger,

With longer beaks, and fantails, but still.
Three home safes, the first with a chicken inside and two eggs,

A nest, a red box, and a fox outside peering in at them;
The second empty with chicken feathers strewn around;

Third, a crow sitting on top of an artificial tree
Drilled into the top of the safe, which is closed.

For instance, they can recognize a human face.
The raven doormat outside the apartment of a friend of mine

Struggling with cancer. She got the doormat on vacation
Overseas. She said she just saw it and she liked it.

If you’ve treated them badly, killed one of them, say,
they’ll attack you in a gang the next time they see you.

A cartoon in The New Yorker where a dejected-looking guy
is playing Scrabble with a raven who’s about to lay an “N” down

At the beginning of the word “Evermore.” Triple points.
But if they like you, they’ll protect you.

“The apogee of avian intelligence arguably occurs in New Caledonia –
an island adjacent to Australia – where a native crow (a songbird)

Makes a variety of tools, including hooks.”* I read books.
[ *Note: New York Review of Books, March 9, 2017)


George Gershwin’s last word, as he was dying of a brain tumor too late diagnosed,
waiting for the surgeon to arrive from overseas: Astaire.

The man was chasing me. I grabbed the closest thing at hand. It happened to be
a frying pan. I’d have hit him with it if I hadn’t waked up.

Linda wants to know what happens if you put an avocado in the fridge. I tell her
not to freeze it and not to peel it. She offers it to me.

The word avocado is descended from the Aztec word for testicles. I learn this
from a man fired for sexual harassment. I don’t tell Linda.

Thursday afternoon. Adam in his office, Kat on the couch, other people’s children
in the swimming pool, open windows. I could do anything.

Seventy-eight degrees. Sun. Roses in bloom. Azaleas in bloom. Geraniums in bloom.
Hydrangeas in bloom. Ocean on the wrong side.

Don’t you want to talk? Adam asks. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,
I’m moments away from disappearing. He means office, I hear forever.

Strange semi-numbness in my left forearm, at the same time overly sensitive.
The way a crystal vase would feel if a crystal vase could feel.

My first house a rental in Cambridge MA. My husband was in law school.
I made a lemon meringue pie. First and only. Pie, that is.

I’m floating in the pool, blue sky above. Like the ocean that circles earth,
Antarctica, India, Siberia, Guam, the sky goes everywhere.

My brother sent me the obituary of my old beau who sang with him at Yale.
Became a psychiatrist, married Allison, 2 daughters, dead at 77.

He didn’t come down to New York to see me off to Paris. Heartbroken.
I could tell by the way his father looked he’d end up with the nose of a pig.

The question was: what’s your favorite color? 1500 words. Adam answered yellow.
He thought sun, McDonald’s arches, daffodils, my summer skirt.

I thought the yellow rabbit-fur coat I bought for our two-year-old daughter
in Prague that she refused to wear and why it mattered.

I thought chicken, all the things I’m afraid of: everything.
Falling down the stairs of my spine, never able to open my skin again.

I just want everybody to leave me alone. I can hear old boxes
rattling in the closet, yellow screams issuing from the tea kettle.

Wednesday morning. Sage in bloom. Iris in bloom. 104 in the shade.
Observation, not complaining. Everything happening at once in Los Angeles CA.

And the day after I write the poem, I don’t know what to do with myself.
So I say it out loud, then silently, then over and over.

If he couldn’t remember a tune, Ira would visualize the vocal line,
trace its curves in the air. More often than not, George recognized the music.

LAUREL BLOSSOM is the author of two book-length narrative prose poems, Degrees of Latitude and Longevity, both from Four Way Books. Previous books of lyric poetry include Wednesday: New and Selected Poems, The Papers Said, What’s Wrong, and the chapbooks, Un- and Any Minute. Blossom’s awards include fellowships from Ohio Arts Council, New York Foundation for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Arts, and Harris Manchester College, Oxford University. She served as the first Poet Laureate of Edgefield, South Carolina, 2015-2017. She lives in Los Angeles.