National Poetry Month – Beth Ann Cagle

Beth is another poet I’ve had the joy of knowing for many years. She is the third founding Co-Editor of Kakalak, Poetry and Art Journal. Beth is also a widely published photographer.

She shares  my poetry quilt posts and, for those whose work she knows, adds things I’d like to include, but in order to keep things short, I don’t. I’m so grateful she does! It’s like I’ve handed her the quilt and she enhances it with pretty, decorative stitching that she’s so gifted in. Her support and encouragement of fellow poets is well-known in the Charlotte and surrounding areas.

Beth’s own poetry has been described as sensual, spiritual, funny and moving. Having experienced physical and emotional crises,  her poems take us to the depth of that pain, through the struggles of righting oneself, and finally the joy and freedom of survival.

From First Comes Love, published by Main Street Rag Publishing, posted with the poet’s permission.

Monkey Junction Waffle House, 2:00 AM

Sauntering over asphalt, a glaring teen stops and helps

himself to a half-smoked cigarette from the parking lot.

He presses the moist butt to his lips and takes a long drag,

settling into an almost painful grimace. Suddenly, he cuts

his eyes toward a smiling obese woman shoving the door

open, huffing in humidity as she enters the café.

 

He tosses the spent stub, exhaling as he enters the café.

In a booth, she welcomes pecan waffles from the help

and slices as her breasts come to rest on the table. The door

bangs open. A shirtless drunk stumbles from the parking lot.

Blood runs in rivulets down his chest, soaking cut-

offs. The teen bums a smoke from his waitress, inhales a drag

 

as the man spews fricative blood on a frantic drag

queen, asking directions to the bath. The smoky café

turns silent while the woman, eyes averted, desperately cuts

a waffle as the drunk turns toward her; the smoker helps

himself to a cigarette, staring at the man’s wobbly gait and lot

in life. The drunk flounders toward the Men’s Room door,

 

fingers painting poppies along the wall; he bangs into the door.

The smoker smarts, “Pull the handle, Man,” nursing a drag

as the guy topples into the restroom. The cook flips a lot

of bacon; grease splatters loudly in the quiet café.

Swabbing a red face, he dials 911, “Urgent, he needs help.”

He pours eggs and flips a red sirloin as the obese woman cuts

 

another wedge of waffle, wipes her chin, and dips the cut

into syrup. After ten minutes banging behind the door,

the drunk, with flamingo steps, approaches the anxious help,

“How ya doing” like it’s an ordinary day. The juvenile drags

on his cigarette as the bum steps through blood, exits café,

and disappears beyond the glaring lights of the parking lot.

 

The cook says, “Clean up;” the waitress mutters a lot,

“Don’t pay me enough to do this shit.” The portly woman cuts

the last waffle; the smoker bums a cigarette from the café

waitress before she wipes a wet rag over walls and door.

Would-be customers turn away, repulsed as she drags

a red mop. The cook scrapes burnt eggs in the trash and helps.

 

An EMT, crossing the parking lot, enters the smeared door.

The fat lady cuts a last slice, and the smoker draws his drag.

The EMT orders toast, scans the café and asks, “Who needs help?”

 

From The Fearless Tattoo, published by Shadows Ink Publications, posted with the poet’s permission.

Mincing Cappuccino

Breathe me a blue-winged butterfly

dancing hopscotch between my ribs

in a loud drunken stupor,

bringing back my laughter

pulsing red and slurring

giddy across the warm tongue you offer,

or was it cappuccino with topping?

 

You thank me for dinner meaning lunch.

I say my pleasure meaning I want your tongue

in my mouth. You repeat my pleasure slowly.

A full second of comfortable silence,

I wait holding your hand

like a barn swallow, building a nest,

reluctant to loose her warm feathers.

 

Monkey Junction Waffle House at 2:oo AM was previously published in Main Street Rag. Mincing Cappuccino was previously published in Poetry Motel.

Beth answers my questions ~

At age five, I wrote my first greeting card verse – a rhymed four-liner about a duck I drew on a hand-made Christmas card for Dad. Since I knew the alphabet but not how to spell, I asked for the correct spelling of nearly every word from two elementary-aged boys, from the Thomasville Boy’s Home, who were spending Christmas with us that year.

My first true poem-an ekphrastic piece about the “Mona Lisa” – came at age seven or eight when a poet, visiting my second grade classroom, asked students to write about different images he’d brought. I couldn’t detect any trace of a smile. Instead, an apprehensive Mona Lisa worried as her distressed Mother watched her from a doorway beyond the painting. Reflecting, I realize the poem reveals much about my childhood desire to please, my over-sensitivity to other’s emotions, and my mom’s intense sadness after a medically-necessary hysterectomy.

I would lift a glass of wine with and to Anne Sexton, because reading her Compiled Works in college freed me to write about all types of subject matter I believed taboo for poetry or at least for my poetry. Her brave writing about personal issues – including depression, irreverent spiritual crisis, and female sensuality – led me to write my own poems on those subjects as well as spousal abuse, near-death experiences and survival, medically-necessary abortions, family rumors, bisexuality, and strong women.

 

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