Fall 2009, #16
       "Woodchuck vs. the Hank Williams Zombie"

Three Poems

     by Ann Taylor

Cleopatra's Conquest

“Where are the flamingo tongues,
ostrich heads, milk-fattened snails,
hares winged like Pegasus?

Where’s the bronze donkey bearing
baskets of fresh olives, and the sturgeon
delivered by slaves fingering flutes?”

Mark Antony mocked, nibbling
the plain pancake, chicken leg,
dessert fig placed before him.

“And where the other twenty-one courses,
the jesters, jugglers, revolving ceiling,
or the sprinkler’s subtle perfume?”

“Call me the Queen of Plenty,” she replied,
claiming not only her victory, but her aim
to devour the most lavish meal ever

all by herself. She removed one of her huge
pearl earrings, the largest in the whole
of history, an Eastern kings’ treasure

richer than all Roman banquets combined,
dropped it into her cup of wine vinegar,
and as it sizzled, drank it.

In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder (AD23-AD79) tells of Cleopatra’s bragging to Mark Antony that she could serve the most lavish meal ever, one worth ten million sesterces, or the value of fifteen countries.


Annie Oakley: The Peerless Lady Wing-Shot

I can shoot the head off
a running quail,
pop off an apple
from between my
dogs ears, fire ashes
from cigarettes held
between a daredevil’s lips,
split playing cards edgewise,
backward through a mirror.

I can make targets
while hurdling
a tabletop
or galloping bareback.

I also like my chestnut mane,
dainty slipper shoes,
high-collar blouses,
embroidered skirts, necklaces
strung with prize medals.

Frank Butler was a fair shot,
but I beat him by one hit,
made him my attendant
in Buffalo Bill’s show,
married him fifty years.

He’s the one who tosses
just right those glass balls,
clay pigeons for me to blast.

He doesn’t think much
of my housekeeping,
but still loves
the pumping, pumping
of my smoky, quick-lever
repeating action.


Whirling with the Dervishes

Around the axis of their own
bodies, they step into the whirl,
into the concentric ring of the wider
universal sphere, their white skirts
opening up, as arms crossed, turning,
turning, then with gentle centrifugality,
lift, one arm receiving celestial love,
the other reaching down and out to earth,
while reeds, strings, kettledrums join
the persistent lovesong of Rumi’s
“Dance with me to heaven’s tune,”
we sitting silent, following the turns,
the turns, the soft steps, the loss
of any one of them, then my choice
of one, counting the turns, one, two . . .
five hundred . . . turns . . . and like
the sleepy child I was, crossing
the country, counting, counting
the white highway lines, summers
with my parents, until the certain
turn at the Pacific, spinning on this
planet, loving them where I was,
where they were taking me, returning
me . . . have taken me.