Eileen R. Tabios | 3 poems

Kohl’s Stories

Memory a colander with generous holes—That trembling 
seacoast city—Hir piccola città replete with hyphens—
Carrara defiled until a nude woman emerged, magnificent 

breasts paling against the blank gaze of stone eyes—Baby 
priests turning away to cast profiles forsworn to Donatello—
Nurturing salvation’s seedlings—He was the essence of 

licorice—O errors in pretty miscalculations: monotone trans-
formed to moonstone—Coax lullabys out of empty tin cans—
Wind stuffing headless birds and spermatozoa into fragile 

craters of a lassoed moon—Sobs from an abandoned harem 
bringing down comets to accuse the alcove—Flabbergasted 
lions bred for locked jaws—A breakfast of rain—Poem writ 

on the milk bill—Minarets growing within muddy whirlpools—
A lady in Florence, violets in her hair, avoided sunlight—
Virgins and children reveal their true nature by how they 

scratch themselves—Those dolls: for a moment, their eyes 
relaxed—Kohl revealing stories without words—Cabs waiting 
as brandy cherries decomposed in sealed jars—A coffin’s 

succoring bed—Down covered her thighs—Grey men fading 
as they fell to melt into grey stones—A noonday cannon 
scattered pigeons—A hobby of attending to death beds; 

afterwards, she always lusted for hotel lobbies stuffed 
with crystal chandeliers—Carcass of a small animal, enchant
-ing behind blue glass—Climbing a distorted mountain for 

its summit of repose—The startling velocity of tourists—
Crocheted lace of white dandelions—Coal among olives, 
olive among coals—The abbess gambled to house refugees 

while the Adriatic sighed and sighed … Adolescent eros 
sourcing radium for the Word—Impish teen who sang, 
The sublime always winks—Scythes melting before mystics 

as God revealed hirself thin-ankled but a peasant—Opera 
emanating from a row of ashbins—Postcard of nuns cheerfully 
picking lemons in Los Angeles—The perfume of fresh bread 

outside a panetteria, the vinegary tang floating from a wine 
shop, heaven as the scent of roasting coffee from a grocer
and the necessary reminder of those different from us 

through the stench of street drains—Old woman in a black tent 
dress cooked sweet chestnuts then pushed them through 
a sieve woven from hair—Olives who fell before picking 

discarded from those awaiting virgin pressings—Fiore delicately 
slicing mushrooms then spreading the segments on a wooden
table to dry under the sun—The last bag of mushrooms I received

in the autumn of 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war—Rain 
arriving aslant like premature memory—You losing all Alleluias—
Freezing light into words by spreading lavender ink across thick

cream paper—                        The fate of clay pigeons—

(first published in The Journal of Commonwealth & Postcolonial 
Studies, Fall 2016)

Notes to The Spanish Guitar’s Autobiography 

She was not the wind (Not then)—Surveyed bone 
resigned to an impending break—Red-rimmed eyes
denoted the exhausted pace of a replicating light-year—

I knew better than to display flinch—Instructed saliva 
to wait—Periscopic sightings of her toes: like young 
toads from an underbrush in Brazil—She quivered 

like 19th century theater, accommodated my brandy—
Her poverty at spatial relationships—In sympathy, one
of us pawed at air—Obviated zero gravity to hone in—

Germs in silk pavilions embossed with blue dragons—
Someone’s chin truculently shoving air—expanded 
the whites in her eyes—Turned professorial with a box 

of Corona Gordas harrumphing by my side—Promiscuous 
with chiding weather—Hands betraying French manicures—
She became the wind after drying my feet with her hair—

Moons end all days bequeathed by leap years—A body 
throbbed—Conundrums of evacuating mornings—Eyes 
unable to transcend bleakness—Eyes widening to pull in

more of the world—Intimacies with cognac and port, 
mahogany furniture, creaking butlers, stuffed animal heads 
on walls, minor European royalty, cherry-scented pipes, 

tartan … Her interior became an effective compass—
Chastised by a scar traversing her belly—Whispering as 
a failed position, It is good to feel—Underwear became 

artifact—Trading flesh-colored pantyhose for silk vermilion 
stockings bruised by black—Constructing an alternate stage—
Lies crafting incentives—Rain only pretends to forgive—

She was a hurricane in my kitchen, always stealing my eggs—
Preferring to be the envelope versus the perfumed snapshot 
slipped in—Possessed by a limbic brain—Boats burning 

where fire bloomed roses in the middle of an ocean—
A dungeon’s red velvet chair crashing to its side so that our 
pens would mate—Boy losing hand after a steeple spiraled 

across vermilion sky—Opened the Iron Gate for you by losing 
wings—O lost shields for eyes tracking an old target: the Sun!
The Spanish guitar never wants dawn to arrive before glass 

goblets shatter—O Andalusia, where duende also insisted on 
“living life 
                                          as if dreaming”—

(first published in TRUCK, 2016)

Where the Pages End

For someone still anticipated, she released milk 
to orphaned baby birds—It was not a blood teardrop
but the last red pepper hanging from a string 

in front of a white wall—Water becomes like love: 
miserable and lovely—Memory contains an under
-brush—The inevitability of ashes—Revelation as 

a water lily forming instantaneously—Laughter 
comprised of stars—It seemed the sun hummed 
along—That plasticity of recognition: silk, moonlight, 

velvet, crème brulee, honey on fingertip, awkward 
blood—Pride more adept than eye in discerning 
the invisible—The religions of flocks with tin feathers—

Audacity, at times, must be a private affair—Birthland 
defined as an island replete with chastened alleyways—
Sentences like veins—The Introduction as a permanent

state—Romance emanating from the summer-dusted 
landscape of Gambia—The relish of pronunciation: 
“Burkina Faso”—You were drowning in the Seychelles

—relishing the uncomprehended word: “Seychelles”—
Gardenias crushed for perfume entrusted with 
cancelling midnights—Tentative acacia trees waiting 

behind sand dunes—You defined as that sense of 
approaching a labyrinth—Fate defined as your mouth 
become a cave stuffed with another woman’s hair—

(first published in The Brooklyn Rail, 2016)


Eileen R. Tabios has released over 40 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in eight countries and cyberspace. Her most recent include her first trilingual (English, Romanian, Spanish) edition Your Father is Bald  (Bibliotheca Universalis, 2017); THE OPPOSITE OF CLAUSTROPHOBIA (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2017); and AMNESIA: SOMEBODY’S MEMOIR (Black Radish Books, 2016). Her poems have been translated into eight languages as well as inspired collaborations involving computer-generated hybrid languages, paintings, video, kali martial arts, modern dance, among others. She also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 11 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays as well as served as editor or guest editor for various literary journals. Inventor of the poetic form “hay(na)ku,” she maintains a biblioliphic blog, “Eileen Verbs Books“; edits Galatea Resurrects, a popular poetry review; and steers the literary and arts publisher Meritage Press. After releasing a collection of short novels, she is currently writing a long-form novel. More information is available at http://eileenrtabios.com

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