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Isle of Flowers: Poems by Florida's Individual Artist Fellows edited by Donna J. Long, Helen Pruitt Wallace, and Rick Campbell

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This is a valuable anthology. It not only reacquaints me with the work of poets I have admired for years but introduces me to the work of others with whom I was not so familiar.... Reading these poems, I am struck, not so much by their physical geography as by their emotional terrain. The objects of desire are many. Passionate, profound, and provocative, the imaginations here inhabit the interior and exterior, honkytonk and dancehall and skating rink, the collective summer vacations of the past.... The desire is not so much for place as for connection, and connection is illusory at best.... In Isle of Flowers, the world is given back to us, transformed again and again by the poets' shaping visions.... Isle of Flowers reminds us that poetry knows no borders, that experience is universal, and that Florida sunshine is an especially potent catalyst for poems. -- Judith Kitchen

 

 

Sun and Moon in Mrs. Sussman's Tap Dancing Class

by Enid Shomer

Mrs. Sussman is over fifty.
That is why her knees dimple
and her ankles slouch.
Her creamy thighs curdle under mesh tights
as she demonstrates a time-step.

Buck-and-wing and Hadassah
keep her busy. Once a Rockette,
she schools us in stage presence.
But even stars have to keep accounts
so she pins notes to our coats

if payment is late. I go home
saying ENID STILL OWES FOR FEB.
Mrs. Sussman helps make the costumes.
We spend one Saturday
up to our armpits in Rit Yellow #12

so that at the recital
we're convincing "rhythmic sunbeams."
I tap myself out
in my yellow muslin sheet
trying hard to think of

energy and heat when
what I really wanted was to be
the moon, that glacial beauty
which rose for a solo turn
after we had warmed the stage.

The moon is not important,
Mrs. Sussman said, explaining
why her daughter got the part.
The moon only reflects light
the sun makes. But I

wanted to be that moon
pulling a single spotlight
like a fur across the floor.
Lamé costume, jingle taps.
Glitter in my hair.

Even then in my patent leather
Mary Janes and primly folded socks
I wanted to be the moon
under which even city dogs howled
and men ventured out
for no good.

Mayflies

by Steve Kronen

A given distance can be halved ad infinitum.
—Zeno's dichotomy

They use assiduously their given time,
Some texts say twenty-four hours,
Others ten or twelve. In World War I
When flying was novel enough
That bombs were dropped by the pilot's own hand,
My grandfather, watching from above,
Tried to follow their graceless descent
Tracing the long golden section described
Till they flashed, white and silent,
The way serotonin does
On some hillside of the brain.
Later at the university, when he taught
How the wide array of the animal kingdom
Flew, crawled, or swam themselves
Toward the unseen glory
That willed their locomotion,
He spoke of the mayfly, how its heart
Was proportionately the same size
As the human's and beat
In such furious synch with the blurred wings
It could, were it large enough, induce seizure
In an epileptic. Such timing, he explained,
Allowed a machine gun to be mounted
On the nose of a biplane
And never shoot its own propellers.
The mayfly, if extrapolated to human terms,
Would live to be eighty.

It is the first cool night of autumn, 1964.
My grandfather tells me
There is less space between the two stars
That float above us like shy teenagers
Than between any two electrons
Whirling within the heart.
This, I think, is how love works--
Were I to ride light, like some angelic
And fevered horse, the great arc of space
Like the shell of the tortoise that holds the world,
Would forever bring me back here to myself.
And I think I understand--how a circuit once completed
Has no beginning nor end and we, like Zeno's runner,
Live forever between here and there, between the lubb and the dubb
Of the beating heart, arising once and always,
Like Jesus, incorruptible, from the cave. And all around us
The air is hushed but for two crickets
Calling back and forth, tiny and splendid,
Across the chilling night.

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