Sunday, March 1, 2020

Sunday, March 1, 2020: National Women's Month: Puma Perl's Poems: "Wild Cards" and "A Taste of Rebellion"


I read your poems
Tried to figure out
which ones were written for me
Some are easy
My initials inserted openly
Others were harder to decipher
Could have been me,
but maybe not
You say I opened my mind
but not my body,
a greater intimacy
than I’d imagined
You stopped writing poetry
but occasionally send me
other people’s work
Blowtorches of poems
you call them
Published in The Paris Review
or Atlantic Monthly
They remind us of our fathers,
missed telephone calls,
Yankee games

Wild Card made the sun rise,
I message one October morning
and you agree, drinking coffee,
waiting for a ride to the rehab center
A funny word, rehab,
when nothing can be fixed
in these broken-down houses
made of twisted bone
devoid of muscle memory
Too many cigarettes,
speedballs, and rainbow cookies
Bored silly by the gym
and its endless repetitions
Sweatpants reserved
for reading books
all Winter
and into the Spring

I wrote a few poems
Some of them might be good
but not as good as
those you send
or the ones you used to write
Slipping into Monday,
you message back,
and attach an Autumn poem
filled with breath
and shadows
We meditate
on Summertime senses  
hot stoops
cold beer, reefer
while we sit
on our sinking brown couches

Twenty minutes crosstown,
A thousand miles apart.

© 2020 Puma Perl

The Taste of Rebellion

What did your rebellion taste like?
Mine tasted like long-haired boys
Sounded like 4AM rock and roll,
felt like the bottom
of my mother’s staircase
after she kicked me out
for coming home too late

My rebellion tasted of not going back,
smelled like $34 in my wallet,
dug into me like the knife
resting in a sheath on my hip
the day I changed my name
to Puma, just like my knife

My rebellion felt like never going home,
Feelings began in my legs,
exploded like the orgasms
I’d never even had yet,
smelled like pot and silk scarves
burning shade on lightbulbs,
looked like paisley,
reds and blues melting
on purple
Sounded like Jimi and Janis
before they reached 27
and draped the Fillmore in black

Nobody witnessed my rebellion,
everybody caught up in their own
My family had already labelled me
crazy, hopeless, a lost cause,
a loser nobody would love
They were wrong and they were right

His rebellion was dropping out
of Bronx Science, hiding a gun
in his bureau, black jeans so tight
he “customized” them
with slits up the calf
and could hardly walk up the five flights
leading to our railroad apartment
with the police lock, the brick wall,
the loft bed, the bathtub in the kitchen
Where we lived in our shared rebellion

Our rebellion was his criminality,
my welfare, our books and music,
the dog he called Stagger Lee,
nights in Tompkins Square Park
days on St. Mark’s Place,
armed love, cigarettes
leather jackets

My surrender was to heroin,
His was to money
A baby born in the middle
of our separation
His rebellion would be raves,
speed, cars, girls, and survival

The drugs are gone
Stagger Lee was stolen
from outside a bodega
and his owner’s life surrendered
to the gun held in his own hand

My rebellion is quiet and solitary
Broken down Tuesdays
and hot summer days when life
seems to go on too long
Today is Wednesday, July 4th
Fireworks but no celebration
I order Chinese food and search
for a black and white movie
If new Coltrane tracks can be found
Maybe there’s still some hope
for rebellion without surrender.

© 2020 Puma Perl

photo by Linda Rizzo

BIO: Puma Perl is a poet, writer performer, and producer. She’s the author of two chapbooks, Ruby True and Belinda and Her Friends, and three full-length poetry collections, knuckle tattoos, Retrograde (great weather for MEDIA), and Birthdays Before and After (Beyond Baroque Books.) She is the creator, curator, and host of Puma’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll. As Puma Perl and Friends, she performs regularly with a group of excellent musicians. She’s received three awards from the New York Press Association in recognition of her journalism and was the recipient of the 2016 Acker Award in the category of writing.

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