National Poetry Month Spotlight: Charlotte Pence

BARDO

Yeah, I’m having to watch that right now, he said.
“That” being the slow death of his dad.

He was talking at the pool to this woman with a prison tat,
Her boobs somehow
Up and full as two oranges.
Bikini tops are amazing things, he thought,
Not fully understanding the simplicity of synthetics.

*************What she said next, the woman sunbathing
*************With the tits and prison tat,
Was that traditional Japanese Buddhists believe
No one is fully alive until the 7th birthday.
*******Life something you become filled with—
*******Like water pouring from a pitcher into the body.

Dying is slow, too, he thought, remembering his dad
Pissing himself by the packaged Swiss
And shredded Mozzarella in the Kroger aisle.
That darkness spreading across the crotch of his tan pants
*******And moving down his right leg in a wobbly line
*******Like water pouring from a pitcher.
The look in his eyes: scared, apologetic.
And then he blinked. Smiled.
*******Began humming “In the Mood—”
*******A song he’d danced to with all the girls in the forties.
*******He was no longer there, no longer in Kroger,
*******When he stepped forward and reached out both arms
*******Toward the brightly lit rows of cheese,
*******All the while humming, Don’t keep me waiting,
*******Don’t keep me waiting,
*******When I’m in the mood.

(Poem originally published in North American Review.)

Q. Where is your favorite place to write?

A: Any place with a closed door.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?

A: “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden.

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the last 12 months?

A: Most interesting thing in the last 12 months to have happened to me? My husband, Adam Prince (who is also publishing with BLP!), and I backpacked in Indonesia last summer for six weeks. During one of those weeks, we stayed on a boat and would anchor about three times a day to scuba dive.  On one dive alone, we saw eighteen giant manta rays. It was a “cleaning station” for the rays on the bottom of the sea floor, and we just held on to rocks and watched them watching us.

Charlotte Pence won the Fall 2010 Black River Chapbook competition and will have her chapbook published in the spring of 2012 with Black Lawrence Press.  She is also the editor of a forthcoming collection of essays titled The Poetics of American Song Lyrics to be published in January by University Press of Mississippi.

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