Three Poems by Janet Joyner

Ötzi The Iceman

for Baltimore, Ferguson, Charlotte…and us all

He bled out more slowly than the ice moved to cover him on the east ridge
of the Fineilspitze where the arrow caught him thousands of years ago,
long before those stones we call menhirs were fashioned into the mystery
of Stonehenge, or Newgrange. So about this naturally mummified man
we actually know quite a bit. That his intestinal contents, for instance,
showed two meals consumed about eight hours before his death. Analysis
of the stomach’s remains revealed partially digested Ibex meat, suggesting
that he’d had a third meal less than two hours before he died. High levels
of copper particles and arsenic were found in his hair, feeding speculation
that Ötzi was involved in copper smelting, perhaps even of the axe with its
yew handle found at his side, along with a quiver that held, in addition to a
bow string and one unfinished yew bow, a total of 14 arrow shafts
fashioned from viburnum and dogwood. Two of them were broken, but
tipped with flint. The other 12 were unfinished, untipped. There were two
birch bark baskets. One held berries and mushrooms deemed to be
medicinal; in the other, a type of tinder fungus and what appeared to be a
complex fire-lighting kit. His clothes were sophisticated, too. Bearskin
cap with chin-strap; cloak of woven grass; and coat, belt, leggings and loin
cloth, all made of leather from different skins. The shoes were
waterproof, intricate, and seemingly designed for walking in the snow.
Evidence, some say, of specialized labor. Cobblers making shoes for
other people. One kind of sophistication for builders, one for cobblers,
one for shepherds. In the Tyrolean alps, not too far from where Ötzi met
his end, there lies a prehistoric stele. One of its base stones depicts an
archer poised to fire an arrow toward the back of an unarmed man who is
running away. Receding glaciers revealing the true pace of evolution.

 

The Bow Tie
++++++++++++++++for Eli Vernon
Anyone could see
such beauty
would not
be tolerated
in a male,
as the boy,
now quickened to speech,
told his story
to the senator
chosen by people
old enough to vote.

*

I meant to pay attention,
be acutely attuned,
as he stood
inside his skin– –
now clothed
after the stripping,
after the beating.

*

But the senator’s bow tie,
expensively silken,
captivated
(Was it hand-tied?
And by whom?)
as it rode
up and down
his demeaning syllables.
Just how,
Sonny,
did they
know
you are gay?

*

It follows me home,
the bow tie,
to my television,
to my newspaper,
and sponsors
“The Country Ham
Preservation Act.”

*

You’re talking
about a product
that’s sacred,
said the bow tie,
Our dogs
Our guns
Our barbecue
Our country ham.

*

It even sleeps with me, the bow tie,
floating, flapping, a semaphore
covering the wizened scrotum
lodged in the neck
trying for the olfactory bulb…

*

With a little stooping
I could neutralize
those rancid words
if I undid the bow…

 

Remains in the Rift

After the tsunami took his wife, Takamatsu took
up deep sea diving to try and find her. After a few years
+++++he had learned that the bodies of drowned people
are usually found poised with buttocks high,
hands and feet dangling. The corpses of scuba divers
+++++are like dead bugs, on their backs,
hands and feet floating. He keeps diving, he says, because
it’s where he feels closest to her. Heidegger called this type
+++++of pain a metaphoric rift that holds together things
that have been torn apart. A rift to create a new space
that keeps the connection.

What will perish when I perish
+++++is the image
of her standing at our kitchen counter, in front of the sink,
hip almost as high as the line
+++++where the back of her elbow breaks
in the handling of sudsy dishes. It’s where
we had most of our arguments,
+++++after replenishment
refueling with the meal usually I’d been the one to cook.
What remains in our rift, our decades of drift, is the look
+++++of her haunch poised
in its reveal of that long, smooth curve of her thigh
as the right arm dangles a hand, robotically, towards the next dish.

 

 

 

 

JANET JOYNER’S poems have appeared in numerous magazines, among them American Athenaeum, The Cincinnati Review, The Comstock Review, Emrys Journal, Pembroke Magazine, and Main Street Rag. Her prize winning poems are honored in the 2011 Yearbook of the South Carolina Poetry Society, Bay Leaves of the North Carolina Poetry Council in 2010, 2011, and in Flying South in 2014, and 2015, as well as anthologized in The Southern Poetry Anthology, volume vii: North Carolina; and Second Spring 2016 Anthology. Her first collection of poems, Waterborne, is the winner of the Holland Prize and was published in February, 2016, by Logan House Press. Her short stories have appeared in The Crescent Review, Flying South, and Second Spring Anthology 2016. She is the translator of Le Dieu désarmé by Luc-François Dumas. She lives and writes in Winston-Salem, NC.