“Poems from poems, songs/ from songs, paintings from paintings” says poet Adam Zagajewski in describing how artists inspire each other. Here are two poems, the first by Clifton poet Ellen Austin-Li and the second by Karen George of Florence, which use other poets’ poems as diving boards to enter their own.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at Cowboy Boots
(Hat tipped to Wallace Stevens)
I. Among the crowd of footwear
standing in her closet,
she chooses the androgynous black cowboy boots.
II. She was of two minds,
like her stylish yet functional
leather cowboy boots.
III. Despite their advancing age, the cowboy boots emitted
the musky aroma of a new buck.
IV. A woman and a pair of shoes
A woman and her pair of cowboy boots
are at least two.
V. She doesn’t know which she prefers,
the seductress in high-heeled boots,
or the shit-kicking, tough-talking cowgirl
ruling in her cowboy boots,
VI. Fine lines filled her mirrored reflection
with unforgiving, advancing age.
The polished gleam of the cowboy boots
passed her eye, caught her attention.
She hesitated in the glow of the easily-renewed boots,
an indescribable sadness weighed her down.
VII. O Cowboys of the Wild West,
could you have imagined over a hundred years hence a gentlewoman
wearing your boots, prancing around, shopping, dancing, loving
in the boots you rode broke-back saddle in?
VIII. She knows a virile Western twang and the Southern drawl of a
charmer, the rugged outdoorsy cadences of some men;
but she knows, too, the lilting feminine voice of a Northern girl,
and she is definitely wearing cowboy boots.
IX. When the cowboy boots are put away,
the imprint of their power remains
On her choices.
X. At the sight of her pulling-on her black or tan cowboy boots,
even the critics of haute couture
applaud her versatile fashion sense.
XI. She drove all over the Midwest
in a black minivan.
Once, she cried she was lost,
alone in this stampede.
The cut of her boot reminded her
to start walking.
XII. The river is moving.
Her cowboy boots must be mud-streaked by now.
XIII. Her whole, tired life was a new frontier.
She knew she was living, even as she was dying.
She was getting old. She was going to die.
Her cowboy boots kicked-up the dust under her feet
as she walked-off into the sunset.
Ellen Austin-Li, originally published on her blog (where the line breaks are better behaved!)
( ~ Found poem composed/modified from words of C. D. Wright’s “The Body’s Temperature at Rest”)
In this version
a wildcat stalks the door
of a yellow brick tower
Inside, you behead irises,
pillow them in ice water
step out the door
brush the cat’s back, his face
He breathes a heady rumble
leads you to a pond
dips his paws
in the light mirror
stirs your shadows
Karen L. George
Published in the journal Amethyst Arsenic, Fall 2016
Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine