Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Poems from Poems by Ellen Austin-Li and Karen George

“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
are one.
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,
Or both.

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!)


Dream Rerun
( ~ 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


Author: Pauletta Hansel

Pauletta Hansel is a poet, memorist, teacher and editor. She was Cincinnati's first Poet Laureate from April 2-16-March 2018. Pauletta is author of six poetry collections, Plaindrome (Dos Madres Press, 2017; winner of the 2017 Weatherford Award), Tangle (Dos Madres Press, 2015), The Lives We Live in Houses (Wind Publications, 2011), What I Did There (Dos Madres Press, 2011), First Person (Dos Madres Press, 2007) and Divining (WovenWord Press, 2002). Her poetry has been featured recently in journals including Talisman, Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, Appalachian Journal, Atlanta Review, Postcards Poems and Prose and Still: The Journal, and anthologized in Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia; Motif: Come What May; and Motif: All the Livelong Day. Pauletta leads community poetry workshops and retreats in the Greater Cincinnati area and beyond, and has served as Writer-in Residence at Thomas More College in her native Kentucky. She is a co-editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. Pauletta received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.

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