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Los Angeles Poetry Examiner's Friday Pick: The Angelean tone of Amelie Frank

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Amelie Frank received her degree in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis from U.C. Irvine. She founded The Sacred Beverage Press with poet Matthew Niblock and produced the acclaimed and respected literary journal Blue Satellite. The author of five poetry collections, she has featured at most of the key venues in Southern California, including the Newer Poets Series, the Los Angeles County Museum, and MOMA.

Her voice is a perfect representative of the Los Angeles poet. It is honest and deliberate, sarcastically enamored and emotionally bemused. She speaks of ironies and records sweet observances with the telling in realism while her flow is out of the box yet satisfyingly articulate, as you will read for yourself...

Reckoning

by Amelie Frank.

You’ve cleared your throat three times in the last hour.

The first time after the orderly came by with the hooked pole to crack the top transom.

The second when a fellow took a magnifying glass and misdirected the moted dayroom light onto the crayon boy’s tools, sparking a fistfight that involved more spit than punches.

The third when the cicada choir kicked in at 11:00 a.m. sharp, cheeling like sprinkler systems from outer space.

You don’t understand that you are worrying. Your hands do the job for you, clasping and unclasping like an uneasy wartime alliance. If you were brighter or more nimble, they’d entertain you with five finger exercises. They’d count for you, make their tips into little abacuses of meat. Perhaps even shadow conduct, but there ain’t no rhythm in those wrists, not even enough to inspire you to pull on your works.

Such is your predisposition.

What else ails you, Sweet, Slow Thing?

Someone gave you Huck Finn, but reading’s a chore. A headache, really. Words come into your head upside down and never right themselves. The world spills in reflected off the concavity of a spoon. Chapter and verse juggle and ping-pong between eyeball and brain, and never the twain shall meet. Using a typewriter would be like walking a tightrope.

You dry-wash your hands, and the state shrink thinks it’s penitence, but you really rub ‘em to make the big, wide world smaller, quieter, four-cornered and cotted.

On the few nights you can sleep, you hug tools like plush toys, like a baby monkey cuddling its wire mother, but since they took the tools you loved best from you for your own protection, there’s no sleep. Only staring.

Yesterday, the state head doctor said to you “That’s not the Bible. It’s a Franklin Planner!” and laughed himself silly. “When’s God gonna pencil you in?” he asked, thinking he’d found the key to a diary, thinking you were as simple as a little girl’s heart.

The light in the dayroom is greasy. The nasty flavor in your throat puts you in mind of kudzu-soured milk and pastures of cows, each with four unhappy stomachs. Folks just don’t know when to leave well enough alone.

You reckon well enough alone is a garage and a cot. Or a sack lunch of biscuits and bucket chicken. Well enough alone is beneath a wordless rock in the backyard. Wordless is best, you think, your heart turning rocklike as the day stretches out over the dying lawns beyond the window. Well enough alone is a good boy learning to tinker and sharpen things. It’s the sleep of a childhood delivered from evil and reckoned in tranquility. It’s a nerve growing still. It’s the sounds that don’t get through once the forgiving river has flooded your ears.

Cup of Coffee

by Ammelie Frank

Oh, I feel so...-Tears for Fears

There's a conversation that begins
"My name is Steve, but it really isn't."
And it continues. "Oh. And I thought
you were a cowboy who didn't like me."
"No, you're okay. You're cool."
"Well, then, it must be the boots."

This conversation begins in 1980
and sees the parties through
false alarms, stylish matriculation,
practical jokes involving a can
of shaving cream and phenomenology.
It's that kind of conversation.
It will bet on one heart breaking
and the other racing far too fast
and the medicine for the problem
won't arrive until well after
the conversation has ended abruptly in 1987.

But it's alright. It's alright because
in heaven, there's a wedding reception
where you can get strawberries on
a small china plate,
strawberries and chocolate darker
than moonless midnight
arranged in a friendly, edible circle.
In heaven, where your friends get married
and you get fed, there are places to perch
that overlook the lazy vast cerulean.
There are sweet things to pass between your lips.
There are sweet words that never will.
But in heaven it's all unspoken.

In heaven, also, there's a dance floor
where the conversation continues
and we're clinging to each other
as if the fate of every horse on earth
depends on the outcome of this clinch.
We haven't spoken in 17 years, but I just
wanted to tell you that in heaven,
there's a 24-hour diner with a 10-cent cup
of the best coffee you've ever had.

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