From the Mortality Sessions cover

From the Mortality Sessions

Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Copyright © 2011 Gabrielle Calvocoressi. All rights reserved.

Pop Song

Here I am drinking Prince Vladimir tea
as the city smolders and the smoke starts
to clear. Prince Vladimir. Who is he?
And does he really smell as good as that
cup you held in the summer of my thirty-
third year. I bet his hair is the color of
the honey I bought at the market the other
day, the one with the comb still in it,
all those Russian women clicking
their tongues. He must be from Russia,
a place I've never been. Have you been to Russia?
Amazing the things I don't know.
Like if he sleeps with his arm thrown
over his eyes like I do or if he ever went
dancing and ended up with some girl
in the stall of the bathroom. Do princes
go dancing? They do in the movies.
Like Dr. Zhivago. Did they dance in
Dr. Zhivago? I know they rode sleds
and had misunderstandings and heartbreak
at train stations with women in gorgeous
white furs. Did you see that movie?
Amazing the things I don't know. Perhaps
I'll call you on your new fangled phone.
I don't like the phone or to be more precise
I feel like the phone is a country I don't
understand, everything muffled
as a girl touching your face with mittens
on her hands. I bet he sleeps all day.
I bet he has a blanket made from bear's fur
like the one my grandmother took from New York
to Paris. I've never been to Paris.
That is a crime, a broken zipper
on a Dior gown. Oh how I'd love Paris.
I'm sure he's been to Paris. And you've been
to Paris, that much I know. I'm going
to go and eat Le Tigre all day and write
poems and go to the palace of Yves Saint Laurent
where the women wear pants (even Catherine
Deneuve) and wait for their lovers
who walk down the street with their shoes
in their hands because it's late
and everyone is a prince in the dark
after a certain hour and enough sipping rum.
Some things I know. Perhaps I'll call
on my ridiculous phone, antiquated as Dr.
Zhivago or the name Vladimir. I bet he sleeps
all day with his arm flung over his eyes
like me, dreaming of all the places I've never been.

Brief Essay

Do you remember if Clit Club was on Friday or Saturday? I can't remember. I think Meat was on Friday and it was for the boys. And Clit Club was on Saturday for the girls. I guess I should say men and women but I was so young then that I didn't really think about that sort of thing. And one did feel young over there in the darkness. I remember you could watch girl on girl porn downstairs. Not the kind I found in my father's drawer when I was looking for the remote control (though I watched that too) but rough cut, grainy dyke porn, which isn't so much for me anymore but has it's charms and certainly is something closer to real. Though I don't know if real was what I was looking for at The Clit Club. It all sort of felt like a movie. Standing downstairs watching the girls fuck on the screen, doing things I really hadn't done yet. Standing and watching and feeling my friend tap my shoulder and say she'd be back in a bit, the way the girl standing with her would sort of look at me for a second and I'd feel a bit shy. Do you remember the Clit Club? There was a stage where butch girls would dance like go go boys. I remember standing with my friends watching this short-haired woman in her baseball cap, t-shirt and boxers that were packed. And how the girls with long hair and short skirts would get on the stage and get down on their knees. I watched her put her hand in their long hair and hold their gaze before the girls would bend their heads and pretend. I was still trying to figure it all out. What went on in small bathrooms when my friend's went inside? I knew what I imagined happened but really it was a mystery to me.


O the pile of fish gleaming
So you can't even see the
Woman saying, "Honey, what's
Your number?" You stare at her
What seems like hours.
What keeps you from just
Going round the counter? It's
Not so far and then you'll
Get to hear your name
In every language, hear
How the flounder might fit
You in its mouth, how the urchin
Would open so you could
See its soft palate, how when
You move just past the tines
And push it says, "please"
And tightens round your finger O
The mysteries you turn away from
By simply heading for the train
Or picking up the phone, tap tap
Tapping on the keys waiting
For the right time when all around
The world is jostling you,
Telling you it's ready.

I Watch Jack Johnson's Surf Movie While My Wife Is in Hawaii

It's almost as good as being there, in fact it's even better because I can stay in bed all day with the blinds drawn and the television on and all those friends on my wall can talk to me and I don't have to say a thing.
It's almost as good as being there, being here staring at the blue-green water which is something like the color of the necklace my grandfather gave my grandmother for their wedding and I got stolen because I wasn't paying attention when we got off the plane.
I like to think of my love in the world with all those people and me lying beneath the white sheets staring at the boys inside the waves and then at naked girls on the other screen I allow myself a couple times a day.
I like to think of the people on the hill I can see from my house. The one next to the Hollywood sign. You can see the ocean from there. In the afternoon the men hike with their shirts off and stare each other down. Sometimes I see two disappear into the brush.
Which is almost as good as being there, having my sweatpants eased down while I listen to the dogs bark and catch a glimpse of the water glistening all the way across the city. I imagine the little figures bobbing on the boards as my head rests back in the branches.

After Pasadena. Meanwhile by the Pool.

Jasper left to get ice cubes from the Italian designer three houses down because he said ours didn't have enough integrity.
I was lying there listening to The Doors, who I didn't really understand, and the girl put on her clothes and went looking for the band
(who may have been just one person who did something with car radios and timpani)
I was lying there with my hand in the water and then you showed up in that Von Furstenberg dress of yours with a bag of blood oranges in your hand.
And I shaded my eyes and asked what time it was because I really didn't know.
And you said, "Ask the Lizard King" and now I think it's funny that I didn't get the reference.

Conversion Theory with Canyon

Any way I look at this city, it's clear my life is changing.
If I look to the sign in the hills where the rock bands camp out
Or listen for the way she breathes in the dark theater, near
To me but untouchable as the hawks that circled as I ran
Through the dusk while Passover started its slow song in me.
Any way I look at this city, it's clear my life is changing
Like a girl who slips out of her clothes to fuck in the pool at night
While coyotes root through trashcans and mimic her moans
Or listen for the way she breathes in that dark theater, near
The freeway, the Bowl, near the hip-hop star's house with the record on
Loop. How she echoes in me, You're all I need to get by in this world
Or, Any way I look at this city, it's clear my life is changing
Close enough to a song I heard a band rehearse a few doors down.
I heard a girl start singing and fell asleep and did I dream
Or listen for the way she breathes in the dark theater? Near
My hip that waits for her hand, near my skin that grows dark in the sun,
Near my mouth sounding out each letter of my name and hers.
Any way I look at this city, it's clear my life is changing
Or listening for the way she breathes, near in the dark theater.

Detail of Los Angeles in which the Bandleader Does Not Appear

In the painting one angel got left out
In the name of John the Baptist
and a few more rocks. When you're
On the road there's one less angel
In this city. I lay by the pool
And watched the plane
Fly overhead, my hand reached
Up and it seemed I almost touched
The belly of the thing.
Jasper said, "You're in love"
And I thought of the day we found
The house in the canyon
How we didn't think it suited us
Until we walked to the balcony
And I could see Catalina. Oh
White walls, wood floors, coyote
in the car port. Jasper brought
every sweet boy home.
I'd wake and find them sleeping
Naked by the pool. There were parties
That went on for days. A man in a white
Shirt read "The Lotus Eaters" aloud.
A woman placed her hand on my thigh
And said, "Where are you from?"
Pasadena. Land of my father, land
Of the rocket builder and crisp pressed
Shirts. The woman said, "Yes. But where
Are you from?" I took her upstairs,
Watched as her clothes came off
And she sank to her knees. I looked
Out the window at the bandleader's house
A canyon away. There's a blue in the painting
That the monks asked for specially,
"Ultramarine" The girl said, "What
do you like?" I liked hearing the music stop
and going there. I liked sending the tailor
and the tiger away. All those girls
walking down the hill toward Sunset
and some other band. I liked
the sun coming in and warming the blue
sheets. I liked leaving before the bandleader
woke. How I'd pick a grapefruit from the tree
and eat it as I made my way home.

O Mary Don't You Weep Don't You Mourn

What is joyful
O what lifts us up
Between the mouth's
Opening to sing the sound
He tells you to and the sound
Coming out O Mary was a girl
Like all of us at the dances
In the fields with her friends
Watching the one boy
With his hair in his eyes throwing
A ball to his friends
Or at the market where
He brushed her hand just as she
Noticed the way the light made
The pomegranates not brighter
But deeper and wanted to
Tell him O she wanted to
Tell him so over the din
Of the vendors, the cheese maker,
The sheep's heads lined up
And staring O staring with their
Cloudy eyes at her staring
Beyond him so as not to tell
Him how she'd make a place
For him if he'd just look up
And ask her to.


"Detail of Los Angeles in which the Bandleader Does Not Appear" appeared in The Huffington Post's Seven Rings Series.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Gabrielle Calvocoressi is the author of The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart (Persea. 2005) and Apocalyptic Swing (Persea. 2009), which was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Award. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lectureship from Stanford University, a Rona Jaffe Woman Writer's Award and a fellowship to Civitella di Ranieri in Umbria. Her poems have been featured in the Washington Post and on The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor and in numerous journals. She also writes the Sports Desk column for The Best American Poetry blog and is the Virtual Editor for Broadsided Press. She tweets @gabbat, @broadsidedpress and may be writing her third book @caracaraoriole. She is on the advisory board of The Rumpus' Poetry Book Club. She lives in Los Angeles.