March 4, 2016

Three Poems By Laurie Kuntz: "Style", "Tropical Illusions", "The Woman and Her Shamisen"

Laurie Kuntz is an award-winning poet and film producer. She taught poetry in Japan, Thailand and the Philippines. Recently retired, she lives in an endless summer state of mind.


Your father and I admonished you
for walking ahead on the craggy mountain ridge.

You defended your eager steps,
saying you were musing
on the musical style of the Gin Blossoms,
and forgot that we, your parents,
were stymied by rugged hills and curves--
in a slippery moment, chide turned to philosophy.

On top of a mountain, you professed to one thing:

Everyone’s style  becomes familiar--
the blooming seasons of my poetry,
a worn pedestrian sole.
After 20 years of weaving your life
into draping wisteria and waning moons,
You now want to see the butterfly—

Mortar, pestle, sulfur,
                                                    vinegar and brine
                                                                                          ground to chrysalis.

 Tropical Illusions

Winter, and Noah announces,  
this will be the last family vacation.  

He’s done with rituals, tired of traveling      
in turbulent jets across oceans
just to be together in the tropics.   

 And, after all, back home, there’s this girl…   
The beach, in the gray anomaly of rain, announces this too.     

Then, he hands me the earphones,  
tells me that Animal Collective,
in small doses,  will blow my mind.   

In the midst of drum breaks,
we enter a craggy cove,    
he  asks what I think…

I smile, I nod, but feel like I am on the moon.  

The Woman and Her Shamisen

I know there are lovers,
and age spots,
and after not seeing you for years, I demand
to know the accent of your new man,
and see how the grey looks peppered down your braid.

Your letter comes, and your handwriting casts
me into memory's candied rotations.
You detail daily litanies:

Markets and day lilies,
sitting out afternoon squalls in back alley cafes,
and the vanity of scrutinizing spider veins,
which you count with Virgo-like intensity.

I scribble ultimatums,
reckoning all I need to share:

A new painting, dog, book,
wallpaper changed three times
since I have seen you.

Each detail coils like a tattered flag,
beckons beyond a collection
of words folded and stamped
in the past tense,
to a time of offerings:

Your pearl tipped fingers braiding my hair
a warm drink served in tea stained porcelain cups.
All we take in hand,
An emblem to our existence,

gilded like the painting on my wall
of a Japanese woman playing a shamisen
she sits in an October garden,

the music reaches those she has left behind,
some far, some as near as the veranda
she has come from to play in this garden
awash with autumn hydrangea.

I want to give you a globe of purple petals
and strum the shamisen
I know you will hear the music
and smell the slow browning autumn grass,
as the notes summon you across borders
of memory, where details are plucked
And tuned to our ordinary separate lives.

~Laurie Kuntz 

Laurie with Kwan Yin in Florida

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