Friday, December 6, 2019

A Constellation of Kisses Buzzing at The Hive Poetry Collective

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Recently Dion O'Reilly invited me to be interviewed on her podcast, "The Hive Poetry Collective." We spent 50 minutes talking about my new anthology, A Constellation of Kisses. I read a few of my own poems and we talked about Terrapin Books and the anthology. The end of the program included Danusha Laméris reading "The Kissing Disease," her poem from the anthology. Then Dion read "Birdman," her own poem from the book.

I loved the entire interview, but I especially loved the closing part, so I asked Dion if she could extract that part from the longer interview  and she kindly did so for a 13-minute program.

Danusha's poem was written for the anthology. In “The Kissing Disease,” the poet takes us back to high school, to those first precious, delicious kisses—and, for some, the mononucleosis that results when desire "enters the blood.” Here's the poem:

The Kissing Disease

Isn’t that what they called it? The fever
you could catch from pressing your lips
to the lips of another in the dark corner
of the gym after the game, or later,
lying down in the rough bramble
of the field. Wasn’t that how it began?
And didn’t it lead to a long malaise—
a month in bed, swollen glands
of the neck? You had to sip hot fluids,
eat crackers laced with salt, lie down
until it passed. What a way to meet
the god of want, slack deity who slips
into the back of your throat, microscopic
germ. The way we learn desire
is a contagion cast from one body
to the next. Something you contract
by getting close enough to inhale
the whiff of musk rising from her
like a lick of flame. Or from feeling
his shirt shake beneath your palm—
the dizzy of his heart. Bitter particle,
trick spore. Microbe hidden
in the volcano of the mouth.
Malady of the young, virus
of the tonsil, the tongue. What
can we say of how it enters the blood,
scorches a path through the veins,
sickens us with hunger, shapes
the course of what’s to com

Dion's poem is a revision of a poem she wrote years ago. “Birdman” is about her pet of 40 years, a parrot with one damaged wing. Dion addresses her bird as "my little green man," and describes him as “full of loathing” and wearing a “plumed suit the color of lawn.” Here's the poem:


Every morning, my Amazon parrot greets me
as he has since the day I bought him
for ten bucks on a dusty road
with his downcast rage and broken wing.

Hello Birdman, I say, and from his iron cage
he chirps like a telephone, lowers his yellow head,
so I can scratch the down beneath his pin feathers,
lift him to my lips for a clucky kiss.

For over four decades, he’s hated
first my boyfriends, then my husbands, three dogs, and a cat.
On the October morning when I carried my swaddled
twins into the sunroom and set them in the bassinet,
he watched with one yellow eye, tilted his head,
raked the air with his screams. Oh, he’s full of loathing,
my little green man.

How could he have known— as he flew
above the milpas in Hermosillo, before some kid
shot off his wing—that for the rest of his life,
he would live with a giant companion looming
over him with heavy bones and fleshy claws.

And how could I have known my prince
would fill a space in the chaos
three inches wide and eight inches long, that he would
kiss me at dawn with his Bakelite beak and
dry tongue— wear a plumed suit the color of lawn.

Interspersed between the readings, the two poets talk about poems and love, the strange turns both take.

I am delighted to have these two wonderful poems included along with 105 other poems in A Constellation of Kisses.

Both poets have forthcoming collections. Danusha's second book, Bonfire Opera, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in spring 2020. Dion's debut collection, Ghost Dogs, will be published by Terrapin Books in mid-February 2020.

You can (and should!) listen to the short podcast here. Then you should get the whole book. And while you're at it, get some for your friends. A Constellation of Kisses makes an excellent gift for the poets in your life.

Listen to the full interview here.

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