Calle Florista

Calle Florista

by Connie Voisine

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Overview

Calle Florista by Connie Voisine

This World and That One

Sometimes you defy it,
I am not that, watching a stranger
cry like a dog when she thinks she’s alone
at the kitchen window, hands forgotten
under the running tap.
The curtains blow out, flap the other side of the sill.
In you one hole fills another,
stacked like cups.
You remember your hands.

Connie Voisine’s third book of poems centers on the border between the United States and Mexico, celebrating the stunning, severe desert landscape found there. This setting marks the occasion as well for Voisine to explore themes of splitting and friction in both human and political contexts. Whose space is this border, she asks, and what voice can possibly tell the story of this place?

In a wry, elegiac mode, the poems of Calle Florista take us both to the edge of our country and the edge of our faith in art and the world. This is mature work, offering us poems that oscillate between the articulation of complex, private sensibilities and the directness of a poet cracking the private self open—and making it vulnerable to the wider world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226295329
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 10/20/2015
Series: Phoenix Poets Series
Pages: 88
Sales rank: 1,288,411
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Connie Voisine is associate professor of English at New Mexico State University. She is the author of two previous books of poems: Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream, also published by the University of Chicago Press; and Cathedral of the North. She lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Read an Excerpt

Calle Florista


By Connie Voisine

University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2015 The University of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-226-29546-6



CHAPTER 1

    Calle Florista

    Don't you remember
    our little house on Calle Florista,
    the calle with lots of flowers?
    There weren't flowers so much as
    cats, at least a hundred, lounging in the neighbor's yard
    while the bushes roiled with kittens.

    They weren't kittens so much as
    pecan trees and weeds of the nightshade family,
    unwatered except on irrigation days
    when the whole neighborhood stood up to its knees in water.

    And the water was not water so much as
    gravel, and the Calle was not a street, but more
    a bunch of rocks lined up in a particular way.
    And the "Florista" started last year. The maps
    still say Iris Lane.

    There were no irises so much as one fat Shar-Pei,
    the guard dog to Chinese kings, said the uncle next door
    as Sassy yowled in the yard.
    Sassy was not a guard dog so much as
    not very smart,
    though Tio was kind of kingly
    sitting in his minivan with a Keystone Light.

    What did I do all day?
    The boy hit my car with a stick.
    His sister stood in the plastic swimming pool.
    When would the pecans drop? Tio was waiting.

    It wasn't so much waiting as the kids and Tio
    worrying about the occasional helicopter
    battering by
    and the dog and the cats, who were not cats at all
    maybe.
    And me in that little house, writing about
    our street, which changed every day

    subtly and in complicated ways.
    But for you it was most different —
    you were the one who didn't exist,
    except as someone
    who did not live on Calle Florista.


    As Well As You Can

    Every morning my feet, deaf and dumb,
    gird themselves, provide.
    They take me to the river
    and back regardless of the world
    and its current condition,
    my pain, etc.

    Is the sky pink?
    Who knows? Is there any way around
    the symbolic? Silence.
    Is that edible? Hmm?

    But what about living in darkness,
    as they so calmly do?
    What about the lumpen sadness of all shoes?
    And all day that gravel of socket and bone,
    that heel like an adze?

    They are not like you or me.
    Their cheerfulness
    is a miracle: run, stub, trip,
    skip the last step, scratch again
    under blankets at night.


    The Internal State of Texas

    This much is known:
    It's large and largely dry.
    It's been called terrarium-like by experts.
    At first, I felt it slowly growing
    the requisite cactus and coast.
    I wrote letters to the president,
    but he vacationed inside me for months at a time.
    I can't say Galveston was anything
    other than sweet heat and water,
    though Dallas was a bitch until I passed it.
    It was the fighter jets that got better and better.
    They came to appreciate me, too.
    In those fabulous formations they swooned
    curlicues on those bluest skies,
    burning elaborate fuels like there was no tomorrow.
    "Dear President,
    the streets of downtown
    are quite dirty and packed with people
    vagrantly wandering."
    He was photographed
    inside me, with chainsaw,
    concerned about longhorns.
    I wanted something
    even though the dollar stores simmered
    like hens on their nests of cleaning supplies,
    spatulas, and hair ties.
    "Dear President,
    I had wanted something, I don't know,
    prettier for myself by this age.
    Please advise."
    Meanwhile, men unscrolled miles
    of Scotchgarded fencing.
    Esequiel Hernández was actually shot
    herding goats, and Krispy Kremes
    blindsided everyone. But I was younger then,
    before the daring, handsome surgeon
    who wore cowboy boots,
    before the long convalescence
    and all that doctorly handholding.


    We Are Crossing Soon

    It was hot. We wandered on the pavement.
    We knew that soon we would get there.

    We thought we were prepared — one says goodbye
    and looks for a knife and a proper comb,

    and while doing so avoids a crying person.
    Soon we would get there, or not soon, but

    we would, the bridge not too crowded, the agents
    distracted, and the water would not be too wet.

    The desert weeping manna in the cool morning will provide.
    The streets of El Paso will provide.

    We surfed on the ocean and kissed blond girls named Melissa
    with each other, astride the dumpsters

    behind the TV factory. We were not smooth,
    and we wouldn't like living alone, wondering what our

    mothers were doing at that moment. At that moment
    our mothers were sewing small pieces of old clothes.

    Certainly we would arrive the way birds arrive, not through
    maps and memory, but some other dark

    knowledge, though we knew some would drop
    dead from the sky. We had cousins. We smoked cigarettes

    whenever we could and the avenues yawned, flustered
    with feet — it was so hot — and beyond lay the river

    in its cement trough, the highway, the fields
    of onions. We shined your shoes with a vigor

    unexplained by democracy, our boots crooked
    but shining, then your shoes were shining,

    spotless down the dusty streets, the quarters
    in our hands were shining like a teakettle we would own.


    Rules for Drought

    Don't worry about which fork —
    the river is too sandy for dining.

    The dust will never behave.

    We ask you to refrain from bathing at peak hours.

    Try this prickly pear. It helps.

    Don't forget the spine of a cactus
    comes from a special place
    called the areole.

    Sink into our particular kind of battle,
    which is composed simply of waiting.

    Tell time by the change in pitch
    of painful light, or the depth of
    heat's unbearableness.

    Lucky is for the other people.

    Bats, which we store by the cloudful,
    are the only mammals that fly.


    What Is True Is You're Not Here

    I lie beneath the stars
    and think of you
    while the imperious night
    rearranges the birds.
    But it's dangerous business,
    all this personifying.
    The night doesn't need
    that kind of help,
    and the birds are insulted
    by my presumptions.

    I wonder what you are doing
    right now. Over there
    it's so different, with grass and rain
    and rocks that have learned
    to speak in a language we understand.
    Boots, they say,
    or eternal.
    On a rainy day,
    you might do something quiet —
    eat some dinner
    then go to bed.

    Here in the desert
    I find myself counting the warts
    on a moon so bright I could read
    my watch if I had one, and soon
    I'm telling that old fart
    the prickly pear lurking near my foot
    Knock it off. Don't even try.
    Week after week
    gnarling up by the patio —
    I can only imagine what he's up to.

    What's true is what's in front of me:
    headlights across the wall of oleanders,
    the roadside cross
    adorned with plastic flowers
    to remind the world someone loved has died.
    The truth is the birds are not angry and
    the cactus doesn't want to touch me.
    The moon is made only of moon.
    The patio can shrug its loneliness off,

    or rather, the patio is just
    cement-colored cement
    with dirt on every side.


    Say Uncle

    What's the word for suffer?
    It's somewhere

    between curbside and truculent
    in the humid entries of the

    city, between metal rails,
    dirt shoulder, bleached stones.

    The sun is high
should be easy,
    ask the Wells Fargo building,

    and trees have grown sore
    might be behind the nursing home.

    Where would one find narrow?
    without? to mourn? It's not

    golf course or velvet painting.
    It's somewhere else, near

    immobile and shorn,
    which have been rescheduled due to

    rain. How would you find vigil
    and beautiful mouth, those two

    last seen by the side of the highway.
    Can anybody tell me the word

    for sacrifice is near? What about love
    and the twins every morning and

    rocks under my feet?


    New World

    Here the minimalist sky.
    Here antelope (pronghorns) and the burnt, high-plains grasses
    bound to the edge of the compound, the edge of town,
    the edge of, the edge of.
    Here glints polish the air to gold.
    The antelopes and the few stunted trees
    dream about Jonah in the belly of the sky.
    Let's have nothing
    but gold — it's so pleasing.

    One night a man took out an accordion.
    So loud, the instrument in this night, and so many
    romantic waltzes that I wept just
    outside the fire's circle of light.

    I knew a lot, once.
    Wasn't Naturalism about to happen?
    And really, the French and the English,
    why should they quit — a battle here, one there,
    and their navies refulgent?
    And that man, saying such things:
    "the night is the very experience of the there is."
    Once I knew
    that pastries could have a thousand leaves.
    The bishop wore a fabulous hat,
    and forks and knives
    were polished monthly to meditate
    in their velvet boxes.

    Here the sky represents nothing
    but blue, and we go along
    inventing new ways of dying:
    by the cutting off of hands,
    of hair, death by one dirty blanket, and
    death by walking.
    Death by six pine nuts, by bloody
    sunset, by obscure mirage.


    I admit that I believe ideas exist regardless

    Why worry about it?
    Any idea has at least one limb that will whip a soul
    into a factory of feeling,
    where passion becomes clearer,

    like a beautiful television
    being made right now inside the factory.
    It's hard to separate from feeling.
    Maybe the soul isn't a fussy eater —
    still, it is ravenous

    and expensive, like a defensive lineman.
    A hammer is only as strong as the hand
    who finds it, and God is pure idea

    when it comes to football.
    Weary, God puts passion in the toolbox
    so the lineman can work the world

    into one big factory. Watch how the soul
    turns on the TV and everything gives in
    to formations.


    Annunciation

    Was it on Market Street? George Street? Or on the plain grid where
    your house is now?
    The book's perfume lifted as you touched it: must, dead clover,
    wood smoke.
    Your flesh became silk, limpid, luminous.
    You say nothing about it
    but the airport speaks for you —
    a whoosh that shakes the fruit trees, clotheslines quiver
    and speak too, while a cat groans in painful heat.

    The wine of your calling burns the nose first, then tongue, throat.
    The bone of your calling slipped from an angel who asked
    difficult questions of your skin.
    (It was saying yes.)
    You were told you would never die, that it would be
    unnecessary.
    The robins were called God's birds since they ate nothing.
    Remember?
    They fell from your hands and flew into the folds of the wind.
    The book opened more, like a pomegranate,
    bloody bursts and the grit of seed.


    Pilgrims

    We are not sorry
    for the waterfall that drowned you, your eyes
    cut out and served
    on a plate to a despot, not for the cave
    or the wheel, your
    way to heaven.

    We are not sorry for the
    clothes we sew you from the sofa-cushion extras,
    the rickrack
    to adorn your hems, for the black
    pennies we leave in a cup at your feet,
    and the medallions of what ails us — a pair of ears,
    a leg, an evil sprite — pinned to every
    inch of cloth.

    We are a little sorry for the time we painted you
    in the blue and orange
    of the Mets — but hey, we all need
    benediction. Warmer nights,

    up the one hundred steps,
    we, the weary, climb
    holding tight to the railings, sweat drips
    alms into our coffee cups
    with blue sketches of the Parthenon
    around and around them,
    and we begin to ask questions

    we are sorry for
    later: How could you
    pray for more pain? Why didn't you
    just kill yourself?
    Look at us, was it worth it?



    Testament

    The cat wants to be a strong thing, a hand, a tree.
    The girl wants to be a pirate in a tree.
    The tree wants to be the pond with its face of shining.
    The pond wants to be the sun that dumps its sugar on the grass.
    The grass wants to be the foot, its sole, its heel.
    The foot wants to be the brain who always gets to choose.
    The brain wants to be the feet dumb in their shoes.
    The shoe wants to be the buckle that the girl shines with a cloth.
    The buckle wants to be the magpie lifting what shines.
    The magpie wants to be the egg in the nest touching its brother.
    The egg wants to be the feather.
    The feather wants to be the mite, devouring its plume.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Calle Florista by Connie Voisine. Copyright © 2015 The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of University of Chicago Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Calle Florista
As Well As You Can
The Internal State of Texas
We Are Crossing Soon
Rules for Drought
What Is True Is You’re Not Here
Say Uncle
New World
I admit that I believe ideas exist regardless
Annunciation
Pilgrims
Testament
Summertime
You Will Come to Me across the Desert
Gravid
Midnight in the House
This World and That One
After the First Road
After
Two Years in That City
Once
Psalm to Whoever Is Responsible
A world’s too little for thy tent, a grave too big for me
Ambidextrous
Prayer of the St. of the Hottest Night in Las Cruces
To the Crickets Which Sing in Unison
Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?
RIP
The Altar by George Herbert
Spanish Language in Mexico, 1993
In the Shade
Unfinished Letter to Death
The Self after Modernism
Notes

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