National Poetry Month Spotlight: Michele Battiste

……..Activity involving height and motion
……..also involves risk.
…………….– gym mat caution sticker
And if we know the limits of our bodies and elemental physics?
There is still barometric pressure to contend with.
Undiagnosed allergies, interior wood-rot, diseased birds.
Man (A) sees Woman (B) across a crowded parking lot.
Early September weekday.  Central Kansas.
He’s late for work, lonely and regretting a skimpy, empty-calorie lunch.
She’s blonde and frowning, but her sandals are strappy,
complicated with buckles.
The elementary school up the block is overcrowded and the Parents Committee tore the jungle gym down overnight.  A liability.
The store bought new mini-carts, perfect for shoppers who live alone.
None, however, are available.
Seconds tick and A’s caloric load diminishes by one.  He thinks
of B’s difficulty with walking, her limited steps, calculations.
Sometimes he’s out of breath after sex.
No breeze and nothing rises but heat from the pavement.
A Lexus backs out of a spot.
A thinks, If it were Tuesday–”
thinks Depending on pace and angle of approach, we
could meet at the electric door.”
School lets out early for the lack of air-conditioning
and children are fearless, almost unbreakable.
Some are scraped, but quick.
The Lexus has a V8 engine and a driver who is thrilled
with acceleration.
B is halfway to the entrance, strides unpredictably deft.
A moves away from his car.

Q:  Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A:  I was in Wichita, Kansas. It was a sweltering day, and the air was very still and heavy, which in Wichita, where wind constantly swept across the flat plains, was foreboding. It meant a storm was coming, and a summer storm in Wichita could include anything from cloud-to-ground lightning to straight-line winds to tornadoes. It was an afternoon itchy with impending excitement and danger.

Q:  What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: Rachel Zucker’s Museum of Accidents. She makes me want to write about peril and infidelity. She both exemplifies and transforms the confessional.

Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: It’s an amalgam of every meal I’ve ever eaten at Jardiniere on Grove Street in San Francisco. When I lived there, my roommate was a manager at Jardineire, and each time we arrived he’d whip menus out of our hands and lay down a five-course meal that would take my breath away. The best damn cheese cellar on both sides of the Pecos.  And it didn’t hurt that he paired each course with a different wine.  Halcyon days.  I’m now married to a man who thinks a good meal consists of a vege dog and mild cheddar.

Michele Battiste’s poetry collection Ink for an Odd Cartography is available for purchase at Black Lawrence Press.

(Photo credit: Dan Wilcox)