Two Poems by Mark Arvid White

Ash Wednesday

New Orleans had thrummed as I stepped from the bus
on a Carnival Monday, the last before Lent.
The city was a cat that purred with the strokings,
always poised to pounce its fat prey–
Shrove Tuesday would come in the morning
With prayers and offerings in the quiet of churches
Where candles would burn through the heat of the night,
And I slept like an angel, flying close to the ground.
I saw you sometime after breakfast
in a peaches and white dress you said you had made,
all alone in the shade at a table for four,
you looked up at me ’till I couldn’t get away.
“Where yat?” you said, Mardi Gras in your eyes.
“What’s your name?” I said — your perpetual smile —
“It don madda,” you said as your fingers took mine,
I squeezed, and you said, “Pass a good time.”
Laissez le Bon temp rouler.
We passed hand in hand through dance and parade,
you laughed at the Maskers and held out your arms,
“Throw me something, Mister” and the treats came clattering.
You caught a bead necklace, slipped it over my head,
kissing me without question, without pause or delay,
to the sands beyond the flickering flambeaux.
Soft drums, your praline body yielding to mine.
Morning, and the sounds of a street sweeper,
sand in my clothes, and the smell of you, gone.
Seven hours on the streets I am searching,
Knowing I will never see you again.
I am the Boeuf Gras, the fatted bull,
last meat taken before the fasting times.
The torches all gone, watched from the bus
the ash-crossed foreheads of each passer-by.

Cycles of Things

She mounted her tricycle, cycling like mad,
Her psyche undaunted in spite of herself.
Not really a good girl, she wasn’t half bad
As she pedaled to the end of the drive.

Her pocketbook bulged with illicit gain
Duly taken by stealth from the man they called “Dad”.
“It’s a small world….” she hummed the refrain,
The ice cream truck’s siren song jingling.

Yet as her legs churned, sweet frozen grail seeking,
One wobbly wheel disengaged from the rest.
Her once tri, now bi-cycle shuddering and shrieking,
Like a sickle she sliced through the neighbor’s hedge.

In her mind she cried out “Oh gods! I’m undone!”
But in the real world she just blubbered and screamed
As legs, tires, handlebars, fused into one,
Visions of popsicles broken and melting.

She did not want him to see her like this,
Though her wail sent him running in spite of it all.
Father bending, untangling, he gave her a kiss
Lifting the thief from her own demise.

The cyclonic dash had demolished her dreams,
No fudge sickles, ice bars, no sundae swirl cups.
Author of her own design, and yet it seems
The pages were still being penned.

“Come on, little fireball, let’s get you a treat.”
Infraction forgotten, the cycle of things,
As the man they called “Dad” took her out to the street,
Her arms to his neck tightly clinging.

Mark Arvid White lives and writes in Alaska.  He has had his poems, stories, articles, and reviews appear in such publications as Permafrost, New Myths, Time of Singing, Modern Haiku, Candelabrum, Cerasus, and many others in pixel or in print.  He is past regional coordinator in Alaska for the Haiku Society in America and creator of the Shin Tao Haiku Retreat in the online virtual community of Second Life.

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