Two Poems

Riff on Orange

It’s just a color again. Innocent
of threat & not to be compared to the round smooth
evil Eve selected from that first garden of desire
where green was all the rage.  Mellow maybe
—like the den walls, our first apartment
late sixties, when Agent Orange trumped
bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), sent
‘Nam pickers screaming for the open—

or the cool orange of Popsicle
summers in iron ore country
where dynamite blasts cracked
plaster, Friday’s eagle slipped
sweet orange (Citrus sinensis)
in the Xmas stocking & rust-colored
dads morphed into white men
after their Saturday saunas.

In Flanders Field, red poppies. In my garden, orange.
What colors in Colombia? Afghanistan? Red & white
hallucinogenic fungi sing of orange mists rising,
swirling, quite unlike that tired old black-&-white
mushroom cloud still billowing above the Inland Sea,
metaphor and simile for the no-war crowd, its imagined
blood-orange brilliance blocking the rising sun which sets
over Bikini’s golden clouds buried in the dead lagoon. 

In a stunning reversal, mythic Aztec warriors in battle
colors of orange and black come back as stained-glass
Monarchs (Danaus  plexippus), brazen migrants
flying over the walled border while guards
stand at awe-struck attention, guns glinting in the sun.

Orange dithers between Caution & Stop,
speaks in moderate tones except during
the hunt when it blares Don’t Shoot
Hearts are never orange,
love’s sting bleeds red, but hair, ah,

the coppery result of Saxons screwing
Celts or vice versa & Frisco Punks combing Kool-aid
through their fan-like crests. Mating plumage.

Fruit flies (Drosophilus melanogaster), human-like,
live to copulate.  The red-eyed little
monsters feed on rotting fruit (a tenuous connection
to orange) a couple weeks at most. One pair,
one hundred eggs later, an explosion of descendants.

Cock-of-the-rock, Cooper’s Hawk,
October’s Blackbirds careen down deserted
streets in a red-gold moony glow. Pumpkin-colored
mushrooms, Jack-O'-Lanterns (Omphalotus olearius),
glow in the dark signalling danger,

but hot orange, decadent,
sends nations into paroxysms of forgetfulness
and joy: hot orange skirts, shirts, even boxer shorts
and bikini briefs to paper over wartime gloom
while the mock Code Orange—

High risk of terrorist attacks
steps may be taken:
security efforts
   armed forces
        law enforcement agencies
additional precaution:
public events
                                   prepare to work
alternate site
dispersed workforce
essential personnel only
by order

is no longer in effect. 


Construction  /  White

Part Two

White is razor-thin
flakes easily,
smells of chalk & the fine dust
blanking furniture in a room
with drawn shades where nothing
stirs & rap
of heels on floor does not break
silence.  White
conjures snow forts,
surf.  In glare
white, the eye
becomes a thing of no use.  I stumble,
crash through
                        the ping-pong gun I got
            the Christmas I was 10
                        the dog I loved and lost—and god,
                        the hospital bed with
            my mother’s white face,
            whiter because of her halo
            of black
                        the cars I drove
            those I made out in,  those I rode in
            holding my breath—the needle
            shimmering whitely to 100—or my breath
            holding me
                        my sister’s death car—antithesis of white—
            her wedding veil
            my father’s tears, my mother’s rage, my silence—

Part Three

fog dropping
mist rising
what’s the difference: rising, dropping,
or sliding in from stage right?
we are deleted

Part One

White muffles sound
damps odors,
heightens black & the wolf’s howl,
is oppressively bright—
            nothing hidden
            no shadow no closed door
            behind which lurks…

Part Five

White seeps under your fingernails
dries your lips, your tongue.
Sophisticated, reserved,
on white   birch
on snow—white
is still in your face

            WHITE             contains all color
                        no color
no person

                Although typically a response to maximum stimulation
        of the retina, the perception of white appears always
to depend on contrast.

—CJ Muchhala, Shorewood, WI