The Poetry Storehouse

great contemporary poems for creative remix

Tara Skurtu – poems

15 Feb 2015

1. Indian River at Dusk (audio by author)
2. Bar Poem (audio by author & Nic Sebastian)
3. Discovery: Negative Return (audio by author)
4. Survivor Vade Mecum (audio by author)
5. Richter Scale, Bucharest

15 Feb 2014

1. Foreclosure (with audio by Dave Bonta)
…. Video remix by Dave Bonta
2. The Amoeba Game (with audio by the author)
…. Visual poem response by April Faison
3. Visiting Amber at Lowell Correctional (with audio by the author)
…. Video remix by Othniel Smith
4. Some Days Begin Like This (with audio by the author and Sinéad McClure)
…. Video remix by Lori Ersolmaz
5. Morning Love Poem (with audio by Nic Sebastian)

Indian River at Dusk
(Read by Tara Skurtu)
download audio
The first and only time I caught a sheephead
big enough to eat, black and white and breathing
in my hands. On my way to get ice I got
distracted, tossed Dad’s keys in the water.

I was a good Catholic: I walked him to the spot
and pointed. I made up a lie, but I named
everyone I loved to God before falling
asleep in my yellow room every night—

God was a word person. After two
Hail Marys and an Our Father I’d be
good again. Like my words, I knew where
the keys landed. I’ve tried to write

about this before. For over a year I made myself
guiltless, couldn’t preserve the thing I caught
or get the syntax right. I didn’t know about
currents. I can’t keep anyone safe.

– First published in Plume

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Bar Poem
(Read by Tara Skurtu)
download audio
(Read by Nic Sebastian)
download audio
I’m here on the patio, no appetite,
drinking a salty margarita. I feel
my liver, ignore it like last night’s
glass of water. I’m tired of writing
you down when I should be writing
poems about place. Dusk hits beyond
the man playing the red accordion
on the corner, and the strays of Iași
bark out a score backed by dissonant
frequencies of the evening bells.
This morning I took a walk and found
a noseless man pumping gypsy love songs
on his accordion. I stared into the holes
of his face and thought about the girl
with the green ribbon around her neck.
Had you read the story backwards,
we might not have lost our heads.
It’s late. What time is it?
I ask a poet who isn’t you.
There’s time enough, he says.

– First published in The Common

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Discovery: Negative Return
(Read by Tara Skurtu)
download audio
Seven tubes of blood in a neat line. A needle longer
than a finger slides into the muscle between ribs.
A spaghetti strand of organ suspended in clear solution.

Some days my doctor says you have to napalm
the napalm, but this morning he says undetectable,
and it’s Thursday the 29th of September, 1988 again—

on the news, Discovery is inching closer and closer
to the moment of truth.
I’m outside with my class, squinting
at a trail of cloud as Discovery’s pinprick spark disappears.

For every disbelief, an equal and opposite belief. Outside
the blood draw clinic, I believe I see a passenger plane—
upside down, dragging backwards, it banks to a still speck.

– First published in Memorious

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Survivor Vade Mecum
(Read by Tara Skurtu)
download audio
Go swimming in salt water.
Think, I am a living, breathing organism.

Remember your neighbor Marlene,
her neon lips, twenty-something

feral cats, her Buick, its red and white
bumper sticker: Shit happens.

Under the topsoil in her backyard,
a constellation of cats.

You’ve added some to this lot.
The mangled mass on Georgia Avenue,

blood spreading like a puddle of piss—
someone else’s hit-and-run.

You asked your dad to please give
the body a proper burial,

and he pulled over, scraped it
from the asphalt into a cardboard box.

You are a living, breathing organism
with all of your fingers and both feet,

swimming in the ocean, feeding the fish.

– First published in DMQ Review

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Richter Scale, Bucharest

Our first week, you showed me around
your empty capital in a dream. We skipped

Parliament and headed down Calea Victoriei,
lit beeswax candles for the living,

drank jasmine tea at Serendipity, then
a big one hit. I would’ve asked

what happened next, but I was in it, I knew,
I could feel it: you’d have saved yourself

if it weren’t for each day you forget how.
You’re like that musicologist I’ve read about—

seventeen-second memory. Every 3.4
blinks, forgets what he’s forked into his mouth,

his daughter’s name, his own. Every I
he writes, once written, a trick

of someone else’s hand. He remembers
composition, and he remembers his wife.

Every time he sees her he’s seeing her
for the first time in ten years, and he wants

to waltz. Every time she walks into his room
she steps around a box. I am this wife.

I’m stuck in your village, walking
a chicken on a leash. He pecks the ring of sun-

flower seeds around this house on Lavender Street
—lavender in another language. We’re stuck

in November, he and I, waiting for you
to walk into the side yard, past the little black

dog tunneling a lattice of wormholes in the dirt.

– First published in The Common

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(Read by Dave Bonta)
download audio
Thigh-high weed grass in the front yard.
Scarves of Spanish moss, a spray-painted
anarchy sign on the trunk of the thickest oak.

Through a window, crusted dishes in the sink,
stacks of records, a high school watercolor,
blanket on the couch. Everything the way it was.

Through another, the giant happy face
Dad drew on the bedroom wall in Sharpie
to cheer up Amber, still smiling in the dark.

The backyard pool, full of gurgling frogs
and larvae under a land-like sheet of algae.
Mosquitoes humming, thick as dust motes.

– First published in B O D Y

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Video remix by Dave Bonta

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The Amoeba Game
(Read by Tara Skurtu)
download audioI stood at the stove holding
a wooden spoon in my right hand,
listening to butter sputtering against
the splattered circle of an egg. Perhaps
it was the flapping of the egg’s
wavy edges against the steel pan,
or the amorphousness of its innards
outside the carriage of its brown shell—
I remembered an odd game I played
in Brownies. The amoeba game.
In the front yard of the scout cabin,
one girl at a time would become
an amoeba and lead the rest.
We didn’t know what amoebas were,
only that they weren’t human or animal,
and moved like a thousand blind legs
treading through molasses.
So it was that our heads and arms
became legs and feet, undulating
wayward into dusk. Swaying our shoulders
left to right, we’d giggle through mouths
we weren’t supposed to have, pretending
we had no eyes and didn’t know where
we came from or where we were going.

– First published in Poet Lore

Visual poem response by April Faison

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Visiting Amber at Lowell Correctional
(Read by Tara Skurtu)
download audioA windowless room. Mom and I
remove shoes, socks, spread our arms wide
between the cinderblock wall and locked door.
The guard takes a swallow of V8
before patting us down. Inside, I ask Amber
if this is a maximum security facility.
She tells me they’ve got her in here with murderers

like The Gardener—worked at a daycare,
killed a few kids there, buried them
alive. They gave her yard duty until
she began to name the trees she planted:
Josie, Maggie, Stephanie. Slicing deep
into her thighs, she mortared her wounds
with shit and got gangrene. In a wheelchair now.
Don’t wanna think about her no more, Amber says.
Seeing her every day is bad enough.

An inmate takes Polaroids, two dollars each,
acrylic wall paintings in the background.
One of an angel, feathers fanned out against a pastel sky.
Stand here, Amber says. I want you to have wings.
She’s to my right, our mother to my left. We smile big.

When I dream about my sister she’s a child,
in our Florida backyard, wide-eyed and silent.
She fills buckets with garden snakes,
catches strawberry-necked lizards
poised with the want of a mate.
With one hand she holds a wriggling lizard,
with the other she hinges its jaws open
then closed onto the lobe of her ear.

-First published in The Southeast Review

Video remix by Othniel Smith

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Some Days Begin Like This
(Read by Tara Skurtu)
download audio
(Read by Sinéad McClure)
download audioThe fear of forgetting I am well
crawls into my mouth like a word
that regrets being spoken;
it presses sour phrases against
my teeth, tongue, and gums.
I want to tell it stop,
that I am well,
that my blood is my blood.
But as I’m ready to swallow,
it wedges another phrase
onto the back of my tongue—
something about the flawlessness
of the antibody’s memory,
how it never forgets
the image of the mother
that abandoned it here.

– First published in Salamander

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Video remix by Lori Ersolmaz

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Morning Love Poem
(Read by Nic Sebastian)
download audioDreamt last night I fed you, unknowingly,
something you were allergic to.

And you were gone, like that.

You don’t have even a single allergy,
but still. The dream cracked. Cars nose-dived

off snow banks into side streets. Sometimes
dreams slip poison, make the living

dead then alive again, twirling
in an unfamiliar room.

It’s hard to say I need you enough.

Today I did. Walked into your morning
shower fully clothed. All the moments

we stop ourselves just because we might
feel embarrassed or impractical, or get wet.

– First published in the minnesota review

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About Tara:

Tara Skurtu is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Boston University, a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow, and a recipient of a 2013 Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poems have been translated into Romanian and Hindi, and appear in Poetry Review, The Dalhousie Review, B O D Y, the minnesota review, Los Angeles Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere.

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10 thoughts on “Tara Skurtu – poems

  1. Pingback: New additions – 17 Feb 2014 | The Poetry Storehouse

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  6. Pingback: Foreclosure | Moving Poems

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  8. Pingback: Morning Love Poem | Coffee and Irony

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  10. Pingback: Ziua în care am cunoscut-o pe Tara - Bookaholic

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