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Best Nola Perez Poems

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Once smooth
and lush,
the flesh 
has turned
to mush
as if Time
accepts its 
duty to
make 'pretty'

Who said 
we have 
to exit with 
a murmur
not a shout--
No fireworks
for the final 
Out? Nyet, 
nyet, I do 
not accept.

Copyright © Nola Perez

Details | Nola Perez Poem |


"when the Gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers"
                                  --line from the film "Out of Africa"

She stopped, transfixed, a breathless 
butterfly pinned to a board, and she said, 
"That is So beautiful!" Then, turning
to her husband as they stood in my kitchen 
before an aerial photograph of L'Ile de la Cite' 
shaped like a ship in the beating heart of Paris,  
(young Yuppie wife of entrepreneurial architect 
who owned half the houses on the street 
where I lived), she asked with pleading eyes, 

"Could we go someday?" Knowing the appetite 
for that which lies beyond Beyond: Paris, 
La Cite' Emeraude, or wherever is the personal
Shangri La, I wished I could have shared 
what I've known: a second floor apartment 
in an historic building in the 12th--its 
circular staircase royally carpeted in red,
enclosing a tiny lift, depositing us 
to a storied paradise, its rooms extending 

beyond glass doors of an antechamber into 
a formal salon, two stately bedrooms 
with balconies, and a "bureau," birthplace 
of poems, diaries of dreams, and in the interior 
courtyard beneath our common windows, 
open to the Paris bleu, a caged canary sang, 
lusting for open sky in mornings filled 
with the perfume of freshly baked pastries 
and baguettes from the patisserie below.  

Once, I was besotted with a man who told me
after lovemaking, "I never knew how 
much yearning you needed."  He divined this, 
and for a time he fed that soul hunger in me, so 
that it was hard when he left, and they always leave.  
Ships seeking harbor, leave in their wake
a yearning in the corners of your life, which will 
surely bring back Paris and everyone you have ever 
loved, which will somehow, somehow, against 
all odds, satiate the supplicant heart.

Copyright © Nola Perez

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Baby birds, it's said, are born not knowing 
their notes. They learn them from their mother's 
throats in the way children learn their ABCs 
at parental knees, muh muh muh becoming mother, 
da da da, daddy; cheep cheep cheep, a cantata.
That being so, do poets find a poetic ear 
in the sphere of their predecessors?

Young, with island sand and salt my milieu, 
my concerts were the calls of shorebirds, 
the forlorn foundling cries of gulls, the staccato 
siren of a tern, should you carelessly venture 
too close to her nest; the stuttering dance-step 
of  sandpipers, miniscule but mighty.  Then, 
there were the rest: foraging land birds, seeking 
fare left by the incoming tide, their darkness 
incongruous on the purity of a beach. 

There was a time, walking to my garage 
when I found a songbird dead in my driveway; 
its small body supple, still warm to the touch, 
not ready to die just yet like all of us.  I 
placed it in a box (ashes to ashes, bird to sky), 
laid it to rest under the fig tree in my backyard, 
and not knowing its persuasion, I 
fashioned a cross of sticks over the fresh 
earth, believing we shared the sanctity of 
simple beauty, the brevity of life.

Near a lake where I live now, sibling to the sea, 
briny by proximity, birdsong is rampant 
in early spring. I have heard the 'death bird', 
he of the shrill one-note filled with foreboding, 
who heralded the passage of a dying husband 
in an interminable summer of illness.  Here, 
there are the sharps and flats of ordinary 
choristers, and one whose mother was surely 
a coloratura soprano in a former life.  

This one whose concert halts me spellbound,
turns me to stone (not salt) with his serenade of
couplets, no two the same, some so comical I laugh 
out loud to the absent cars and senseless concrete 
of my parking lot.  He sings and sings, never
abated, nothing by rote, and I? I wait, heart in 
my throat, should he be the songbird from 
under the fig tree, reincarnated. 

Copyright © Nola Perez

Details | Nola Perez Poem |


Our fig in January, entirely denuded now
like my heart in your absence, is but
more beautiful, if possible, in its seasonal
solemnity than in summer's exacting extravagance.
The trunk, grown massive in manhood, is a citadel
of strength supporting the curving bowl of its
branches as they bend back into themselves, becoming
the bare black sculpture of winter trees Hemingway
described in Paris in the Jardin of Luxembourg
where we used to walk, following in his footsteps.

These prayerful branches, grown as large as
the beanstalk giant of storybook lore, cup
the sky, making a sieve through which rain filters,
better for unobstructed passage to its 
earthbound blessing, clearer for the distillation.

Above ground two massive roots, more visible
in winter definition--veins from the beating heart
of the tree--though siblings still, sprawl out 
in different directions, then disappear wherever
they are traveling,  who knows where?  Not
climbing skyward like Jack on his leafy ladder, 
but earthward out of sight toward a Southern
provenance, toward Provence, perhaps, 
as if impassioned for home.


Copyright © Nola Perez

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If it hadn't been for poetry
what would I have done
with all those cliffs
I almost jumped off of--
with all the riffs
in the music of my life
I couldn't seem
to get enough of.
With all the passion
I imagined I couldn't
live without.  Poetry
was the place I passed up
the junctions I might
have chosen otherwise,
when Wise had nothing
to do with it.  You can 
be sure of it: Poetry
saved my life.

Copyright © Nola Perez

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January & February this year, 
prescription lenses lost. I count
the cost (it cost me dear).

A place for everything
and everything in its place,
my grandmother said,

but I only know 
where my glasses are
when they're on my face.

Copyright © Nola Perez

Details | Nola Perez Poem |


Dark as a demon, but with the soul of
an angel, he's a Portuguese Water 
Dog who's never been to sea, but, as 
he oughta, he loves water, and highly
proprietary when you're watching 
TV, downtime is shared, so it's his paw
on your foot, or else it's his head. 
Morning ablutions, one leg in the air, 
he waters a thicket, which wakes up a 
cricket who begins to sing. The world 
is his lavatory. Noblesse Obligatory. 
It's a Water Dog thing.

                   for my granddog...

Copyright © Nola Perez

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It's used as an afterthought, fattening festive 
arrangements for Mother's Day, Easter, 
someone's birthday.  An underrated vine,
enhancing center-stage flowers whose star-power 
doesn't wear well. It's the "coming attraction" 
that's there after the clapping dies down, 
replanted by doorstep or gravestone.  "Grow," 
I say, "Change my life with your traveling beauty, 
your common denominator, your scrawling 
signature seldom sought for autographs.

Snaking around graves at our family plot, 
it's an ongoing gift, out-giving the giver 
with its "overwhelming darkness", reminding us 
where there is life, there is also death. Surviving, 
thriving in hanging pots the less hardy exit,
it surprises and delights, reaching down from limbs
of trees for soil, unchallenged there in pine straw 
until tender tendrils insinuate their way 
to daylight through tapestries of needles

When the ivy becomes dense, I will know 
you are there: ivy of my heart, ivy of essence, 
the graceful way it swings and sways, how 
it takes to new habitat in the way you, Julie, 
cut a swath through New York City after lifetimes 
in the easy South.  We are old souls, older 
than the hedera, cousin to ginseng, reminder 
of the movement of the heavens, the ability 
to bring things together.  You were shelter, 
the poets' headpiece, bringing peace 
to my household.  Resurrection and rebirth, 
Julie, in this Easter of ivy.

Copyright © Nola Perez

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It's rocking an empty flowerpot perched
in a pine tree:  'RockABye Baby in the High Top,'
its contents shell shocked in this February 
of zero wind chill.  It's the heart's empty nest,  
cold ripple of a lake that threatens to overtake, 
were it not for higher ground. We've wind
from the northeast, sharp and heartless, 

harbinger of storms, but I am Barrier Island, 
formed by one who taught me by salt, sea-
shell, and the sting of sand, bitter winter spray 
in remembered summer. Land bound, 
one learns to light where something shores us.  
So here am I , despite trade winds, the Skull
and Bones of picturesque pirates, failed 
story tales where even the wind lies. 

In the lake one small duck, sustained by 
its currents paddles my direction, drawn 
by intuition or design of a kindred spirit who 
would sail, dive with delight, endure 
the cold solitude of seagulls at evening, 
seeking harbor far from their ocean.  
They are white flags signaling Yes, 
You will find your heaven.

Copyright © Nola Perez

Details | Nola Perez Poem |


Starving a fever, 
stuffing a cold I'm following 
happily that old 
advice: pumpkin pie, 
coconut cake, excellent 
for easing any ache. 
O Chochona!, it's pneumonia,
so much chicken soup 
from friends in the coop, 
dark and white, breast 
and leg have me almost 
ready to lay an egg.

Copyright © Nola Perez