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Selected poems from Sensorium

By Richard Merelman

Richard Merelman  Author photo by James Gill.

Richard Merelman
Author photo by James Gill.

Richard Merelman , a native of Washington, D. C., is Professor (Emeritus) of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he specialized in the subject of culture and politics in Western democracies, publishing books and articles on the subject. The Imaginary Baritone (Fireweed Press), his first book of poems appeared in 2012. In 2016, Finishing Line Press published his chapbook The Unnamed Continent. Poems of his have appeared in Contemporary American Voices, Main Street Rag, Measure, Stoneboat, Loch Raven Review, Common Ground Review, California Quarterly, Blue Unicorn, Inscape, Lake Effect, and The Lake, among others. He and his wife live in Madison, WI.

Gazelle Flip

She haunts the skateboard park
for the convex curves of the track
for her strength, swerve, balance, tilt
for the height she soars above
     the drag of earth
for the lines of her long legs
for the rush the lift releases
for the swish of her hips
for her body’s
     poster poses     
for the hush when she spins
for the tingle in her fingers

She’s skipped English just this once
for the Gazelle Flip, a new trick
for the pivot, the twist, the wind
      that ruffles her hair
for the boy who’ll teach her the Gazelle Flip      
for the music of gazelle
for the banded backswept horns of the gazelle
for the gazelle’s soft white belly
for her jump start that mirrors
      the gazelle’s leap  
for a glimpse of the jackal who stalks the gazelle
for the boy, who loiters after she masters
      the Gazelle Flip

Listen to the poem here


A Career of the Senses

At the beginning you glimpse
the entrance to heaven except the sun
dips and you miss a step.

In a pond pebbles rest
below the waterline
too deep to touch.

Soon a sore on your cheek
scabs over. Scars
mark the face in the mirror
that isn’t your own.

In a prize-winning orchard
heavy-laden branches
tease your sense of taste. 
You nibble and swallow
the single bruised plum. Later,

the perfect woman collapses
her knuckle on the strings
of a harp, and you settle
for less than a pure tone.
No aroma you’ve ever savored
approaches ambrosia. Musk
taints perfume with the smell of the earth.

A time of life arrives when
you stroke steel wool as if it’s linen.
Be-bop sinks to punk. You confuse
the songs of Berlioz with Bacharach. Why
it matters you cannot remember.

Listen to the poem here

Still, Life

                                                                       choriambics for SDH

All the experts on still lifes in the art world had embraced my rules:
never forfeit a line, color, or texture. If I rendered glass
bowls, there wasn’t a blemish. And a ripe peach was precisely fuzzed.
Flowers tested my skill. Think of the stems: slender or bent, yet tough. 
Nature blends the unique features of species to create the hues
painters use to define beauty. I’d take weeks on a leaf that reached
goals I clung to: control, clarity; brain-hand as if one device

custom-designed. Nina, my wife, cooled to my work. She’d glower, yawn;
bored, she said, with my mere technical grace. Where was the life in still
life? Can perfectly thin petals on daisies be a solid back-
drop for glittering crowns? Hyacinths crave violence. Lilies bleed.
Now my tremors arrive. Carefully curved gourds become ragged. Urns
blur. I cannot prevent knots in a lace doily. My thumbs conduct
polkas. Medicines lose traction. The end looms; zero chance to mend

numbness. Illness remakes me. In a shake, asters are shaped like Spain.
Slopping green into red kindles the amber of my daffodils.
Tulips quiver. Aroused orchids entwine. Nina begins to sing.
Crocus dances the tango. For the time left I’ll reject the old
steps. My errors reveal bristles in sage, thorns on a rose. I bruise
phlox. My canvases bare marks of the tumult in the undergrowth. 
Nina kisses my right wrist. How I dread deadness. But sick, I thrill.

Listen to the poem here