National Poetry Month: Aliah Lavonne Tigh

I’m excited to share with you tonight a poem by Aliah Lavonne Tigh, who read at The Mutable Hour last week. She has a chapbook coming out soon; the launch event is this weekend. You can message the publisher @TramEditions for the event link.

Tonight’s poem, “A Dam is A Form of Failed Diplomacy,” is first published in the chapbook Weren’t We Natural Swimmers (2022).

 

A Dam is a Form of Failed Diplomacy                                               

In my father’s house,  
                                    floods took the kitchen.  Still he welcomes you 
to any of the other rooms.      Hospitality lives inside us.     Overseas, a cancer eats 

my uncle’s bones.     

.                                         He doesn’t know

what his body grows—no voice but pain speaks

          to the host.        

                                     My aunt, nieces, and nephews hope

for cancer drugs in Iran.    This is what sanctions mean.    Here, someone sanctioned

the sale of a flood plain. Barker’s Dam could not protect

these families downstream.  In this development,   

                                      who among us now   would not pray 

.                       against rain.  Or not ask that a loved one can board a plane.  We are all

.                                                               the person we become           

once watching      water fill someone’s room.                       Come in, see— 

          all this drywall’s new. I stand here painting small squares

                                    in likable shades of blue.

***

Aliah Lavonne Tigh is the author of Weren’t We Natural Swimmers, a 2022 chapbook with Tram Editions out now, and her poems have appeared in Guernica, The Texas Review, Matter Monthly, The Rupture, and others. She holds poetry and philosophy degrees from the University of Houston and an MFA from Antioch Los Angeles. Tigh lives in Houston, Texas, and you can find her on Twitter at @ALoveTigh.

 

 

 

A Poem from Today’s Reading

This morning I was the featured reader at the Friendswood Public Library; they have a monthly series there that’s just wonderful. After the featured poet, there’s an open mic, and I was really impressed with all the poems people read today. It happens the first Saturday of each month; you should check it out. It was a hybrid event today, both in person and on Zoom, and one of the open mic readers was in Washington state.

I’m sharing one of mine that I read this morning, “At the El Felix,” which was first published in the Houston Poetry Fest Anthology (2014). HPF has a juried competition every year and usually has several days of festivities around mid-October.

At the El Felix

You were more than halfway to drunk
that night we spent in a Los Angeles hipster dive,

a room painted the color of espresso
with a Jane Fonda knock-off aerobics video

playing on the TV above the bar and
the booths lining one wall half-hidden

by tangerine velvet drapes
on curved shower curtain rods.

My watermelon martini, nearly gone,
stood, a Lady Liberty among your

six drained pint glasses frothed
in creamy residue. The triangle

of fruit I’d nibbled sat moistening
the paper napkin on the sticky

wooden cocktail table. You
brought what was left to your lips

and bit the last pink flesh
from my discarded rind,

your eyes closing with each slow press
of your mouth to what I’d left behind.

All My Poetry Art Card Designs To Date

Here is a handy index of all my poetry art card designs to date. All designs are handmade by me, one individual card at a time (so please allow for slight variations across multiple cards in the same design). Most of them include fragments of my own poetry, but some contain fragments inspired by other authors. All cards are blank on the inside and are suitable for framing. The black cards have a cream-colored space on the inside to write a short note using a regular pen. All cards are $8 each. Leave a note in the comments to order, or just email me at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com.

Poetry Art Card #1; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2004
Poetry Art Card #2; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2014
Poetry Art Card #3; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
Poetry Art Card #4; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2014
Poetry Art Card #5; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
Poetry Art Card #6; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
Poetry Art Card #7; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2003
Poetry Art Card #8; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2013
Poetry Art Card #9; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2014
Poetry Art Card #10; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
Poetry Art Card #11; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
Poetry Art Card #12; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
Poetry Art Card #13; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
Poetry Art Card #14; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2019
Poetry Art Card #15; inspired by Emily Dickinson
Poetry Art Card #16; inspired by THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern
Poetry Art Card #17; inspired by Edgar Allen Poe
Poetry Art Card #18; inspired by ONCE TWO SISTERS by Sarah Warburton
Poetry Art Card #19; inspired by YOU CAN NEVER TELL by Sarah Warburton

 

Earworms on Hold for a Bit

So this past Friday afternoon at 5:00 Sunny 99.1 FM here in Houston flipped their holiday switch and started playing Christmas music. I’ve tuned in now and then just to see if they’ve got anything new, but so far it’s been a bunch of very old and pasty standards that we’ve all heard eleventy billion times. Of course, this is my cue to begin curating this year’s 12 Days of Holiday Music That Doesn’t Suck, so I’m going to do that. If you have any requests or suggestions, please put them in the comments.

But also? I’m utterly drowning in work at the moment. My grading stack is the size of two Greater Houston Metro Area phone books from the 1980s, which means the stack is approximately as tall as my face is long, and I’m also trying to get the November zine out and, I don’t know, write a book? Yeah, I’m just a skosh busy at the moment. So Monday Earworms are taking a teensy hiatus. (And that’s not the only thing about to go on a break.) Terribly sorry about that.

I’ll try not to be a stranger around here, but right now, I need to spend more time on Other Things. I hope you’ll understand.

In the meantime, if you find a store that is still selling Chobani Pumpkin Spice creamer, please let me know. Kthxbye.

xoxo

March Book Chat with Kara

Even though we can’t get away for Spring Break — because, global pandemic — Kara and I are chatting this month about books that transport us far away. Escapist literature, turned up to eleven.

P.S. — For everyone who requested reviews of Erin Morgenstern’s books, this chat is for you.

P.P.S. — Technically, it’s for everybody else, as well, but I wanted to make you Morgenstern-curious readers know I was thinking of you. Cheers!

I’m Still Here…

I know I’ve been missing the earworms and other posts a little bit lately, but I’m just trying to finish up my semester and not let my writing projects fall down at the same time. 12 Days of Holiday Music is coming VERY soon, though, and I’ve been curating this year’s series behind the scenes, so get ready. 😉

Just a Reminder…

If you’re in the market this weekend to buy some books, either for yourself or to get a jump on holiday gift-giving, consider supporting my school’s libraries with their annual Book Fair, because this year it’s all online!

You can find three of my titles there, in the Special Guests and Community Authors section:
* Finis. (Animal Affinities Book 1)
* Homecoming (Animal Affinities Book 2)
* The Sharp Edges of Water (poetry)

There are also hundreds of other books for all ages and interests, as well as some of the other non-book things you often find in bookstores (calendars, etc.).

But hurry, since Book Fair ends tomorrow. And thank you!

Witchy Weekends: “The Frog Wish” (part 7)

Welcome to the weekend, and to the next installment in “The Frog Wish,” a serialized story featuring a witch that I’m writing one scene at a time every weekend in October. You can read parts 1-4 here, then see part 5 here, and then find part 6 here. Enjoy!

*****

“The Frog Wish” (part 7)

Eleanor had never eaten partridge before, much less off a wooden skewer, nor had she sampled currant sauce. Both were quite delicious, though. At least, she thought they might be. She had eaten the first one too fast to really taste it and was bartering for a second one with the adorable child vending them out of a motley tapestried tent. Behind the tent was a large firepit with several long roasting spits slowly turning over it. An older child, possibly thirteen years old and probably the older brother of the dumpling-faced girl facing off against Eleanor, slid a small creature off one of the swiveling rods whenever someone ordered food.

“If you want seconds, you still need to pay for them,” the little girl was saying. She looked to be about six or seven years old, with bouncy ginger curls and violet irises. She wore an elaborate dress covered in ruffled edges and shiny fabric ribbons that had been dusted with silver dirt all over. The petite lace flounces at her elbows bore traces of currant sauce. But her face and hands were clean.

“I wouldn’t dream of not,” Eleanor assured her, rifling through her pockets again. She had paid for the first partridge with three quarters she’d had left over from impulsively purchasing a bottle of water in the checkout line at the hardware store. That had been after loading the slats for her new bed into the back of her car.

That seemed like days, not hours, ago now. Just a foreign episode in a half-forgotten life devoid of consequence.

Eleanor stopped short. Where had that thought even come from?

“Do you have any more of those shiny coins?” the child asked, interrupting her startle. “I liked the funny face on them.” She giggled. “My brother thought they were funny, too. He let me keep one.”

Eleanor half-smiled at that. She would parse out her existential angst later. Right now, as they said, the landscape was food. “I wish I did, but I already gave you all I had.” She had no more money on her; in her pocket was only the tiger’s eye––which she was smart enough to hang onto in this mirror world––and the ribbons it had been wrapped in. She looked at the girl’s dress more carefully. The ribbons on it were all different colors, and now that Eleanor really paid attention, they seemed to have been tied on randomly everywhere rather than as any sort of intentional design choice in the garment. Probably the girl had been collecting and adding them on herself. “That’s a very pretty dress you have there,” she said.

The girl grinned until her eyes all but disappeared. “It’s my favorite one. I always wear it on market days.”

Eleanor nodded. “And I see you have quite a collection of ribbons, too. You must really like them.”

“Yup!”

“Well, you probably already have enough, but if you wanted any more, I do have a pair of very silky black and white ribbons here in my pocket.” She pulled them out of her pocket, taking care to keep the stone hidden as she did so.

The little girl’s eyes went wide. “Those are long ones,” she said reverently. “Long enough for my hair.”

“They would look beautiful in your hair.” Eleanor kept her voice solemn as her stomach grumbled just a little bit at the roasting smells on the breeze. “And they’re the only ribbons I have. But I’m willing to give them to you for another delicious partridge, if they will be of use to you.” She held them out.

The little girl fingered the ribbons carefully, testing their smoothness, touching their neatly angled ends. “They’re not even frayed.”

Eleanor might have felt guilty about trading roasted birds for seventy-five cents and a pair of satin ribbons, except that these things seemed to hold such value for the child. There didn’t appear to be any adults at this stall. Maybe this little girl and her brother were on their own? She glanced back at the roasting spit. They knew what they were doing and boasted a brisk business. They didn’t look like urchins. Eleanor’s stomach reminded her she hadn’t eaten enough yet. Who was she to insist on the value of one or another item in a silver fantasy world you entered when a witch breezed you through a mirror with magic powder?

The force of her rationalization combated her instincts to try just rolling with the bizarre situation she was in. But before she could say anything else, the little girl clasped her hands around the ribbons. A smile opened on her face like a butterfly.

“This trade is a good one,” she said. “But only if you’ll tie the ribbons into my hair for me.”

Eleanor couldn’t hide her surprise. “Why me?”

“Because I can’t see the back of my own head and want to make sure they’re in there right and pretty.” The look on her face suggested she thought Eleanor might be dim-witted.

“Oh, of course,” she replied. “I’ll make sure they’re in their securely, too.”

The child grinned again and called over her shoulder for her brother to get Eleanor another roasted partridge with currant sauce. While he prepared her food, she tied the ribbons into the child’s mop of curls as carefully as she could, trying not to yank on any hairs or make lopsided ponytails in the process. Afterward, the child handed her the food and then made an elegant curtsy.

Eleanor smiled back and took a bite of the skewered bird. She could savor it this time, appreciate how the mildly salty first impression gave way to a tender, juicy richness. Was it gamey? Perhaps. But the sweet tang of the currant sauce mitigated it. It was delicious enough that Eleanor wondered if she should feel guilty and become a vegetarian like Moira.

Moira. Moira.

Eleanor took another big bite. Now that she had some food in her belly, she wandered back over to where Reginald was squatting on a wide tree trunk at the edge of the clearing. She sat on the tall log next to him and put the fairy tale book next to her feet. As she drifted away from the intimacy of the clearing, the colors and sounds of the market bled away from her perception. Even the partridge tasted less…vibrant? Flavorful? It resembled a well-tended game hen now. Eleanor nibbled at it again, no longer feeling guilty for enjoying it. She had other concerns.

“Reginald, do you know why Moira pushed me through a mirror?”

The frog sighed. It sounded like a humid wind through a willow tree dripping over a pond. “No.”

“And would you tell me if you did know?”

“Ribbit.” He licked his eyeball. “Yeah, I probably would.”

Knowing that felt more disappointing than Eleanor expected. It was one thing to have a recalcitrant guide and ally who could probably help you out of a bind if the need was great enough. It was another to know that the person who sent you into a surreal landscape, and had sent you a guide, had sent him into that same landscape without any idea of why you were there in the first place. She wrapped the remaining half of her partridge in the baking parchment it had come in and set it on the log next to her.

“What am I supposed to do here?” She gestured at the clearing. “This is all very interesting, but what’s the point?”

Reginald hopped a half-turn toward her. “You’re the one on the quest. What are you questing for?”

“Nothing.”

“Nonsense.”

“But––”

“Okay, let me try this again. What does Moira think you’re questing for?”

Moira was still harping on the Lucas thing. And it didn’t matter that Eleanor had told her that she was done with him. It didn’t matter that he had moved out, or that she had bought new bedroom furniture. It didn’t matter that Moira and Lucas were cousins, or that Moira always thought she knew better than everyone else, just because she had that dumb second sight or witchy intuition or whatever the hell she wanted to call it. It didn’t matter that her readings were always spot-on, even when Eleanor refused to admit it.

Moira thought Eleanor wasn’t going to be happy until she had resolved this thing. Whatever this thing was.

“Ribbit.”

“I don’t know, okay?” She sounded testy, even to herself.

Reginald licked his eyeball and hop-turned away from her. “You just keep on thinking that. I’ll wait till you figure it out.”

Well, at least he wasn’t going to abandon her here. She could feel some gratitude for that.

She picked the partridge back up, unwrapped it, and took another bite. As she chewed, she considered the Lucas situation. It hadn’t really been his fault it had ended, nor hers. Not anyone’s. He wasn’t in love with her, and Eleanor had decided that she didn’t want to waste time on a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere. And it was okay that he wasn’t in love with her. As reserved and shy as he was, she didn’t know if she’d ever have expected him to fall in love in the first place. She shouldn’t have let herself get so wrapped up in someone who wasn’t ever going to show his emotions at the level she was pretty sure she needed.

As she was about to take another bite, a blur of taupe striped fur brushed across her arm and cheek and tackled the partridge out of her hand.

“What just happened?” she shrieked.

“Ribbit.”

A loud chewing and snuffling sound came from a few paces past Reginald. There on the ground was a large tabby cat, devouring what was left of her food, nosing the parchment paper aside, one paw holding the wooden skewer down into the gray dirt.

Eleanor stood and walked over to the cat. The partridge was so gone, and the cat was licking its nose over and over again in hungry swipes. “That was mine,” she said. She didn’t have anything else to barter with. “You had no right to take it.”

“You realize you’re arguing with a feral cat?” Reginald croaked. “Do you expect it to answer you?”

Eleanor glared at him. “Why wouldn’t I expect that, at this point?”

Then the cat cleared its throat. It was standing on its hind legs and held out a pale front paw. “That was delicious, thank you,” it said. “Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Famine.”

#

*****

Please join us for my online book launch of Homecoming, the second book in the Animal Affinities series! It will be on TODAY, this afternoon at 4:00 central time, wherever you have an internet connection. Click here for the details.

Want to read more of my writing that’s already published? Click here for poetry, click here for urban fantasy, and click here for realistic flash fiction. You can also buy my books at Blue Willow Bookshop and my books and poetry art cards at Ella’s Apothecary, and I hope you will!