Umbrella
A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose

Featured Poet

A Selection of Poems

by Cati Porter


from (al)most delicious

Still Life with Interior

In the artist’s studio there is light.

There may or may not be heat, but there are
places to lie, to sit; to lean, to squat.

Over there is the doorway: the door, locked,

or possibly not. Here, an undercooked
egg, forgotten breakfast, eaten late

when hunger has driven the hand to raise fork

to tongue, swallowing without knowledge, or
regret. The artist is asleep. His brush,

extension of his hand, is poised above

her hair. She sees distance he is painting
in, and is stunned. The model has gone,

the made bed cold. No luxurious motion

can propel her beyond canvas’ plane,
save for her strange mind

languishing beneath the paint.

 

Seated Nude, part 1

I lean away as if posing with my eyes closed
will avert your gaze,

though because my face is in shadow
you are drawn

to my breasts
pressed upon the foreground.


One arm is too long for my body.
My waist and hips form an A-line

without the skirt. My other arm
obscured, the one hand

I have, abstracted:
I cannot touch you.

The sharp Y of pubis and pressed thighs
a long-stemmed martini glass brimming

with curly smoke. I am what
electricity

would look like
if it were woman-shaped.

The one that used to look like me is gone.
Don’t be fooled. I am not

asleep. I can feel you
looking. Do not look away

I would not have allowed him to paint me this way
if I didn’t love you.

 

Blonde Nude

Am I to be anything he wants me to be?

This rose-glowing hair flesh-colored against
the bluing wall half-disguised by light

as though the more he shines on me the more I glow.

I don’t mind being looked at this way, his traveling gaze;
I like that he has given me arms, hands, a frank face

with lips that look almost as though I could kiss you.

Almost. Though I have dropped my robe for you again,
determined that this connection we have made

goes beyond the skim of paint that makes me up,

still we cannot speakwill it never resolve?
Look at my eyes: they will not close until you understand.

 


 

from Seven Floors Up


“Caution Please Do Not Try to Turn the Head Forcefully by Hand!” Label found on my son’s jeans after his first day of preschool

I don’t know where it came from but it’s there, stuck
to his grubby little knee as though someone

saw his small head, how tragically
fragile, how it could turn, like a lid, quite

around. I am grateful to whoever had the foresight
to apply that label, grateful that they did not choose

“Open Me First” or “Discard After _______,”
grateful they turned my attention to the fact

that someday someone may turn his head.

 

The Mum Bell

Eight months, and I can hardly
breathe, waiting for it to drop.
My almost-three-year-old son wonders
what this is all about:

       a ball that is bound to flesh,
       a globe that does not spin,
       an inverted bowl with potential
       to knock one down.

He tells me there is a snake that slithers
my spined tree. It coils, spring
stretched taut to near breaking—threatening
to take me back to animal, to Eve?

       He extends one finger tentatively,
       traces the snake along my spine,
       and I stand straight, aware of the pressure
       of a small finger’s tip.

When I turn to face him, his small hands
cup the round of my belly. Baby humps up
to the press and I feel all of creation
squirming, the mum bell cupping primal

       ringing, ringing....

 

Seven Floors Up to the Kitchen of the Soul

The house has one door.
The house has one open door.
The house has one bourbon-hinged jangling dancing open door.

The women say, C’mon inside.
The women say, C’mon an’ have a drink inside.
The women say, C’mon an’ have a drink with all us mad mamas inside.

       Hush-hush Hush-hush
       Hush-hush Hush-hush


Slip up the stairsdon’t wake the babies.
Slip up the stairsdon’t wake the babies.
Slip up the stairsdon’t wake the babies.
They’re sleepin’ on the stove.

We’re all drunk. We’re all drunk. We’re all drunk with their love.

       Up the flame....Stir the pot....Lick the spoon
       Add salt..........Add stock.......Add wine.........Ain’t those babies cute?


Our concoction is a potion. Salve, to save your soul.
Eat, drink, rub it inbaby in the bowl.