April 25, 2011

4 Poems

by jojo Lazar


I learn offstage that the waif
of a contortionist is only eighteen;
a culinary student, strangely
enough. She is amiss, all bones,
her shadow a snake-charming
sliver. Counting her ribs,

I feel my corset cut,
draw the line between physical
prowess and the brainy girl burlesque.
"What do you do?" she asks.
I fold a sonnet into my thigh high,
reply, “A phony vaudeville routine.

I’m a comedic poetess…”
She’s already stretching metatarsals
and counting on her bit’s
pièce de résistance et délicieuse.
Her limbs rearrange as impossibly
as a paper crane. She touches

her toes to the top of her shaved head,
and with a flash of her pearls,
she removes her skirt
with her teeth.
We undress to address you.
Ghazals burst my lace-veined garters,

vulgar villanelles cling to skin,
my Petrachean punchlines never
align with my stocking seams.
I know I can count
on a buccaneer with that front
row leer to bite a ballad from brassiere

every show I am limber enough
to write. I wonder if she’s always
highly aware of her ribs, worries
whether she'll be able to extend
her leg entirely over her head tonight.
In some cultures, poetry is printed on money.

Let’s press our last dollars to her feet.
(Years ago I read this poem’s last
line in my sleep. I know it wasn’t
a book I’d published in that universe,
but I’ll flash it, even
if I’m sued in my dreams…)

Rained out busking left us up to no good, Brookline

There will be no copper jingle
As it tumbles out of hat, tips raining onto
Boutineer, bound breast, sidewalk

Stage too damp in this Oh, Boston
Storm means roaming Friday night
In flapper cape, in character to flyer

Kamikaze song and soft shoe in the nice
Neighborhood's sex shoppe?
Let me regale you with linen napkins

And kugel samplers- delicate deli
Inappropriacy in ascots & bowlers:

Seated near us, a hospice patron
Speaking at Friday night volume
In a rather rowdy restaurant

We normally love the place
But it's just TOO LOUD tonight
Repeated to waiter, manager, busboy

Until we finally notice
Their untouched soup and wine
(If we'd been faster ruffians

We'd have pounded it and toasted
Them L'Chaim! on their way out)
You can't kick Semitic gem'd gesticulations

And youthful jazz hands out of a booth
For being queer(ly dressed) and bubbly as greps
Water, giggling animatedly 'bout fisting

In cartoon voices vaudeville bespeaks
Folks rather spiffed up, you can't point us out
As those rough lookin' teens with silver topped canes

Lesbros in chimney spout tophats! The one with
The nose ring and monocle! Tattoos and cuff links!
It's how the bourgeoisie & boisterous

Get away with any everything
Isn't it? Starched & collar'd delinquents
Matzo ball robber barons

Of your calm soup and crackers evening
Paying customers as pretty as we
"Get away with" enjoying ourselves, entertaining
Anyone warm-blooded as bouillon broth

Poem-a-day #89

I woke up with a dream of a ruffled
Elizabethan ruffian costume. Courtier
busking, poetry for poppenjays.


On a porch in Watertown we get
in touch with our tiny inner skeezoids,
That's me in E minor! That's me in the spot

-light losing my back to A minor...
After rehearsal, a suburban hot date
complete with shopping for boy

-cut ladies underthings. Cupping
one another in the strapless negligee
aisle. I guess we are the same bird

giggling and ribbing.
At my first trip to Friendly's, crayons
and a root beer floats

to table by a waiter that could've
been a Backstreet Boy. When
we leave the parking lot, honk and cheer

at the purple-haired andro preteen
darting dangerously across four lanes
of traffic. Don't let the squares keep you

Stage Shtetl

My whole life feeling green around the gills
In green rooms has (not) prepared me for this
Cloying smell of talcum, humid hairspray shared

In the human reflecting pool
Counter-space ~ a mine field
The silver spandex lining tense

Accordion rhinestones eclipse the
Sequined red mouth of stage
Human mike stands kneel on stained wood floor

Mascara wand nervey before smoke
Break, performer-drink, sliver of mirror to wink at
The performance poet straightening grey wig

Peeing yourself laughing at their flannel-drag
"I'm a film maker, I make films. This poem is about
Lesbians and their cats. It's called, 'Meow Mix!'"

And then it's suddenly our tiny instrument turn
Suzuki drop outs' dramatic entrance
With speculii and rosin, tadpole throats

Coughing Yiddish, Haftorah portion jitters
Make your moustached playwright mute
On half-sized fiddle, the bowler hat crowing

Lentils and gentlefolk, hear the ritual
Nom de plume in perfect reverse
Shadows of majiscules-- English and Alef-Bet

We're just living up to the Jazz Singer stereotype
Flirting with zaftig curls, colorful bracelets
What else are two nice gender-queering Jewish goirls going to do
Besides get writing degrees, wear black?

Photos by Dr. Susan Lazar, jojo Lazar, David Aquilina, and Derek Kouyoumjian.

Bio: jojo Lazar is a Boston-based multimedia visual and performance artist known as “the burlesque poetess.” She is the tenor ukulele player in circus band, “Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys,” as well as half of “The Tiny Instrument Revue.” Her poetry has appeared in Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, A Bad Penny Review, The
Starving Artist’s Diet (Jackodile Press), Magpie Magazine,
and additionally in her own zines, including “Niblet.” She is a creative writing and zine-making workshop leader with a BA from Brandeis and an MFA in poetry from Lesley University. Additionally she web-wenches as need be for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Visit her keyring site: jojolazar.com

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