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Ode to Clichés, and: Things Nick Told Me
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Ode to Clichés

Praise for what's not original, for clichés:
your grandmother's hands, sunsets / rises, a rose
(especially red), your dog's brown eyes, wet nose,
spring's first crocus, and on and on. All praise.
Clichés are dull knives, used past usefulness,
while the glittering image I value most
may be the egg-slice that jams the drawer, much less
use than the bluntest stub that butters toast.
We're language's spoiled brats, raised on abundance. How
we scorned the handmade, homegrown, how we hated
the fruit our grandmothers' hands strung in their youth
from attic rafters, diminished, wrinkled now,
oversweet from what's evaporated,
dense and crunchy with small seeds of truth.

Things Nick Told Me

Mango and lacquer and poison ivy share
the same chemical, urushiol; eucalyptus
leaves contain napalm; most medicinal leeches

are bred at our local university
and will only feed attached to skin.
The crunchy bit in the middle of your fig

is the body of a female wasp.
No matter what Miles Davis said, there is
one mistake in jazz and Davis made it.

Sometimes Nick supplies the next step for me,
conclusions, consequences. California
had firestorms in 1991

when eucalyptus groves exploded. Yes,
sometimes the sensitive get "mango mouth,"
and while urushiol breaks down in sunlight,

the archaeologist who chose to sit
on the newly exhumed Japanese throne
learned something about the Toxicodendron genus.

There are lambskin condoms, and lab assistants
fill them with blood and lower them to the leeches.
A fourth on a one-chord is unforgivable.

But Nick admits he learned a vital lesson
from Miles Davis: If you make a mistake,
don't flinch, don't fudge, don't try to cover up.
Make the same mistake again on purpose.
Do it a third time. Then, finally, play it right.

Susan Blackwell Ramsey  

Susan Blackwell Ramsey's book, A Mind Like This, won the 2011 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and was published last year.

Copyright © 2013 Louisiana State University Press
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Susan Blackwell Ramsey. "Ode to Clichés, and: Things Nick Told Me." Southern Review 49.3 (2013): 423-424. Project MUSE. Web. 18 Jul. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Ramsey, S. B.(2013). Ode to Clichés, and: Things Nick Told Me. Southern Review 49(3), 423-424. Louisiana State University Press. Retrieved July 18, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Susan Blackwell Ramsey. "Ode to Clichés, and: Things Nick Told Me." Southern Review 49, no. 3 (2013): 423-424. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 18, 2013).
T1 - Ode to Clichés, and: Things Nick Told Me
A1 - Susan Blackwell Ramsey
JF - Southern Review
VL - 49
IS - 3
SP - 423
EP - 424
PY - 2013
PB - Louisiana State University Press
SN - 2168-5541
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/southern_review/v049/49.3.ramsey.html
N1 - Volume 49, Number 3, Summer 2013
ER -


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