Noe Valley Voice March 2009


Melissa Ann Sweat

Weather like all things changeable is only temporary

foggy somnambulant nest
with wisps of spider's web
pulled in patches
like cotton candy from the skein

kissing rooftops with one long wide kiss

you are a mother's evaporating breast
you are
a white-haired grandmother
turning over to die

Women in season

Walking down the street in San Francisco, Spring had arrived on a Saturday afternoon

And I heard a man say to his male friend: I love this weather. All the women are out!

Women, who had hunkered down in late Summer, were now
Popping up pregnant like mushrooms.

And all the young ladies were wearing sun dresses
Pretending, of course, like it is
no event to wear a dress in Spring...

To be a girl in a season once.

June lightning at night

My neighbor's dark faces light up in blue-white.
Then purple. The flash spreading like Hiroshima.

I picture Iran or North Korea
or some other sworn enemy,
dropping finally,
their bombs on us.

In my bed, I quail at the oncoming
dust cloud.

Once more, the flash races across the sky.
Rushing like a million thrashing bulls.

I can hear the neighbors stirring:
What is it? So close...

Setting off our car alarms,
We wake to imagined war.

Elsewhere, someone prays instead for lightning.

The unkempt hair of the intellectual

The unkempt hair of the intellectual,
thick and frowsy.
You could gather clump fulls of the brown tufts
between your fingers.

I watch him read the paper
absorbing the day's digest of words and images

and wonder:
What horrors of man made the pages today?

What ink steeped in blood,
What justified lines seep into his heart

...through all that hair?

Arriving at the station we race downstairs for the train.
He slips in, then I
just before the doors shut
clipping my coat.

"Phew," I say
and we laugh,
looking past our hot cheeks at the floor,
our hair all a mess.

In this moment, we are victorious--
by a few hot steps. By a dash.

In victory, my heart beats faster: from the race,
from the laugh with a stranger,
despite the dead news in the paper.

Tending the Grave

Though our Flower's been plucked
We come because we must
We come because we must
dust the detritus off the cold wet grave.

An April rain has brought a splattering
of fresh black mud upon the stone.
Earth has kicked up soot and muck,
shaking itself like a soaked dog.

We came to wipe it clean,
to tend the grave
To bring a lei of fresh flowers
bought from the store.

Precious Flower, this one.
What a precious blossom this one was.

Our sister. Our daughter.
Our precious one.

Now, only the stone remains,
the earth, the grave
and our tending.

The meta-reality of calling "Taxi!"

Taxonomy was Adam's task.
To name the unnamed is the poet's cause.
But an ordered conglomeration,
a measured ornamentation of signs and letters
only approximates:
This sort of color. That sort of sound.

From Myanmar to donnybrook.
Each word is hyperlinked; historical,
mouth-full of severed tongues and wars.

War itself is a very old word, and world even older. And as for woman, and what came before...
They'd utter,

wuh wuh wuh
the sound of wanting more.

The first shall be last

art we could no longer make
us alone
standing on the bleached bald world

not even the universe could captivate us
all was suffering in the last days

there wasn't anything more to interpret
no myths or mysteries
we had demolished every page
of the old texts

and squeezed out our DNA

we are bloodless stones

we are death without a history

whoever comes next will not know our names

Poet Melissa Ann Sweat presently resides in San Jose, Calif., where she was born. After winding through several colleges and universities, Sweat completed her bachelor's degree in American Literature and Culture at UCLA in 2006. In addition to writing, her passions include creating art, music, and short films. Currently, Sweat can be found traveling (or not) via train across the United States on the trip of her dreams. Where she will settle after her journey has yet to be determined. You can still reach her at or at