November 7th: Coleen Houlihan Features

Photo by Bill Perrault.

Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. Coleen T. Houlihan returns to us November 7th to feature.

Coleen T. Houlihan studied writing at Wellesley College and has been a writer for many years with poetry being her first love. Presently she is working on a novel. Her work has published in The Cambridge Alewife and the 2003 Stone Soup Anthology. She also has two chapbooks: This Human Heart and Desire's Burn.

She has always been attracted to the written form as a way of giving rise to emotions and disentangling them, both in herself and in others. Like any exercise, which involves two components, the writer and created piece work together to become the key that can unlock the door to the reader’s mind. Through slim picture books read to her as a child, Coleen first became that reader. She presently resides in Boston, MA. Below is a sample poem recently published in the Alewife.

The Elephants

Please understand me,
for I am mine tonight-

The ringmaster says the elephants
are all right
but as I passed their cage,
all metal and no sun,
I caught a glimpse of their eyes
and the way they were mashing
bars and tufts and chains,
the way they were biting their own skin
said to me
the elephants are wild tonight.

And he was so confident
as he lead them into the ring
with balls, hoops of fire and whips of hide-
I took a seat knowing what it would bring
and the elephants came running
around the tent as if they were sheep
deep grey and as large as submarines.
Yes, something will go down tonight.
Not me, not me, not me.

And one by one he introduced them,
names of Dolly, Sally, Pete-
and I remembered thinking,
right before the screams,
that these elephants were once from Africa-
distant, wild and free
and who did he think he was addressing,
what was it that he was choosing to see?
Not me, not me, not me.

They were beautiful
and the people screamed.
The woman next to me waved her arms
falling like brittle leaves-
clearly she did not see,
and as her head hit the floor
I thought,
“Not me.”

Dressed in red, crimson channels
that flowed down their flanks
and their wounds were the shapes of
deserts, lakes and trees
more powerful than the mark
of any hand that had touched
those wild, wild beasts…

And their cries reminded me
of my own.

But the ringmaster was shouting
foreign, bitter words.
Then the ringmaster was a decoration,
his body a blur
of white ivory and red skin
and the people were all screaming
as the hoops blazed yellow sun
and the balls burst and collapsed
and the woman on the floor was yelling,
“My god, my god what is this!”

I smiled when I saw her
looked her in the eye,
“It’s the elephants,” I said.
“They are wild tonight.”
And then I sank my teeth
into her flesh
and as the elephants thrashed,
as the elephants pressed,
I knew
they understood.