it was my mother, Vesta
her given name a goddess name
it was the island where we left our i’s and e’s and o’s
it was grandfather Santo Francisco Clemente
saying, please, call me Clem
it was a girl giving birth at Holy Redeemer hospital
given a list of consecrated names
it was a neighbor going on too long about Jesus
after he noticed the Buddha in my garden
it was Buddha’s head falling off and rolling into manure
it was funny it was sacrilege it was me knowing
I was never gonna add that e back on
it was the breakup/the rekindling/the breakup
it was the Guru bestowing sacred names
as bells rang on the mountain
it was Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
on the long road to town at midnight
with a dog dying in the back seat
it was grandmother Laura Ruth Martin
and her six sisters with three names each
it was a twenty-one name salute
it was a room added onto a house I love too much to leave
it was wildfire wolfing down houses
just a few miles up the hill
it was me at two singing fire en-Jen Jen Jen Jen
loving the bright siren of sound
the energy of my name
The Bartender’s Daughter
the silvery jigger,
the strainer’s small slinky
pinned into place.
Her father, the alchemist,
twisted and tear-dropped,
Lovely the low amber light,
with snug red tongues.
She spins a pixie parasol
in a grenadine sea,
ponders mouse-sized swords
posing as fruit picks.
Guided Meditation for the Inner Child
The voice says, picture a little child,
here, in the center of your body—
and there I am, about four, holding my doll
with her cherry lips and spidery eyelashes.
She was named for the prostitute in Zorba the Greek,
when my dad, with a mingling of alarm and glee,
noticed the likeness. He whispered to my mother,
she looks like Bouboulina! Oh, I heard. Bouboulina.
The name sang in my ears. Bouboulina, companion
in my first nightmare, where she and I played
in a car on a hill. The car began to move,
picking up speed until I awoke just before the crash.
My dream, this meditation, my young parents’
marriage, all gone off the rails.
When the guide suggests we observe
our feelings I’m surprised to find tears
careening down my cheeks.
Springsteen’s Born to Run
used to loop through my head as I ran.
Decades later, out of shape and a half-mile in,
I’m stuck on a melody I finally identify as
The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,
which makes me laugh, and triggers a stitch in my side.
That’s when I hear my old coach shout,
rub it out, rub it out! He tells me to drop my shoulders,
and when I struggle over the crest of a hill
to begin the inevitable decline
he reminds me to let gravity do the work—
advice I didn’t understand as a kid,
but now I get it, so I do.
Morning with Freezing Fog
There’s a nest of glass twigs in a white lace tree.
Albino hummingbird feathers cling to every branch.
On this fleeting ice-planet frozen clouds sail past—
spirits rowing east to west. There’s George waving
his unfinished poem, and Leslie the bee-keeper
trailing a wisp of ghost-bees. When sun breaks through
fog crystals don’t melt, they just drop from the trees
to dazzle and shine for a minute or two on earth.
Sudasi Clement was the poetry editor for the Santa Fe Literary Review from 2005-2015. Her poetry chapbook, The Bones We Have in Common, won Slipstreams’s 25th annual chapbook competition in 2012. Her paternal grandfather, Santo Clemente, emigrated to the states from Italy and settled in the Philadelphia area. Her parents met while working at Russo’s restaurant, which was owned and operated by her great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Wildwood, NJ, for 86 years.