Amelie Frank
        Amelie Frank is a native of Los Angeles and is a major force in the LA poetry scene. She has received the Spirit of Venice Award for coordinating a reading at the Abbot Kinney Festival. With Matthew Niblock she founded the Sacred Beverage Press and produced the journal Blue Satellite. She is the author of five poetry collections.
        Amelie Frank’s work, when she is in her intense mode, is very intense indeed. She is not shy about confessing her innermost turmoil, and for this I admire her. What is perhaps surprising is that, good as her poems are when performed, they get even better on the printed page, where we can marvel at their smart complexity. Not that many people have been to hell, and of those people few can write about it convincingly. Amelie Frank has done this, with wit and wisdom. But she’s not mostly a poet of nervous breakdowns: her part confessional, part Beat poetry, wholly original poetry captures the city and region we live in as few poets do. I’m glad she said yes to the invitation to read for us today.


You’ve cleared your throat three times in the last hour.

The first time after the orderly came by with the hooked pole to crack the top transom.

The second when a fellow took a magnifying glass and misdirected the moted dayroom light onto the crayon boy’s tools, sparking a fistfight that involved more spit than punches.

The third when the cicada choir kicked in at 11:00 a.m. sharp, cheeling like sprinkler systems from outer space.

You don’t understand that you are worrying. Your hands do the job for you, clasping and unclasping like an uneasy wartime alliance. If you were brighter or more nimble, they’d entertain you with five finger exercises. They’d count for you, make their tips into little abacuses of meat. Perhaps even shadow conduct, but there ain’t no rhythm in those wrists, not even enough to inspire you to pull on your works.

Such is your predisposition. 

What else ails you, Sweet, Slow Thing?

Someone gave you Huck Finn, but reading’s a chore.  A headache, really. Words come into your head upside down and never right themselves. The world spills in reflected off the concavity of a spoon. Chapter and verse juggle and ping-pong between eyeball and brain, and never the twain shall meet. Using a typewriter would be like walking a tightrope.

You dry-wash your hands, and the state shrink thinks it’s penitence, but you really rub ‘em to make the big, wide world smaller, quieter, four-cornered and cotted.

On the few nights you can sleep, you hug tools like plush toys, like a baby monkey cuddling its wire mother, but since they took the tools you loved best from you for your own protection, there’s no sleep.  Only staring.

Yesterday, the state head doctor said to you “That’s not the Bible. It’s a Franklin Planner!” and laughed himself silly. “When’s God gonna pencil you in?” he asked, thinking he’d found the key to a diary, thinking you were as simple as a little girl’s heart.

The light in the dayroom is greasy. The nasty flavor in your throat puts you in mind of kudzu-soured milk and pastures of cows, each with four unhappy stomachs. Folks just don’t know when to leave well enough alone.

You reckon well enough alone is a garage and a cot.  Or a sack lunch of biscuits and bucket chicken. Well enough alone is beneath a wordless rock in the backyard. Wordless is best, you think, your heart turning rocklike as the day stretches out over the dying lawns beyond the window.  Well enough alone is a good boy learning to tinker and sharpen things. It’s the sleep of a childhood delivered from evil and reckoned in tranquility. It’s a nerve growing still.  It’s the sounds that don’t get through once the forgiving river has flooded your ears.

2014 Amelie Frank
Amelie Frank was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the December 2014
Second Sunday Poetry Series.