Charlotte Innes recently published a chapbook Reading Ruskin in Los Angeles (Finishing Line Press 2009). Her poetry has also appeared in The Best American Spiritual Writing 2006 (Houghton Mifflin), and various journals including The Hudson Review, The Sewanee Review, The Pinch, Ekphrasis, The Chaffin Journal, and Knockout.  She was a semi-finalist in the 2008 St. Lawrence Book Award, Black Lawrence Press, N.Y. Her other awards include Knockout magazine’s Inaugural Poetry Award (for a poem that will appear in Knockout’s third issue, Fall 2009); the 2007 Chaffin Award for Poetry; the 2007 Anne Silver Award for Poetry sponsored by Speechless Magazine; and a First Prize in the 2003 Poetry in the Windows contest in Los Angeles. She has also written about books and the arts for many publications, including the Los Angeles Times and The Nation. Currently, she is writer-in-residence at Pilgrim School, Los Angeles, where she teaches English and creative writing; assists students in putting out a literary magazine; and runs a visiting writers series.

Late Lunch

like birds at dawn, a chorus of Latin voices
bursts from a carwash radio below—
          the drum, light and steady, a lid
          to hold in the boiling mass
of piano, brass, accordion and vocal chant,
          the beat
          of joy and grief.

          How does my body
still perform its carnival of tricks?
The placing of an egg in cup, of toast on plate,
against the growl of cars, the palm leaves’  clatter?
          How late it is, how late.
          The music
tugs and rends
          the pattern of my day—

          the carwash vacuums’ unrelenting
the variance of pitch
in sync with users’ movements,
          the swish of water.

          Across the street
a quinceañera’s starting up. By dark,
my living room’s delirious with song.
I wash my dishes to their cumpleaños cheers,
          the stall,
          the surging of the drum,
the hush of traffic,
          the waltz of butterflies.
                          —Charlotte Innes

Published in American Diversity Report
for Women’s History Month 2009

Inviting a Friend to Dinner
                            (after Ben Jonson)

When you are next in town, I would be honored, sir,
if you would dine with me. I have a small place,
a little shabby perhaps, but cosy. The lamps
glow soft and warm, and with the curtains drawn,
you’d think you were in some New York or Paris bistro.

I would serve you something humble first,
home-made hummus, say, with warmed bread,
salad from the local farmer’s market, tasty
green beans, roast chicken, with peach
and honey sauce, rice—and wine, of course.

For dessert, I would offer my apple pie with cream.
And I would have Schubert playing, something quiet and sweet,
with a touch of sadness, to remind us of all life’s delicacies.
And I could read to you, or sing, or we could both sing,
or you could recite poems over cognac or coffee or tea.

And we could talk, of extraordinary or ordinary things.
For there is something to be said for the quiet, daily ritual
of breaking bread, for the discussion a meal engenders—
nothing fancy, neither food nor talk, just the old
stories, the old good-natured teasing between friends.

I don’t think Horace or Homer and his Odysseus
would disagree that at such moments people
are at their best, that spirited conversation over lunch,
or dinner or tea, or even breakfast, may be the essence
of humanity. Sir, let’s put this theory to the test.

—Charlotte Innes

“Inviting a Friend to Dinner” won The 2007 Chaffin Award for Poetry and appeared in The Chaffin Journal 2007.



The lavender's violence is drying out.
Huge waxy magnolias open wide,
languid, like giant endives deciding
it's uncool to be so tightly wound.

Tonight, a come-hither breeze is jilting
the real world. It's whispering, you will.
A car screeches rubber in the street until
the street is smoking, and the smoke livid

unquiet. Boys are barking and yodeling,
they are exhaling light. The befogged car
floats and chokes for joy. There's no end
to this unwary month's adjectival riot.

 Published in The Eleventh Muse 2007

Charlotte Innes Poet at Moonday Poetry
photo credit: Shweta Chanda

© 2009 Charlotte Innes

  MOONDAY HOME PAGE (Current Features)  
MOONDAY (Previous Features)  
                             MOONDAY (Upcoming Features)