Two Poems by Irena Praitis

Irena Praitis

Irena Praitis

Irena Praitis is an associate professor of Literature and Creative Writing at California State University, Fullerton. She earned her PhD and MFA degrees from Arizona State University. In the spring of 2005, she was a Fulbright Scholar in Vilnius, Lithuania. Her poems, essays, translations, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Rattle, Mochila Review, Mid-America Poetry Review, International Poetry Review, Cold Mountain Review, The Iconoclast, The Connecticut River Review, and Interculturidd & Traduccin. Her collection of poems, Touch, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2004, and her collection of poems, Branches, was published by D-N.


Avoid the fault lines.
(In California, this is not as easy as it sounds).
Think twice about the flood plain,
no matter how appealing that level space appears.
Remember, sea side hills with ocean views
have turned to mud in record-setting rainfall years—
who knows how many there will be of those,
or what the path of fires will be, or crashing
planes, or if that quiet crater will nap another
millennium. Look for bed rock, solid, lasting
stable. Build there. Still, how many times
walking country roads, have I seen it, seen
that uncracked base when roof and walls are gone
or ruins, and stairs lead nowhere but to an empty up?
Even firm foundations aren't always enough.

The Linoleum 

in the kitchen of my rented
apartment is worn. I see the scars
a heavy, dragged, refrigerator left,
and where the plastic casters of table legs
punched their saucer signatures. In a corner,
a child learned to pound blocks,
and left the footprint of that knowledge.
Manufactured in an era after mushroom
clouds taught us there were no angels
left to cry to, the tiles' only order
appears in their right angle corners,
and parallel sides. The pattern could be
matter in a vacuum, random flecks
and spatters of design, and even more random
scuffs of circumstance constellate on my floor.
Not the drama of a dark-sky universe, though,
just grays and taupes on off-white, streaks and
globs of non-color, seeming motion, possible
collisions, speed and stasis snapshotted into
semi-permanence in each square. I note
the marks from heels and boots, some type
of chemical spill that left an ink-like stain,
the cracks of age. Compared to such chaos,
what difference would it make if the dropped knife
scuffs the surface, if the milk is spilled,
if the newly laid carpet sheds its shag dust
over everything? These everyday disasters
wipe up easily enough from this waxless
chaos. I wonder, when they resurface
the kitchen, what will they use?