Wednesday, December 30, 2009
"Looking Glass Secret" by Richard Fein
A songbird does a duet for hours and always thinks itself in good company,
without an inkling it’s singing solo.
But comes the day when baby finds no other baby behind the mirror.
Before, if he laughed that other baby laughed, and if he cried. . ..
So all babies laughed and all babies cried and he was all babies.
But came the day he peeked behind the mirror and found no other baby.
He danced and so did the mirrored baby but never out of step with him.
He spread finger and thumb across the mirror’s edge
and suddenly discovered there’s no room within for a baby playmate.
He cried and babbled words like mama and dada.
And many, many words later the child again looked deep into the mirror.
But by then he could mouth that unsettling word —
"The key to the tower" by Laura Kasischke
There was never
There was never
A key to the tower
There was never a key to the tower, you fool
It was a dream
It was a dream
A mosquito's dream
A mosquito dreaming in a cage for a bird
The summer's over
Your passionate candle in a pumpkin's head
And the old woman's hand in this photograph
Appears to be nailed to the old man's hand
And the sky
And the sky
And the sky above you
Is a drunken loved one asleep in your bed
And the tower
And the tower
And the key to the tower
There was never a key to the tower, I said
And this insistence
It will only bring you sorrow
Your ridiculous key, your laughable tower
But there was
A tower there
And the key
And the key
I still have it here somewhere
Monday, December 21, 2009
"Baked Ziti" by Jeffrey Rotter
then she is orphaned
this is one example of the joke against humanity
a man beside you on the train
has been diagnosed with a learning disorder
his doctor sends him home with a pamphlet
the man struggles between station stops
to decipher “Sexy Dial,” advice for the dyslexic
written in anagrams
this is another example
the sleet pays you compliments
but to receive them you must stand outside
with your stocking cap stuffed in your coatsleeve
until your hair is crusted with ice
Saturday, December 19, 2009
"'Sadomasochism is Not for the Forgetful" by David Phillips
Saturday, May 23, 2009
"O, Penelope!" by Lynne Knight
The nuns of Mount St. Mary's loved Penelope, whose skills
they urged us all to emulate: She fought off men. She used
her mind. Long after we'd read the prose version, slightly
sexed down (those nights with Calypso eclipsed),
Penelope was steadily invoked—wily, though not quite
as wily as Mr. Wiliness himself; patient, so that even Job
might take his text from her; discreet in her appetites,
which the nuns chose to ignore, never quizzing us on
the scar (since God forbid we should mention
the man's thigh) or the bed with its highly unusual post.
No, ours was the Penelope of Attic vases,
gowned, accepting gifts from suitors, or sitting
at her loom, elbow on knee, head on hand, thoughtful
Telemachus beside her as she figured out her next move
now that the maids had betrayed her. No more unravelling!
But she was shining among all women, the gods would intervene ...
Heretical, yes, but we mustn't blame the Greeks;
at least [finger wag] they believed in something.
And they liked a good story: Odysseus stringing the bow,
stripping off his rags to guide the fatal arrows
to the suitors until the great hall smoked with blood ...
Not that we were being asked to condone violence.
But anything to preserve virtue! [sigh] Anything!
No wonder so many of us headed straight
for the back seat of a car. Why wait any longer?
We wanted to test our pluck and ingenuity ...
and then, hand sliding down a bare thigh,
whisper, Oh, I'd know you anywhere ...
Monday, May 18, 2009
"The Language Problem" by Philip Levine
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
"Landscape with Arson" by Jennifer Grotz
Have you ever watched a cigarette released from a driver's fingers
swim through the night air and disintegrate in tiny embers?
Invisible by day, fire's little shards, its quiet dissemination.
That's how, one hot afternoon, no one noticed when
something desperate made the boy devise the strategy
to siphon gas from the motorcycle with a discarded straw,
spitting mouthfuls into a fast food cup until there was enough
to set the apartment complex on fire.
It happened in a neighborhood at the edge of town
where the wind sifted a constant precipitation of dust
like desiccated snow and the newly-poured streets
looked like frosting spread across the desert field.
Ducks had just found the man-made pond.
At dusk, they waddled ashore
to explore the construction site like the boy.
He started with the door. Stood mesmerized
as the fire took on new colors. He fed it litter
collected from the field. It hissed and turned green,
it splintered pink, it bloomed aureoles of blue.
But there was hardly time to admire it before
remorse overtook him and he fled.
Before the howl of sirens. He was
gone before—he started with the door—whatever
he wanted to let out.
Something can stop being true in the time it takes
a cigarette to burn to its filter. It was your crime
but it's me who goes back to the scene. Now it's only me
who wants to burn something for you, but there's nothing left—how
do you set fire to the past? Only an impulse to shake free—like cellophane
peeled from a pack—something that clings.
Sometimes I conjure a fire for you in my mind,
the gnats swarming furiously above the water, up and down,
can you see it? How they mimic flame, hovering
at the pond's edge. Lately I find myself there all the time.
Monday, April 27, 2009
"Sitting Down to Breakfast Alone" by Christian Wiman
over blanching yolks with an expertise
honed from three decades of dawns
at the Longhorn Diner in Loraine,
where even the oldest in the old men’s booth
swore as if it were scripture truth
they’d never had a breakfast better,
rapping a glass sharply to get her
attention when it went sorrowing
so far into some simple thing—
the jangly door or a crusted pan,
the wall clock’s black, hitchy hands—
that she would startle, blink, then grin
as if discovering them all again.
Who remembers now when one died
the space that he had occupied
went unfilled for a day, then two, three,
until she unceremoniously
plunked plates down in the wrong places
and stared their wronged faces
back to banter she could hardly follow.
Unmarried, childless, homely, “slow,”
she knew coffee cut with chamomile
kept the grocer Paul’s ulcer cool,
yarrow in gravy eased the islands
of lesions in Larry Borwick’s hands,
and when some nightlong nameless urgency
made him seek some human company
Brother Tom needed hash-browns with cheese.
She knew to nod at the litany of cities
the big-rig long-haulers bragged her past,
to laugh when the hunters asked
if she’d pray for them or for the quail
they went laughing off to kill,
and then—envisioning one
rising so fast it seemed the sun
tugged at it—to do exactly that.
Who remembers where they all sat:
crook-backed builders, drought-faced farmers,
VF’ers muttering through their wars,
night-shift roughnecks so caked in black
it seemed they made their way back
every morning from the dead.
Who remembers one word they said?
The Longhorn Diner’s long torn down,
the gin and feedlots gone, the town
itself now nothing but a name
at which some bored boy has taken aim,
every letter light-pierced and partial.
Sister, Aunt Sissy, Bera Thrailkill,
I picture you some dime-bright dawn
grown even brighter now for being gone
bustling amid the formica and chrome
of that small house we both called home
during the spring that was your last.
All stories stop: once more you are lost
in something I can merely see:
steam spiriting out of black coffee,
the scorched pores of toast, a bowl
of apple butter like edible soil,
bald cloth, knifelight, the lip of a glass,
my plate’s gleaming, teeming emptiness.