FIVE POEMS, FIVE POETS
I’d Have Presented a Cup of Water or My Own Small Ax
She said she could read the dream
of anything, so they put her in a cage
overlooking, at first, the plum trees.
But they said this made it too easy,
that the fruit or the birds might be
where the visions were from.
So they put her underground,
and one woman dropped down
In the box, the woman
found the cloth’s dream of waterfall,
released it up.
Then they sent down
a boy who had never woken,
but his dream was in a language
so large its edges hurt. The lemon
dreamt of chaff blowing over the field.
The shoes of rising spoons of heat.
When the people had nothing left
to send, they went home
and ate, some with their hands, some
very little. In the box, the woman grew
thinner. In her paleness, she shone
like a sail of the moon’s own drift,
and so read t hat. Again and again,
as though it might release her.
MARY ANN SAMYN
Another Word for Small
The day, like a snake, had a bulge in the middle.
I cleaned and cleaned and was terrific at cleaning.
No, the day, like a dress, was pinned: tissue paper and chalk:
two kinds of rustle from childhood.
Briefly, I thought of calling.
The day, like grammar, was composed of exceptions:
after breakfast; noon; sleepy three o’clock; hope against hope; etc.
The day was not a snow day, and the sky was not a snow sky,
and the air, also not.
—Amid the winter muck, however, something bright
a toy, perhaps, or left out—months and months ago.
The marriage ran under their skin, a rash, or maybe
all that red wine, luminescent cocktail hours
in which lost books were rediscovered, or just a rash,
a reaction sending out runners across her chest,
a vine, something close, ruby scarves coming back
into fashion, their son coming back
from school, from the yard, but now, dinnertime
and the family parted, split houses, her ex and his anger
spread down the long hallway of their house
and into the windows of her new apartment, their daughter’s doubled
beds, her doubled face in family portraits that double
in frequency, a family set down and another, this dinnertime
and more red wine, our faces flush with love and sympathy,
the mother decides to see the son again, and so
our doubled flashlights giving us heaven and earth,
all of it safe or at least unmoving, the tall fence
her ex built to hide the little grave, to guard the lot
in this registered historic district (all of the houses
bear their stories on plaques, their first stories,
run-on, this little town with no street lights, just moon,
cedars), the tall fence behind which is the yard, blue,
in this yard no marker stone and under this stone
their son’s everything, no double,
LEILANI R. HALL
For Joan (1948-2007)
I don’t eat the juniper berries.
Leave them for the crows
who must carry night across their backs,
the burden of breaking into day, the fury
of feathered evening stippled against the field.
I do not shame them for each small death, light
gone under wing. Here, I am an interloper,
having put my head on the pillow, let go
the hand of day, and walked into your night, lucid.
I hate your kneecaps floating free
in their salty baths. I hate your knees,
both of them, and I hate your eyelashes,
especially the ones that fall out, the ones
you’re supposed to wish on; I wish you
bad wishes. I hate every hair
on your hairy face, hate you as much
as I hate being put on hold,
thank you for your patience
when I have none, when patience
is as far away as my first-grade teacher’s
if you have nothing nice to say . . .
Your mushroom risotto: hate it.
The salmon you’re defrosting: hate.
My vowels hate you.
My adverbs hate you. The backyard
hates you—the backyard with all its abandoned
dump trucks, with the giant hole our son dug
all summer while soaker hoses soaked. That hole
and all holes, including t he hole in the ozone,
which of course keeps getting better.
Spaghetti wrapping around a fork.
Mashed spinach and carrots caught
in the rungs of a high chair, stuck
to the floor like dried green paint: hate,
hate, hate. Each furry rabbit a little furry ball
of hate. Each blackberry a messy drupe of drippy hate.
At the China Palace the plates piled high with Mu Shu
Hate, the plates now a busboy’s burden of hate,
the only sound the dumpster’s clanging hate hate hate.
all from The Cincinnati Review 5.1 (Summer 2008). Eds. Don Bogen and Brock Clarke.