Poems of the Week



The Heroine As She Turns To Face Me

Just before the curtain closes, she turns
toward me, loosening
her gauzy veil & bright hair—

this, she says, this
to create scene, the pure sweep of it,
this to give in, feel the lushness,
this & just a little theatrical lighting
& you, too, can be happy,
she’s sure of it—

it’s as if I cut her heart-whole from the sky,
rag & twist & tongue & the now terrible speed
of her turning

towards me like the self
I most meant to portray, indefatigable—

see how bravely she turns, how exactly true to the turning,
& in the turning
most herself, most enacted,
arranging herself for the exit

withholding nothing, unraveling
the light in her hair & her face

says only that
whatever the next scene is,
she will fit in.


Mending Bird Houses

I free the trap door of the house and brush everything into my hand.
My friend is wound round the next fencepost: her leg hooked,
her foot anchoring, her arm flinging up and down like an oil derrick.

She buries six-penny nails with one-and-a-half strikes.
I sift chaff and soil and separate grass from eggshell.
I tweeze bones from the dander and drop them into a shoebox,

tally the dead in a notebook, and fling the refuse into the golden fields.
The fields were golden.
The birds no bigger than spools of thread.

Of course it’s the old story: each year, fewer numbers.
The truck bed is full of crude houses with quarter-size holes to keep the cowbirds
opportunists who wait to steal the nests of weaker birds—

not everyone can build something of nothing.
What we wanted was to be good.
She unwraps herself and we etch our shins wading through the brambles.

We climb into the truck, the floor full of tapes and pop cans.
We creak the doors closed and drive to the one store and tavern.
At night we sleep in mummy bags, our heads close to the cast iron stove.



Because we call the body
ashes, dust,
clothing. Containment.

Because each word
is a body-print—
dark home of indelible ink.

Because a poem breathes
air into this world,

I am here to stuff
my limbs with leaves—
ready to be

the scarecrow of
a thousand
green say-so’s.


The Sailor’s Wife

She used
just one

of the empty

as a rolling

when she baked

for his return
like Penelope wove

she baked and if
he did not come

she fed the loaves
to seagulls

As is known
the rolling pin

whether glass
or wood

makes a weapon
she kept it close

in her apron
just in case

the waves
brought someone else


all from Burnside Review 2009, Ed. Sid Miller.

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