Poems of the Week


Late Summer Litany

My neighbor’s almost ex-husband, an auto salesman with a
different car each week, is over to visit his son, a lively bear cub
of a boy. The man only comes over with electric prodding, to his
son’s delight. In the former’s defense, the man cannot help that
he enjoys golf more than small boys. His two daughters from
another marriage live in Maine and do not demand much of him.
he says marriage has bit him in the ass two times and he has
learned his lesson. My neighbor upstairs grieves, as anyone
would, at their failure. She remembers the charm he had ten
percent of the time. I sit on my concrete steps, drinking cold rum,
watching the boy enter another new car. The crickets and the
birds keep repeating, we don’t change, we don’t change, and the
fireflies turn on and off like love.

1. Dog Grows Fish Scales
from The Dog Poems

It was after winter shedding he noticed
the first silver. A coat of armor really,
making him look like one of those robot dogs
in science fiction movies.

He enjoys the change.
A silver dog shimmers in the moonlight
and is never ignored at dance halls.

Dog wonders about this phenomenon—
will he grow gills? Are there furry fish?
When he swims, will he make
some fisherman become deranged?

In his nightmares, he is being scaled
and deboned, even though he is a dog.
He is sold at the fish counter,
even though he is red meat.

There Was a Soldier, Not a Sparrow, Inside the Golden Cage
(after a Russian tale)

Disguised as a sparrow, he watched
princess Emma unbraid yellow hair,

saw petticoats falling, corsets unlacing,
as he sang her ditties he’d heard in the fields.

She thought the brown bird had come from some suitor;
the old woman said so—the girl took her word.

Four servants were needed to bring in his birdhouse.
(The hag, on her horse cart, left town.)

My little brown songster, my sweet
feathered warbler, who sent you to sing?

crooned Emma, who circled the cage in her bloomers
while the dressmaker laced her all in.

To see Emma close, he had wandered the forest,
cornered a hag to conjure a cage.

The hag, who was partial to those with brass buttons,
pulled him up close, then feathered him, small;

said he could unlatch his cage during slumbers
of golden-haired girls between brocade drapes.

Could switch, with a wish, his feathers for skin.
(Now back to the princess.) The girl took him in.

Imagine the girl’s rage, to wake, him above her.
She raise up her mirror, cracked open his crown;

yelled for her lady, then saw in his falling
not a man, but a bird, come down.

The cage door ajar, the girl understood
that soldier and sparrow were always the same.

The nurse swept the mirror, the girl wrapped the sparrow
up tight in her stocking. His little head glistened.
His lungs folded in.

*all from The Woman With a Cubed Head, Western Michigan University, 1998.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: