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Written by Ellyn Laub Cover Art by Cory Evan Laub ******** Published by Trestle Press Copyright 2011 Ellyn Laub License Notes This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return to this site and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. ********* FOR JEFF we’ve only just begun … again
The following poems have appeared in the following anthologies: Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry Vol. VI: “Imperfect Circles” under the title “Circular Motion” Level 4 Press Poems of Romance Anthology: “Discarded Treasure” “Extra Spicy” The following poem was published in the June 2009 issue: Poetica Magazine “Lunch with the Baumwurzels” The following poem, written in a different form, won honorable mention for the Spring 2008 contest of WOW-Women on Writing: “Peaceful Pale”
River Time Wait Less Water Words Blue Heron Grey Head Voices Questions Shutting Up Twelve Thirteen Slippery Slope Breeding Ground Larabee and Me Khaki People Double Negatives Table Manners Peaceful Pale The Taxicab Taps You Tried Imperfect Circles In The Back Seat Lunch with the Baumwurzels The Ring Discarded Treasure Finding HerSELF Not Guilty Pleasures Extra Spicy
The river boogies over rocks Rushing the roughness out of them. Green velvet shores outline the pulsing vein Crowds of uneven trees stand close Squaring sturdy shoulders The first touch of fall has poked its head through the humidity A laughing lizard scampers up the screen Birds skim along the liquid highway Some clouds drift Others stand defiant I wonder about the clocks Do we bounce them back this week or next? The Aunt who used to remind me
Every fall and spring And said put on a sweater It’s after seven o’clock No longer knows the time herself Me, I ignore time On wrists on phones on fobs The only time is now Colors have drained from the sky Like a wrung out sponge Soon it will be too dark to see the river
WAIT LESS floating females, waiting women floating in floating waiting rooms, waiting for the weight of the world to weigh them down so they can finish floating. finish floating before they float away, a way to find a way not to float away while waiting. waiting and whining and white wining with other whining women who watch each other float and fret and figure out ways to finish floating. to stop waiting, to stop waiting to finish floating. to stop waiting to start feeling, to start feeling, to finally stop waiting to feel. to finally finish floating. to allow themselves TO LAND
Spilling water. Spilling out from the depths, onto paper. It will not happen. It will spill out into the universe, not on paper. Never on paper. Wishes, hopes, dreams spray out, then float. Find their way to where they are meant to go,
But not formed into words. What is tangible, touchable, spelled out in letters, syllables, guttural sounds, Whispers even, or thought bubbles cannot be. Quiet. Quiet and solitude so good this morning. Strength found deep, showing itself with quiet care Quiet blessing. Quiet breath. Spilling water. Calm water turns violent. It only takes an instant, an elbow. Then calm again in the quiet clean-up In the peace. In the breath. In the gratitude to God. In the ritual. Call routine a ritual and it holds water, even as it spills. Call routine a rut and the peace evaporates. Violent spraying water gets into everything, under everything, But serenity soaks through the towel as it swallows up the rain. And still no words are needed, cannot be used. Intelligence highly overrated. What I do not know has more value than what I do know. I embrace the solitude because that is where the water spills. Quiet, spilling water that reminds me not to use the words. I know and I feel without the words.
BLUE HERON GREY
He stands long necked still Straight and adamant along the shore Winks a sparkling eye as I pass him by Bigger than me I see to let me go along my way And just stay where he is
arms flabbing up and down. how few Who Cares? I don’t. Sopranos are better than altos she doesn’t have to say. how small What day.HEAD VOICES Sing up in your head voice she coaches. what time How old. how young How long. I settle for being Moonbeam McSwine. or somebody’s sister or mother inferior. how little How big. And I am silenced. how squat How many. QUESTIONS How much. Why does she bother? With the lowly alto who could never hit those stupid notes that greatly-boobed divas reach with ease on klieg-lit stages. who sleeps with the pigs in Dogpatch. I Did How much I did . and Daisy May. who curtain calls somewhere in the forgettable middle. playing ingénues like Maria. clanking bracelets. But my head voice struggles with cluttered baggage that drags me back into alto-ness where I was born. USA. Dolcinea. She doesn’t care about the grit in my blood Or that I want to choke her rolled up neck until beady brown eyes pop right out of her skull and hang on springs. High notes won’t screech in your head voice. how short How tall. Because sopranos are lighter and sweeter and adored. Me. Only that the sound she gets out of me is high and sweet. my head voice screams over and over again. as pudgy fingers point me higher.
Too late IT’S ALL GONE TWELVE THIRTEEN Rejoice in this day I command my heart Today is the date she was born Took her first breath Started the life that led to me Delight in the day Not too far away Took her to her favorite place What do I like here. she’d always say And I need much more seltzer On the one day a year She wouldn’t pay Celebrate the day When she still had the Breath to blow out her candles To tell me who forgot . SHUT THE HELL UP! SHUTTING UP Shut the Door PULL it tight Hear it Click PUSH through the resistance to keep it open Maybe just a tiny Crack.quantify evaluate qualify rate grade judge measure up did I OH.
To send a card Or even call today And the breath to ask me to return The gift she never liked anyway And when I’d donate in her name Oh. she’d say Revel in the date I had to every time say To the glass partition When she’d lose her breath And had to be taken away Kicking and screaming all the way But still had the breath to Shriek don’t make me stay Then say you look thinner today How much do you weigh Commemorate the big day We invited them all To surprise her with the love in ways We hoped she’d remember all the rest Of her days And after we sang the songs I wrote for her She came right over to say I’m glad you wore mascara today Think of all this on this day My first motherless twelve thirteen SLIPPERY SLOPE In cleat-less shoes I climb the icy snow bank in search of one pure breath Steps repeat on me like undigested pickled herring No traction without rubber souls that bounce off each other Nothing to hold onto but myself Will I ever reach the cool still pond? . I like presents better.
no appeals. Pounds and drives and pokes and holds me hostage. no 60 days’ notice. I don’t even think of asking why. no warning. And waits for me at night when I return. Eviction! I strip the beds.Not on this slippery slope in cleat-less shoes with nothing to hold onto But myself BREEDING GROUND Anxiety breeds in beds in mornings like mold spores that collect in nodes of fir trees left to moisten. pounces the moment my head hits the smothering pillow. LARABEE AND ME Larabee knows of what he speaks He has the swagger of the city streets That doesn’t quite fit in a suburban mall Pills from a jar Here chew this Here take these Just swig it down like juice Wheat grass won’t make you burp Suck on an orange wedge Your cells will celebrate I do everything he says . Clings for dear life in the sheets and quilting meant to nurture. I just do it again tomorrow. Then. shoving comfort out of the way. launder the bed clothes in bleachy hot water.
Oh Larabee. They glide in kayaks And dip their oars . Khaki people aren’t my people. steel wool hair Buckshot sprayed with grey Stay behind I feel woozy I call to the curtain The floor rises to meet my folding body I open my eyes Alone with Rafael from Buenos Aires We’re in the middle of something That needs to be finished Where did Larabee go I ask him I know of no Larabee my love There is only us We leave at dawn he whispers Into my eyes The horses must first rest. I’ll be back for more For sure KHAKI PEOPLE Khaki people aren’t my people. They huddle in pastures In excited discourse about Estuaries.These are gold Just take them You’ll be back for more Larabee disappears through black velvet curtains His face. Khaki people aren’t my people. They stand along river banks Pointing out beetles and banyans On mounted charts. Khaki people aren’t my people. They roll up short khaki sleeves even shorter To stick long muscular arms down throats of snakes And act smiley and breezy and trudge on intensely lugged souls. to other khaki people. egrets and Everglades.
Poked and prodded and airbrushed Shuttering to re-focus. Entertain myself in darkened theaters and let an Italian captain steer my boat. They wear no makeup On ruddy faces And pony their tails. don’t be a khaki person if you want to be with me. Hiding in the dark room under all that fabric. Not quite developed. double dipped and hung out to dry too soon. Khaki people aren’t my people. They dig in the dirt Sing to the sky and Bring home mud on bended knees.In slapless rhythms. I’ll get my dirt from the subway. Don’t bring that filth home to me. I’ll rush by the Everglades at 80 and observe my beasts in air-conditioned HD. no thank you. flesh-toned bare. wear out my soul on the pavement. No. Khaki people aren’t my people. TABLE MANNERS . DOUBLE NEGATIVES Under exposed. It is all there. Un-retouched On contact sheets where lies the honest the real the raw. scream at bad hair days and poorly coordinated outfits.
utters a prayer. he tells her with his smile. but nothing comes out. You have to enjoy every minute of every day and be grateful for each little blessing. You have to lift your eyebrows and sparkle your eyes when you smile. contract your abs. Pale and tasteless it matches a washed-out face that awaits his response as she gently sets it down before him. Silent. from that other one. and it’s ok if you don’t Because you’re depressed. wiggle your toes. PEACEFUL PALE Her blandness bleeds into the food she prepares for him each night. kernels of colorless corn from a can. a scoop of white rice. Fiery food all muddled up together … . You have to say things like. Such peaceful food. They tell you what to do and when to do it. People pelt you with pity and Prozac. don’t you think? It seems to me that being depressed has got to be a lot easier. open your heart.I write on a napkin Being happy takes a lot of energy. A piece of chicken. You have to love yourself and follow your passions. lips part to say … Watch out for your blood pressure my dear. So much to do. Watches him knife through a chicken thigh then reach for the shaker of salt. You have to pick yourself up when the news is bad. he glides long tented fingers towards lips. Eyes closed. Thank you for saving me. You have to line up your vertebrae. Nothing much to do on your own. And then the napkin runs out of room. You have to embrace your shortcomings and forgive those all around you. You have to heal your friends with your voice and your family with your touch. The spicy one who left as suddenly as she came. Better to medicate with chemical milligrams than to confront his salty ritual. Too much drama. You have to dance like nobody’s watching and sing like you’re in the shower. too much turmoil on the plate. Beige eyes widen. “there’s a reason for everything” and “things turn out the way they’re supposed to” every time you get a rejection. She waits. Crystals in avalanche bounce off the food and onto the old wood table. You have to view all of God’s creatures as sacred and make every step a prayer. They let you shuffle around in paper slippers or stay in bed on a sunny day.
His body laughs out loud then a smile folds into itself. Until one Tuesday came. reddened his face. Patient as a newly planted bulb. Until he’d be free of that other one. But for the flowers she has studied. looks up to him even as she stands above. head shaking in wristy rhythm. The great white trillium. A cacophony of color and volume. corn at the end. Blinding flavors that prod and poke and confuse. She thinks about the beginning. he says. she waited. only headache on a plate. now rice. Tranquil. While in silence she waited.Leeks touching kale and ginger and basil and rosemary. the cardinal. made him late for meetings on disheveled Monday mornings. So gentle and soft her voice. The one who raised his voice. I didn’t hear you. Have I made him love me? Kept his life serene? Touching his arm. that he teaches to her from the books and from the valleys they visit in the west. she turns away to tend her garden. The wine he chooses for them … the Pinot. how she waited for him to notice her. Once only hers. Her only skill … lovely and confident. What. More salt this needs. now they share especially at sunset. Chicken done. On bended knees she turns the soil in the new bed. and sometimes even beets and yellow pepper. . She hangs on every word. only flowers. She needs him to teach her all she doesn’t know. past comprehension. When they drink the red wine. clueless of her fluttering heart for his brilliance. the one she counted on. What does he think? She worries. gave him gifts he accepted with professional gratitude. Quiet are her flowers. the others she can teach. No room for lawn. Sauciness beyond recognition. and even no meat.
Kept to himself in his chair as hours passed. like a cloak that dragged down shoulders and rubbered legs. Watched him take his first bite and say … please pass the salt. thank you. She prepared for him her first chicken and rice and corn. he’ll get another When can I come back? A person has to finish Kindergarten you know. trust me I’ll never do to my children what you’re doing to me That’s a very good thing she says through blue tears But then I grew up and I did. can you heal me with some quiet food. He sleeps through. I’m here for you. THE TAXICAB TAPS The taxicab waits Tapping its tire No time to gather my belongings Or my courage Why is mommy crying in the back seat? She holds the baby close. and whispered. What about the large boat? You mean the barge boat? I didn’t finish making it yet The glue needs time to dry Daddy will be sad if I leave his shirt It’s the best smock in the class That’s okay. Red rimmed eyes asked.The morning he brought in the darkness. maybe tonight? I’ll bring the wine and teach you about it. He inhaled the harmony of it. YOU TRIED . She glowed inside but kept it under quiet wrapping. she softly said after a gentle knock. It’s fine if you just go to first you’re so smart Did we take my green Huffy? No room for training wheels in this taxicab I can see Stop asking so many questions It will be okay soon.
I’m good at hearing punctuations Sometimes I see them I see words when they speak Sometimes I can even see their Handwriting in their voices Words floating out of their mouths And on to a blackboard I love to write on the blackboard Always did . touch my trembling hand And wipe away my tears But then I saw you trudge away Through streets so cold and bleak The sight that haunts me to this day A tear rolled down my cheek She tucked me in and stroked my hair So I could fall asleep To close my eyes. I wouldn’t dare Into my dreams you’d creep She said one day I’d learn to cope Together we both cried And that’s when I discovered hope I’m so glad that you tried IMPERFECT CIRCLES I can hardly distinguish the words Coming out of his mouth But I could hear the question mark. drawn and thin An upturned collar to shield the night And boxes wrapped and soaked Were held by arms that pressed so tight The sadness made me choke Much too young to understand Why you couldn’t come upstairs To hug me.I knew you were out there in the rain But she wouldn’t let you in My face was pressed against the pane I saw yours.
But does he remember Or choose to forget about the wife in the back seat that day in the maroon car .Wonder why it took so long To become a teacher Love my fountain pen too Aqua with a silver top Real ink from a bottle Write smooth as silk My papa teaches me penmanship Making circles on paper over and over Again with pencils he sharpened With a scratched-up pen knife Perfectly round Loose handed circles Keep them all the same size Loosen up and let go But keep control Wonder how I do both At the same time I can smell his cigar Skin shiny and smooth Hard and soft at once Like him Doesn’t smile much But he smiles at me He has a space between His two front teeth So do I One day I discover He can take some of them out I try to take mine out too Like him IN THE BACK SEAT I can see her through the mist A specter in toothy white I take his hand my little brother now bigger than me.
And when I say to the first father who is SHE. LUNCH WITH THE BAUMWURZELS Long lost cousins Dining out at last From Brooklyn to Boca. . Not too curious a journey But so many stops along the way. He’s always been a Baum too. She traced us back to Poland And told us we’re not who we think we are All my life I was a Baum which means tree Until I became a Laub which means leaf How cool is that? And now she tells me I’m really a Baumwurzel? What the heck is a treewurzel I wonder? Suddenly I’ve lost my identity. And all because of some lazy Ellis Island drone who maybe ran out of ink When he got to the wurzel part. you see Longer than me So you can imagine how he feels to think There’s a hanging wurzel out there somewhere. Dad’s not sure she’s right. oh that’s my wife he answers and I’m TOO polite and sweet and never angry or bratty until every ounce of obedience tangles me up like the perverted twisted rubber bands we find when we slice open his golf ball But maybe my little brother doesn’t remember or chooses to forget while I keep turning around to look at her while he plays with the little metal truck in his hand and asks to go to Nathan’s for a frank-a-footer and green custard. He says he doesn’t believe her But she drags out all the papers and graphs and charts. This long lost cousin.
Doesn’t this upset her? But the glimmer in her eyes from newfound knowledge illuminates the table And this PhD’d long lost cousin begins the wurzel lesson. Congratulations. but a certain kind of beet that’s what wurzel means The kind that’s used for feed. I put my fingers in my ears and la. Never put up the wall Kept an open heart like you taught me Thought we were at peace. not me. causes more pain than my heart has ever known. make her stop. la. It cuts more deeply. Could you not have just thrown it into our lake? Let it sink silently to the bottom Let me pretend you would keep it forever. To hurt me back. la but she keeps on and on. You want to keep nothing of me. Make sure I know it. la. Beets you know. So you send a messenger To give it back. He yawns and takes another spoonful of borscht. Careful not to spill any borscht on the wurzel stuff She snorts a sly little laugh Why is she so cavalier I wonder? She was a Baum all her life too. Dad. THE RING You don’t want it. DISCARDED TREASURE His dismissal rocked her . From a majestic tree to a gnarl rooted filthy beet no. la.All yellow and tattered and faded. Let me pretend you are still kind and beautiful and compassionate? And let me pretend that I did not take all of this away from you. Because I didn’t see it coming.
Too many things. electromagnetic feathers but it always comes back. She waits.like an agitated ocean Feet grew into beach balls stomach clenched. Now she has to dust shoes? Maybe the bouncing leg will toss off the dust. she heard somewhere. Too much dust. She wants to go home but not sure where that is. She waits. Even more peculiar shoes. Teacher shoes off the bouncing foot Leg in pants a bit too big. The foot that hangs off the leg draped across the other leg. It comes every single week or even more often than that. . Dust. eyes bloodied Brought her to a fresh universe Dumped her by the side of the road to be pooper scoopered by the mute street sweeper who caressed his discarded treasure took her to a priest who nuptuated them and sewed back toes so she’d stand again steady And silently saunter. elbows linked Paired brooms sweeping ahead peering closely at the gravelly road Expecting their baby. Looking across the sky into the Everglades. In the crease of the peculiar shoes she sees the dust. the dust. FINDING HerSELF Peculiar Setting. most times served not choppy enough. her day chopped up like chopped salad. Living on the outskirts but never going in to where the mutually enhancing ecosystem thrives and exchanges life force with all the creatures God has made. She tries all the dusters the rags the sprays.
I’ll bet they all can click this and that and solve the problem. Don’t think they’re geeks or Jews or care about clicking away the problem. she wraps herself in her prayer shawl and sings the melodies that calm her soul. But solved lots of problems and called her a madela. Should. watches that. Another father and son are clones in buzz cuts. The world needs geeks and Jews. click on that. dad has no neck at all. No problem says the Microsoft man in Bombay Click on this. Does she know how to plot? Does she have to plotz before getting her bean? Oh. But it’s happy hour so she can overdrink. Chilly and choppy like her days. She loves to see her friends get beans and sick of it not being her But does she write stories or poems or essays or a book about her Bubby who never clicked this or that. But spleenless and pained she’s less likely to overeat. If writing is the last thing she does she’ll run out of air in the space she calls home even if she doesn’t know where that is. Junior has a neck tattoo.What if that car jumps the boundary and the gas pedal gets pressed instead of the brake and the grille smashes into the spleen. or care about getting a bean. While she waits with a bouncing foot off slimmer legs in loose pants until she eats too much tonight and they get tight. could she teaches her students After she does this. . And settles on the oddity that is HER life And lets it be. she thinks she has to work at it. writing that is. no problem. That man with the big belly and breasts that jiggle with his nerdy family. Then lets God decide who she is because he made her that way. does that. clicks this and that. reads this. no problem. would. we solve it right away. It’s hip to be geeky.
NOT GUILTY PLEASURES In my dream There’s a bowl full of chuckles Every color but the black ones The chuckle-filled bowl Is in the little glass room Where my execution is to take place I eat half the bowl Lick sugar off my fingers Oprah and Dr. Phil are telling me How to deal with guilt I feel not one ounce of it Who cares how fat you are when You’re about to die Not even gonna brush or floss I like the black ones So many people don’t He wakes me up With morning rustling Sorry. his guilty voice tells me Oh. When I left. EXTRA SPICY I just finished off the fennel But that’s okay because I have another I have another of it all The oregano and thyme and cinnamon. that’s okay You saved me from my execution But I did want to finish those chuckles He understands me And that’s not a dream. the oregano stayed For his grilled cheese sandwiches and spaghetti .
##### Thanks for taking the time to read IMPERFECT CIRCLES. like the toaster. Please look for other titles published by Trestle Press. .So did the garlic for his pizza So I had to get my own like the car. I finally finished the fennel And tossed the empty jar In the coming back Like the remerge of the cell phones the gym membership the medical plan And all seven dwarfs in their thirty-year-old Disney rubber Who brought me back home when I couldn’t decide which of the seven To split down the middle Stand sentry in this old new life To remind me that no extra spice is needed here thank you. like the desk I picked out my own all of it and Paid for it all too on my own Even the basil and the black pepper The extra salt shaker too And when I came back into my life There were all those extra spices In their separate jars But today. We hope you enjoyed it.
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