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SOFT FLOORS

Twenty-five Poems, Old & New

Patricia Angela “Petra” F. Magno

Tambay.jpg
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Unlimited Talk Time
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The Only Human Thing
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The Death of Me
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Bridesmaid’s Poem
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Woman in the Kitchen
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Slow Burn
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Girl looks at photograph of a lover’s ex-lover
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How to Court a Leo
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Ptolemy was wrong about the universe;
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Ptolemy was wrong about the universe;
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“It was the thirteenth night and
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Sonogram
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La Oroya
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Swing
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Practice Parataxis
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True Love
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Inviting Absolutely No One for the Weekend
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Jokes the Academe Has Ruined for Me Forever
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Welcome Home, Children
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Mary of Magdala
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when they think they can fly
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{Artist’s Statement}
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{Artist’s Statement}
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{Artist’s Statement}
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Tambay.jpg

One of them too loved the point
I made; his laugh rocked the boat.
The other lit another joint
and the bed began to float.

Two brothers whose record player skips –
the lulls like commas unfurled –
one of them blew smoke past my hips,
the other put on pause the world.

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Unlimited Talk Time

but those who sell this really mean
only the wee hours of the morning.
Do they call them the wee hours because
between 11pm and 6am everything seems so small?
Especially your voice now, trickling in
from somewhere almost too far away to be real;
in that soft somewhere, people sell unlimited hours,
oh that I were spending these hours with you,

instead of being – unequivocally – here,
straddling this strange line where the only
thing I am sure of is that I wish I knew how
much you paid to hear my crackling voice
over distance and despite time, rather than hear
that it costs you nothing, to hear that I can tell you
I love you, over and over, right up until the sun rises.
Or six in the morning, whatever comes first.

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The Only Human Thing

On her childhood bed, they attempt,
entangled like animals, to scale a height.
Later he would describe it back to her as
straightforward making love. In her mouth,
crouches the word fucking. Like animals.
Despite her misgivings and that unspoken word,
she recognizes the need for this:
the gut-wrenching goal to achieve.
As if, with their bodies at first imploding,
and then expanding – some huge pressure
being lifted in an instant – they had reached
some shining peak: two hikers scaling the same
great mountain, at the same time and yet
separately. To meet, face to face, at the tip,
the sudden gasp at the thinness of the air,
there was no choice but to clutch at each other,
the only human thing they could see for miles,
and then to descend, slowly, on opposite slopes,
murmuring each other’s names.
To say your name,
to hear mine, rising up to me as if from
the very core of the earth I tread,
this is the only human thing for miles.

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The Death of Me

will be that, crossing the street,
it is not the cars I see, but rather
the gaps into which I run.

At night, my gaze is not at stars,
but at the absence of a sun.

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Bridesmaid’s Poem

Young girls tear
holes into
their souls
yet the goal’s
a circle
of gold,
not to be
consoled –
as the flowers
unfold from
a bride’s hold,
young girls
behold
the great role:
to be
lifted,
lightweight,
over a threshold.

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Woman in the Kitchen

She stews over her own spoilings while the husband raves about his new girl
and she wouldn't know a thing about that if the women didn't tell her,
as they bring her onions and then turn away when she begins to weep.

In the kitchen she cries over more than spilled milk,
while her mother’s mother’s recipes offer consolation
only about the rising of bread, the uncorking of wine.

Her own children watch her walk through the house
with but a towel on, and they think of the fried chicken
they had for lunch next door, the brittle skeleton, the stringy flesh,

the tendons coming apart, and the vague sense of guilt because they know
dear mother is a vegetarian: she cannot stomach the thought
of some poor thing being slaughtered to feed beasts of the same skin

while outside her kitchen window the women flock and gossip, tongues
like knives, cawing as one of them offers to make her the best beef stew in town,
so tender that meat falls off the bone.

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Slow Burn

From her window seat in the afternoon,
close to the leaves of the mango tree,
the mind’s dispassionate eye replays her last tryst
in this small room. Now she sees from the view
of the carpenters who on that one hot day
began beating in a new roof outside her window,
who must have seen them fucking late into the day,
despite the white drapes she hung over the glass,
despite how she had chosen to push the bed
to the far corner of the room and be held down there.

The men must have caught flashes of their shining limbs
in the mirror by the closet, they must have seen her dresses
silent in stance, the open door; must have braced themselves
for balance against the windows shut tight.
This hot room, the muffled cry.

The window’s relentless presence as witness and frame
to what still had to be fixed.

Today, like on other Sundays the gardener next door
has swept up all leaves from the garage underneath,
and he starts a fire. She chooses this moment to light a cigarette,
listening for the hiss of the fire below, that slow consumption,
listens for the miniature roar that issues from her own match.

Her window fills with smoke now, flung open
to the dry, cackling world. She had hoped for rest today;
she had hoped to take in the view,
but all she saw from her window seat was memory,
and how it catches fire too quickly –
the smoke rises, our eyes water in response.

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Girl looks at photograph of a lover’s ex-lover

and thinks of flowers, specifically orchids,
and the fleshy petal — pressed
between forefinger and thumb –
turning translucent,
brought to the mouth —
turning sour.

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How to Court a Leo

First of all, ensure compatibility. Be of the earth, be of the water.
It is true that beasts shy away from fire.
Inauspicious signs may result in either a severed jugular – yours –
or a fresh pelt.

You will know him by his lope, by the color of his mane.
He may not answer to a name.

Ignore the flies on his muzzle. Examine instead the leathery pads on the underside
of his paws. Track him, if he is presently out of sight,
but do not follow him into a den.

Before you touch him, learn where to touch him. Touch him there. (Until he purrs.)
You may practice on smaller types of cat but be discreet.
Do not waste time on anything less than purebreds.

Always keep in mind who at the moment is predator and who is prey.
Act accordingly.

Offer fruit, the kind that can be eaten from a cupped hand.
Let the fruit be ignored.

Tempt him with small live fowl, like quail.

Do not attempt to insinuate yourself into the company he chooses to keep.
You will be devoured, or worse, accepted.
You will lose him.

Show not the bare neck or thigh.
Offer instead the open palm, to be licked. Allow yourself to tremble.

Let him yawn. Do not count on the swish of his tail.
These gestures, like the quiver of his flanks,
mean nothing.

Grow accustomed to the gifts of dead things.

Allow him to watch you. Understand that unless he is watching you.
he does not see you.

Make no sudden movements. (You are not a lamb.)

If he lays down near you, there is no need to offer your lap.

If he lays at your feet, clamber onto him. You may tug at his hair.
He will allow you to sit astride him as long as you keep your chest

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close to his back. Do not sit up straight.
Do not goad him to go faster, to go anywhere.

If he follows you, continue forward. Do not turn to meet him head-on.
He will either strike or slink away.

If he approaches, hold your ground. Set your feet at shoulders-width apart.

If he approaches at full speed, divine whether it is play or attack.
Remember: There is no difference.

Inhale before the full weight hits your chest. Exhale when it does.
A blow from the paw will draw no blood as long as his claws are sheathed.
Let him pin you, as long as his claws are sheathed.

Roll over if need be, but never play dead. Do not mewl.
He is not interested in carrion. He is not interested in cubs.

You may bury your face in the fur, but do not forget to breathe.
Remember: incisors, bicuspids, cuspids, carnassials. Muzzle, snout, chops.

Hot breath is an indication of health.

Let his bright tongue move over you.
Remember: You are soft meat and water. You are soft meat, water.

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Ptolemy was wrong about the universe;

we know this much –
so, thank you, Mikolaj Kopernik whose father-given name did not go down in history

as he is now known to balking schoolchildren and interested housewives
as Copernicus, thank you, the Medieval Church and Academe, sticklers for all things

Latin, sic transit Gloria, though it did take a thousand and three hundred years
for the world at large to realize it was not that large after all, and definitely

not the center of the universe, which is not, after all, composed of ten bodies
suspended on perfect crystal orbs sliding around each other backed up by the

Great Immobile, that firmament that Kopernik pinned his hopes on, hoping to be
taken up into Heaven with a proper Polish name to scribble into Peter’s Book,

alongside thank you, Ptolemy, for making mistakes I could later on correct; and
Saint Peter places his hand over the ledger, which looks vaguely like a moleskine,

and attempts to discuss the human’s preference for simplicity over extravagance,
the human desire for a framework for everything, Copernicus, sticking your nose

into the stars and sniffing around for reason, when for so long, though sic transit
Gloria, the theologians accepted Ptolemy’s ad hoc solution of epicycles as yes,

Gospel truth: this is why the planets move backwards sometimes, the planets do
move in circles within circles, hot-glued onto a crystal ball, and angels

put their heavenly porcelain shoulders against the glass, nudge the spheres onward,
and as one of them trips his heavenly foot against a wayward comet, (thank you,

Edmund Halley, yet to be born,) Ptolemy back on earth notes down another erratic
planet into his moleskine, wrinkling his brow under a cap he later removes to
scratch

his balding head, as round and shiny as the heavenly bodies he names
the Ten Spheres and even later painstakingly illustrates, though he knows not what

they’re made of, unlike his own genius pate which is at times made of water,
thank you Thales, at times made of fire, thank you Gautama Buddha,

at times made of earth, thank you Ancient Chinese mythology, at times made of
wind, whenever Ptolemy’s feeling more verbose than usual, he decides, of course,

these spheres, likenesses of my bald head must not be of this earth, and therefore
there must be a fifth element, a quintessence worthy of being tacked

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onto the Heavens, so close to God’s golden breath, which God himself now holds,
as down below, Ptolemy is scratching into the parchment a dark mixture

of wood and fig wine, perfect observations and the erroneous conclusions
he draws from them, here now is the beginning of his magnum opus,

the future He Mathematicae Syntaxis, summation of all there is to be known
about the fickle universe and the God that hangs behind it, who lets out now a
divine

sigh as Ptolemy signs his name at the bottom of the flaking page, an angel buffeted
by the sudden gust of solar wind, tumbles through the ether, dropping for a second

Mars, as the medieval scholar down below returns his blue eye to the telescope and
invents another epicycle, cursing the erratic heavens, which he tried to capture in

a book that will be lost soon enough, thank you, great fire of Alexandria, noblest of
cities-
named-for-conquerors, bearer of a beautiful glowing pimple named Pharos, and as
for

Ptolemy’s Mathematical Collection, it was not lost the way a treatise on the universe
written on parchment with hawthorn-and-wine ink would be lost in a fire, rather,

it was lost the way two hungry travelers in Siquijor would find themselves
wandering the haunted town after dark, in the mist, in search of a McDonald’s,

thank you, missed boat, thank you, small gardens, thank you, human hunger, and
you lay your head on my lap and tell me you remember that night but I must go on

so what we have today is the greatest, the Almagest, erroneous and beautiful,
thank you, Arab conquerors of Alexandria, for your loving translations

founded on nothing but a book saved from a fire, as I sit on a seawall now with
a beautiful boy on my lap, who remains enthralled by all the things I know,

I dangle my legs near the sea as the firmament slides around us tonight, I can see
the angel behind it now, sweat limning his heavenly knuckles as he strains

under the weight of a pregnant moon, I tell the angel to thank Peter, and Ptolemy,
I tell you, thank you for this book but as great as it is, it is wrong.

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Ptolemy was wrong about the universe;

we know this much –
so, thank you, Mikolaj Kopernik whose father-given name did not go down in history

as he is known to balking schoolchildren today as Copernicus, thank you, the
Medieval
Church and Academe, stickler for all things Latin, sic transit Gloria, even though

it took a millennium for the world at large to realize it was not all that large after all,
and just as the Mediterranean was not the center of the Earth and is therefore
misnamed,

our sad planet in its wanderings is definitely not the center of the universe, which is
not,
after all, composed of bodies suspended on perfect crystal orbs sliding around

each other backed up by the Great Immobile, that firmament Copernicus pinned
his comatose hopes on as he lay in bed clutching the first printed copy of his book,

De revolutionibus, hoping to be taken up to heaven with a proper Polish name
to scribble into Peter’s own Book, alongside thank you, Ptolemy, for making
mistakes

that I could later on correct; and Saint Peter, places his hand over the ledger
and attempts to begin a conversation about the human’s preference for simplicity

over extravagance, the desire for a framework for everything, and the saint says
almost kindly
that even Hipparchus’ constellations were tracked across the only piece of sky he
could see,

there are many truths, astronomer, and many motions of many planets, many
angels
lumbering across the divine air, or possibly none at all, or possibly every angel is
named

Gravity, so let each man reason out each observation for himself, and choose
whatever
is easier to grasp, and behind Peter’s shoulder, Andreas Osiander the Lutheran
theologian,

calls out Amen! though he is not sure if he is allowed to, and Copernicus enters
Heaven
with his head bowed down, whispering to himself, thank you, King John Casimir the
Second,

for your reluctance to ascend from the Polish throne, hence the ire you incited

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in your cousin Charles Gustav, King of Sweden, hence the uprisings that led to the
Deluge

of 1655, where the Swedes made off with my library, says Copernicus, now dangling
his feet
over a cloudbank right above the observatory of a Jesuit campus, where we now sit

and wonder if one meets his books in Heaven, as Peter approaches Copernicus
with the consolation that even until today, the universe stretches beyond human

comprehension only because there are many ways to look at it even if there is
nowhere
to stand, and often the simpler answer appears as the right one, and Ptolemy sidles
away

from Copernicus who is now gladly signing Peter’s copy of De revolutionibus,
as the firmament slides around us tonight, you are enthralled by everything I know,

the angel behind Venus pauses for a second, but you tell him to thank Peter, and
Copernicus,
thank you for tonight, but as simple as it should be, it is wrong.

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“It was the thirteenth night and

we had plans to rent a room from an old Japanese couple
and so we visited them in their tall narrow house made of
cedar and bamboo, built on a hillside overlooking the Pacific,

and they led us up a spiral staircase made of dimpled metal
that rose through the center of each floor of the house, past
the man in his cotton boxer shorts, his back to us as he rearranged

photographs on top of a color television, past the dark women
on the floor that was hung wall-to-wall with lines of laundry,
the smell of starch, the sudden light, past the family that spoke to us

in Nihonggo, like everything they said was a question, the baby in
the high chair, sexless, waving something of bright plastic our way,
until we reached the top floor, which was, like the other floors,

really just one large room of faux wooden parquet polished to a dull sheen,
crammed wall to wall with cabinets, on top of which were more
cabinets, inside of which were Russian dolls, old telephones, china cats,

small dusty pillows with glass beads, rice grains, toaster ovens,
large plastic jars with twist-off tops that, when opened,
contained small plastic jars with twist-off tops that in turn held

the dying breath of fishermen, and the cabinets were made of plywood and glass,
and the owners of the house were old and proud of it all,
there was barely enough space to move but we touched everything,

the chairs built from rattan, stuffed with wool, upholstered in velvet,
paperweights of resin, empty vases that could hold, at most,
one floret, porcelain frogs, false teeth, violin strings, a bouquet

of peacock feathers, jade and garnet studs on a horse’s saddle,
and the floor began to creak and to sway, there was commotion
from downstairs, the clatter of pots and suitcases rising up from

the round hole in the floor we had clambered through, and Stanley
walks to the one of the windows and looks out, and he says
Landslide, and the house was breaking free of the rocky ground

and began to simultaneously sink and drift toward the sea wall
at the foot of the hill, beyond that the ocean, above that the firmament
as clear and as bright as the marbles Jonathan let fall from a cupped palm,

the clatter like miniature horses galloping across a tundra, dark manes
blooming in the sharp wind, and one was caught under Mark’s tennis shoe,

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he kicked it to the side and replaced the sitar he had picked up, leaving

fingerprints like half-moons of dark oil on the dark wood, someone else
was yelling again and again, Beatrice was clutching her white laptop
in its leather tote, no one attempted a head count, we saw the water

in all its glorious intrusion, mud and foam and spongy twigs, thrashing fish,
floating objects and objects that chose instead to sink, the waves were roiling
at the door at the end of the room that previously only looked out at sky,

and the greatest wave came and crashed through the open mouth
of the door, seaweed and empty cans, rats with nylon thread for whiskers,
great things tumbling around us, and we climbed out of the house

without time to save anything and when we were standing somewhere
safe, we watched the house tip over the sea wall and you were
the house, I saw you drift away into the angry sea,” I told him,

as he turned his face toward mine in the room filled with light,
and the smell of peaches, and the empty shelves by the door
with their rectangles of shadow, and then the window,

the curtains shaking in the wind.

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Sonogram

My body loves sound. The round
organs: the womb, the teat.
My world, your heartbeat.

-

after Christine Lao,
Heights Vol. LVII, #1

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La Oroya

“Residents of La Oroya talk about the [levels of] lead in their blood
like people elsewhere discuss the weather.”
- Simon Romero for the New York Times, 4 July 2009

“and by that I mean it is only partly nausea, with a promise of vomitus later in the
day,”
announces the anemic mailman Paulo to nobody in particular, chalky as the letters
he delivers,

his favorites being the ones that may or may not be written by Tonio, the town
insomniac,
in an effort to woo Lina, Feast Day Princess of 1986, who now sleeps twenty hours
out of

the twenty-four that is allotted per day to La Oroya, a grey city with grey people,
one of them
tall Tonio now raking his hands through his hair at the thought that Lina would
never wake,

and if they only existed in the same daylight, they would have been married ten
years ago,
her sleepy womb would have borne him a son and a daughter, one or the other
turned manic

like Tonio’s grandfather, who would allow himself to die gently on his great-
granddaughter’s
seventh birthday, slipping gracefully from a coma into death, a sleep much like
Lina’s now,

as she is dreaming of parade floats, thick wreaths of orchids, sheepskin drums, to
wave
upon the moving float, sliding toward the River Mantaro, the river still blue in her
dreams, to wave,

and she slips her warm hands under her pillow, smooth as the letters Paulo slips
under her door,
where sunlight brightens Tonio’s staggering handwriting, the pressed flower. To
deliver the sad news

of a razed cotton field to the diarrheac quilt-weaver Simon, Paulo must step over a
rubber ball
melted together by Gino the nervous basketmaker for his twin illegitimate sons who
he shook

right out of his mistress’ body five years ago, the woman who first called him
Earthquake Hands,

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when in his teeth-chattering embrace she lost a gold cap, and that woman is
Amaya, Simon’s cook,

the light-haired gap-toothed village whore, who is in the living room when the
newspaper article
makes its way under the door, and she sees it from where she stands, twisting the
telephone cord

around her fingers as the lover on the other line can hardly be heard over the
factories nearby,
this metal edge of town that Paulo is drawing closer to now on his daily rounds,
making his way

past Pablo’s bakery, where Pablo once gave him violin lessons, being his second
cousin
and tan-skinned doppelganger, who now waves at Rosa, the compulsive gardener,

from across the town square and then puts his dough-dusted hands over his aching
heart,
which allows Rosa to think he loves her, so she turns away, her flushed skin still
faithful

to her husband who died half a year ago, crushed by some falling iron beam, and
though she watches Pablo braid yeast into dough, the taste of metal is always in her
mouth,

as if she had kissed Claudia, washerwoman for the wives of the smelter workers,
who from the other side of the fence wipes the dust off the leaves of Rosa’s rubber
plant

with a rag she will throw into the wooden basket, to hang in the stiff Andes breeze
beside the men’s empty shirts, white flags that Amaya runs past, now, distraught

at something beyond her burned fingers’ reach, heading for her mother’s house
beside the river,
while in Manhattan, Ira Rennert swivels his chair around from the Weather Report,

well-rested but he takes his coffee anyway, black as coal dust, with blond bread in a
handbasket,
the New York Times ignored, having just lost the person on the other end of the
phone line,

having started his morning by saying “the weather is going to be just fine today,
isn’t it, my love?”
and receiving no answer in return.

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Swing

All poems to ex-lovers begin, one way or another,
with I should not be thinking of you. Or, if you are lucky,
I am glad you are dead.
This one begins by pointing that out.
Now that the unpleasant is out of the way,
set in front of you and as quickly whisked away, see
how you are already beginning to forget – I must say
I walked twenty aisles in the world’s largest department
store looking for the soap you use, I must say nobody
dances like you do, and when you cut your hair short
I felt like crying. You remind me of the grade school
playground swing, not because you are any fun
or particularly bright, but I would like to dangle my legs
from you and keep pushing toward the sky. Once
you offered me a blade of grass, while we were lying
in a field full of blades of grass, and I took it,
that particular blade of grass, and made it whistle.
To repeat that look of pleasure on your face, to find
and hold in my hands the smell of you on a cold day,
I am not one for forgetting, as you swing lazily
between anger and erotica in my mind, toes brushing the garden,
face pointed toward the light. I am glad you are dead,
you told me. And I said, I should not be thinking of you.

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Practice Parataxis

Glad geometry of rooftops.
The big city uninterested in math.

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True Love

Your body the solid tree
and I the grinning dog
passing you to piss yellow
all over a dead log.

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Inviting Absolutely No One for the Weekend
or Why I Hate Commentary Being Published Alongside the Literature It Intends to
Explicate:

Put your mother / lover / Other
in a box with a pinhole
and don’t you dare let her speak.
Proceed to detriment, Philistine.

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Jokes the Academe Has Ruined for Me Forever

The insomniac dyslexic atheist lies awake all night
wondering if there is a dog.

The narcoleptic Nietzschean falls asleep at the wheel,
and awakens to find he has run over the dog — backwards.

The bipolar Kantian is glad it’s a dog, and then envies a dog’s freedom
to run on all fours, to piss on the floor. And then he’s glad again.
It’s just a dog.

The nearsighted Cartesian steps out of his house to witness the disaster.
He cannot – for the life of him – believe his eyes.

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Welcome Home, Children

Before the Christmas lights along my street go up,
I gather together all the people I had been in past lives:
the Peruvian potato vendor, someone’s disfigured twin sister,
the red-headed young boy who had to push a dead deer off a cliff,
the gypsy who insists Transylvania contains no vampires,
the mermaid with feathered lashes, gladly soaking the upholstery,
the man who lived alone for months on end and doesn’t speak,
the bear hunter toting a semi-automatic, the bear.
By sundown, the food is laid out — the table gracious with wine,
the cheese, fruit. Meat as chunks of roasted animals, greenery.
They arrive in an uproar, some heading straight for the food
with mouths slack, eyes bright. Others are more delicate:
some 18th century Italian royalty pull out handkerchiefs
still scented with cologne, the mermaid looks discreetly away
from the salmon platter. The gypsy tucks his bare feet
underneath himself and proceeds to eat with his hands.
Only the twin without a twin remains standing, looking out
at the yard, thinking of having to return home without lights
to line her path. Who will open the door for her there?
What feast would be laid out for her hands, her scarred mouth?

after David Schumate

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Mary of Magdala

Two men flanked the stone where the body had lain,
and when I turned to face the light from the mouth

of the tomb, another one was there, and I asked
about the body, offered to bear it back; already

I could imagine the weight of the flesh, the smell
of what had been blood, now ichor. And the man

in the light called me by name and I called Him
by His -- do not touch me, He said, and I knew then

His body was not mine to carry; My God, I said,
my turn.

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when they think they can fly

hannah is only five years old when all the birds disappear. her most distinct memory
of that lost species is one of a pigeon on the city street that dared flap stale wind
into her face when she ventured out holding a slice of bread. she remembers the
flurry of white wings, the sudden air. she had felt, though she did not have the
words then to say so, that she had been swallowed by a cloud.

all together the birds disappear one day, but it takes people a few weeks to realize
that above the cacaphony of the awakening city, there hangs a silence thicker than
cloth, heavier than atmosphere. trees do not rustle anymore, & missouri mourns the
loss of a punctuated sky. in her young mother's apartment on the sixteenth floor,
hannah toys with an empty cage, with a dried-out wedding bouquet.

hannah is seven when the sun swells. her mother replaces the airconditioning,
keeps it on around the clock. they tie strips of cloth to their hands & run around the
apartment, flapping their arms to keep cool. there is no more night; the darkest it
gets is a mild dusk. hannah's mother misses the sunset, but she has other things to
worry about now.

all recordings of birdcalls have been erased. the homeless make umbrellas out of
the cages, & they stack them to create merciful shade. hannah discovers her
mother's wedding dress the night she turns eight, except it is day, & her mother
pulls out black curtains so hannah can blow out her candles in the dark.

the sky is as tight & as pale as a drum. there is no more blue, there are no more
clouds. hannah dreams of birds, of soft cool wings, & she awakens instead to death-
bright windows. hannah keeps her mother's wedding veil underneath her pillow.
now, she wraps it around her hand for comfort, all that delicate lace. from her open
bedroom door, she watches her mother pad barefoot into the kitchen. she watches
her mother pause before the bars of shadow from the window grills, as if they were
not to be stepped on, as if they were hot coals.

news of death by fire fill the morning news, & they stop subscribing to it because
there is no morning anymore. day comes, day stays. hannah watches her mother
shave her head, & afterward, she places her hot little palms on the smooth skin. "it's
cooler," her mother says into the mirror, & hannah agrees.

30
hannah's mother returns from the market, where she saw a security guard keel over
dead from the heat. one of many, she thinks. one of the first to go. right underneath
her window, she hears what she thinks is a bird, & suddenly delirious with fear, she
dares look up. hannah is standing on the ledge of their window, her arms akimbo.
she is wearing her pajamas, & to her hands she has tied her mother's veil. in the
absence of wind, it dangles like a sad umbrella, like broken wings. "coo," hannah
says, & she opens her arms to encompass the dry, waiting world. "coo, coo."

31
Artist’s Statement: Initial Interest

hannah is only five years old when all the birds disappear. her most distinct memory
of that lost species is one of a pigeon on the city street that dared flap stale wind
into her face when she ventured out holding a slice of bread. she remembers the
flurry of white wings, the sudden air. she had felt, though she did not have the
words then to say so, that she had been swallowed by a cloud.

all together the birds disappear one day, but it takes people a few weeks to realize
that above the cacaphony of the awakening city, there hangs a silence thicker than
cloth, heavier than atmosphere. trees do not rustle anymore, & missouri mourns the
loss of a punctuated sky. in her young mother's apartment on the sixteenth floor,
hannah toys with an empty cage, with a dried-out wedding bouquet.

hannah is seven when the sun swells. her mother replaces the airconditioning,
keeps it on around the clock. they tie strips of cloth to their hands & run around the
apartment, flapping their arms to keep cool. there is no more night; the darkest it
gets is a mild dusk. hannah's mother misses the sunset, but she has other things to
worry about now.

all recordings of birdcalls have been erased. the homeless make umbrellas out of
the cages, & they stack them to create merciful shade. hannah discovers her
mother's wedding dress the night she turns eight, except it is day, & her mother
pulls out black curtains so hannah can blow out her candles in the dark.

the sky is as tight & as pale as a drum. there is no more blue, there are no more
clouds. hannah dreams of birds, of soft cool wings, & she awakens instead to death-
bright windows. hannah keeps her mother's wedding veil underneath her pillow.
now, she wraps it around her hand for comfort, all that delicate lace. from her open
bedroom door, she watches her mother pad barefoot into the kitchen. she watches
her mother pause before the bars of shadow from the window grills, as if they were
not to be stepped on, as if they were hot coals.

news of death by fire fill the morning news, & they stop subscribing to it because
there is no morning anymore. day comes, day stays. hannah watches her mother
shave her head, & afterward, she places her hot little palms on the smooth skin. "it's
cooler," her mother says into the mirror, & hannah agrees.

32
hannah's mother returns from the market, where she saw a security guard keel over
dead from the heat. one of many, she thinks. one of the first to go. right underneath
her window, she hears what she thinks is a bird, & suddenly delirious with fear, she
dares look up. hannah is standing on the ledge of their window, her arms akimbo.
she is wearing her pajamas, & to her hands she has tied her mother's veil. in the
absence of wind, it dangles like a sad umbrella, like broken wings. "coo," hannah
says, & she opens her arms to encompass the dry, waiting world. "coo, coo."

33
Artist’s Statement: Chronological Outline

hannah is only five years old when all the birds disappear. her most distinct memory
of that lost species is one of a pigeon on the city street that dared flap stale wind
into her face when she ventured out holding a slice of bread. she remembers the
flurry of white wings, the sudden air. she had felt, though she did not have the
words then to say so, that she had been swallowed by a cloud.

all together the birds disappear one day, but it takes people a few weeks to realize
that above the cacaphony of the awakening city, there hangs a silence thicker than
cloth, heavier than atmosphere. trees do not rustle anymore, & missouri mourns the
loss of a punctuated sky. in her young mother's apartment on the sixteenth floor,
hannah toys with an empty cage, with a dried-out wedding bouquet.

hannah is seven when the sun swells. her mother replaces the airconditioning,
keeps it on around the clock. they tie strips of cloth to their hands & run around the
apartment, flapping their arms to keep cool. there is no more night; the darkest it
gets is a mild dusk. hannah's mother misses the sunset, but she has other things to
worry about now.

all recordings of birdcalls have been erased. the homeless make umbrellas out of
the cages, & they stack them to create merciful shade. hannah discovers her
mother's wedding dress the night she turns eight, except it is day, & her mother
pulls out black curtains so hannah can blow out her candles in the dark.

the sky is as tight & as pale as a drum. there is no more blue, there are no more
clouds. hannah dreams of birds, of soft cool wings, & she awakens instead to death-
bright windows. hannah keeps her mother's wedding veil underneath her pillow.
now, she wraps it around her hand for comfort, all that delicate lace. from her open
bedroom door, she watches her mother pad barefoot into the kitchen. she watches
her mother pause before the bars of shadow from the window grills, as if they were
not to be stepped on, as if they were hot coals.

news of death by fire fill the morning news, & they stop subscribing to it because
there is no morning anymore. day comes, day stays. hannah watches her mother
shave her head, & afterward, she places her hot little palms on the smooth skin. "it's
cooler," her mother says into the mirror, & hannah agrees.

34
hannah's mother returns from the market, where she saw a security guard keel over
dead from the heat. one of many, she thinks. one of the first to go. right underneath
her window, she hears what she thinks is a bird, & suddenly delirious with fear, she
dares look up. hannah is standing on the ledge of their window, her arms akimbo.
she is wearing her pajamas, & to her hands she has tied her mother's veil. in the
absence of wind, it dangles like a sad umbrella, like broken wings. "coo," hannah
says, & she opens her arms to encompass the dry, waiting world. "coo, coo."

35
Artist’s Statement: Aspects and Themes

hannah is only five years old when all the birds disappear. her most distinct memory
of that lost species is one of a pigeon on the city street that dared flap stale wind
into her face when she ventured out holding a slice of bread. she remembers the
flurry of white wings, the sudden air. she had felt, though she did not have the
words then to say so, that she had been swallowed by a cloud.

all together the birds disappear one day, but it takes people a few weeks to realize
that above the cacaphony of the awakening city, there hangs a silence thicker than
cloth, heavier than atmosphere. trees do not rustle anymore, & missouri mourns the
loss of a punctuated sky. in her young mother's apartment on the sixteenth floor,
hannah toys with an empty cage, with a dried-out wedding bouquet.

hannah is seven when the sun swells. her mother replaces the airconditioning,
keeps it on around the clock. they tie strips of cloth to their hands & run around the
apartment, flapping their arms to keep cool. there is no more night; the darkest it
gets is a mild dusk. hannah's mother misses the sunset, but she has other things to
worry about now.

all recordings of birdcalls have been erased. the homeless make umbrellas out of
the cages, & they stack them to create merciful shade. hannah discovers her
mother's wedding dress the night she turns eight, except it is day, & her mother
pulls out black curtains so hannah can blow out her candles in the dark.

the sky is as tight & as pale as a drum. there is no more blue, there are no more
clouds. hannah dreams of birds, of soft cool wings, & she awakens instead to death-
bright windows. hannah keeps her mother's wedding veil underneath her pillow.
now, she wraps it around her hand for comfort, all that delicate lace. from her open
bedroom door, she watches her mother pad barefoot into the kitchen. she watches
her mother pause before the bars of shadow from the window grills, as if they were
not to be stepped on, as if they were hot coals.

news of death by fire fill the morning news, & they stop subscribing to it because
there is no morning anymore. day comes, day stays. hannah watches her mother
shave her head, & afterward, she places her hot little palms on the smooth skin. "it's
cooler," her mother says into the mirror, & hannah agrees.

36
hannah's mother returns from the market, where she saw a security guard keel over
dead from the heat. one of many, she thinks. one of the first to go. right underneath
her window, she hears what she thinks is a bird, & suddenly delirious with fear, she
dares look up. hannah is standing on the ledge of their window, her arms akimbo.
she is wearing her pajamas, & to her hands she has tied her mother's veil. in the
absence of wind, it dangles like a sad umbrella, like broken wings. "coo," hannah
says, & she opens her arms to encompass the dry, waiting world. "coo, coo."

37

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