Joy Arbor-Karnes, Poetry Editor

January 2000

Trying to See the Diner

Sometimes, when I think of the news -
an old man stabbed in his home, children
whose chests
are pummeled with hunger or work,
fathers dipping
into their daughters, mothers at boiling point--- -

I try to think of sitting at a diner
the order of the flatware - fork,
knife, spoon -
how everyone knows that especially
the spoons will bend back as far as they can
before breaking.
But many people refrain. And I think of
the simple exchange: I give you a
dollar
and you lay down
a cup of coffee, all the cream I need.
I ask for toast
and unlike peace or luck or safety, you
can bring it, you can
put it in front of me
because I want it and I can
push it away because
I don’t.

But even here, beside me,
just outside the glass - small hands, screaming.
A young girl shaking a torrent of hair,
low rumbling through the floor.
Behind her,
a mother. The girl is
yanked away.

I wonder if she will ever
let her mother have
her arm, let her rip it
right off
so she can have herself.

(Originally published in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Volume 21, Fall/Winter 1997.)

Birthed from the Underworld

Woman rose
connected to mud
by the umbilici of her knees.
She wandered earth surface
bubbling and rippling.

Woman planted
a seed in her womb and
between her legs blossomed
the first lily.

Woman molted
a mudskin and made Man

who plucked the lily.


Summer Bouquet in a Vase

Glazed dark eye
of a sunflower, red zinnias,
a long sculpted twig.

Flowers harden,
shed their petals. Inside the glass
a mossy green film.

But the twig sprouts
fetal leaves so tentative they
disappear with distance.

Roots in the water
thick and translucent as fingers.

Don’t throw it out.
An amputated leg
growing a body.

 

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