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LouAnn Muhm, Poetry Editor

May 2008

Untitled Collection


As children we were warned
not to look
but we watched on paper,
one sheet held above the other
as the shadow
sickled itself
across the pinholed light.
I peeked,
furtive and afraid,
until the burning stayed too long
and the warnings rang true
and terrible.

It is the way I look at you now,
mainly on paper,
with only the briefest
stolen glances
so as not to be blinded
by brightness
eclipsing slowly
into dark.

At the Baths

Twelve-year-old girls
fall into two camps:

those so thrilled
with their budding womanhood
and burgeoning power
that they can hardly find
clothing revealing enough,
or enough eyeliner
or surreptitious ways
to make their nipples hard
and visible,
who search for and use
the most inventive language to embody
their combined fascination and disgust
at their mother's nakedness,
or their grandmother's,
or their own;

and those,
like you,
who hunch their shoulders forward
under huge t-shirts
and peek out from behind
slightly parted curtains of hair,
who cannot walk comfortably
through a drugstore,
with all its reminders
of the body
and its functions.

Your body,
for which you have no language,
is flowering in spite of you,
ripening against your best efforts
to contain it,

and I want to bring all of you
here, to the baths,
where the hushed reverence
with which we carry ourselves
is partly for the place
and its effect,
but mostly for our own

Audioguide: Pompeii

Five Euro--a small price
for such a detailed account
of suffering,
and you can listen
in comfort as you walk,
if you don't mind ash on your feet,
at your back,
the hot breath of the dead.


Will we
link fingers
into a box joint,
or choose the
dovetail, with its
smooth interlock?
Perhaps the half-blind dovetail,
mechanisms concealed,
or the salmontail
with all its implications.
Tongue and groove
can only last
so long,
and the rabbet and biscuit
are temporary joys.
Reality says
cope and stick,
and if the cabinet wobbles,


They speak to you
in Spanish
to be funny
or in response to
your dark hair and eyes
and you answer in French
so they know
this is no ordinary
but you laugh along
because they are funny
on vacation with their compadres
and they love the food
the drink
and you who bring it to them
and remember from last summer
a lime not a lemon
in their iced tea
or no salt on the margarita,
and for every one who asks
for your number
or comments on your dress
there are two who ask
what you are reading
or whether you have published
and you are there with your compadres
dancing out an incredible ballet
of hot plates and crushed ice
until you go home
where your husband says
you smell like quesadillas
and he likes it
and your children
to whom checks mean nothing
as you empty your pockets
of all the gleaming coins
that they can count.

See LouAnn's Bio here.
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