Issue 14

Poetry: Alinda Wasner

Phillip, Asleep

Phillip, asleep at the back of the class
     The tight brown bud of his face so recently opened into manhood,
          His cheek pressed against Hayden’s Night-Blooming Cereus,
               His eyes, were they to fly open,in direct line with Joubert’s Black Iris–
                    Did the textbook publishers Have this in mind?

This afternoon, like so many others, we speak in whispers
     A sort of tribute to all the boy-men who flip burgers all night
          To keep their babies from Social Services, who go home at dawn to walk them
               so the grannies can sleep–until someone can figure out a way
                    To convince the girlfriends that babies need their mamas, too.

Oh, so much is unlikely:
     That the principal, when he walks through the door unannounced
          Will think I am doing my job here at the back of the room
                My hand on Philllip’s shoulder as if the lines we are reading
                    Will bring him to life,

As if the techniques recommended in teacher colleges
     By white professors who never set foot in the likes of my classroom
          Could quiet the beast of gangs that roams the school grounds,
               Rules the hallways–
                    Could temper all that is lost, out of control

But Hayden would know.
     After all, he lived just down the street.
          I want to think he would want the babies here, too
               Being read to in the crooks of our arms,
                    passed from row to row,

Learning to read our eyes and our lips
     The kiss of hope imprinted on their hearts as well as their little cheeks.
          Oh, the ringing of words like the ringing of bells–
               Something to send home with them, something
                    to bring them back.

Ode to the Night and the Morning Following an All-Day Day of Arguing

Rejoice for the thick turn of wrist          for nut brown skin          and the black coils matted under the wristband

                    Rejoice for the smoothness of the cheek pressing into the pillow for the Picasso-esque

                                                  Close-up of the lover with three eyes

For the hand that knows just where to tempt                    For fingers flying over the keyboard of the body

                    Rejoice for the willows slow-dancing slow, slow, slow-dancing slower in the moonlight

For the leg pressed into leg and the high-pitched whine of blue notes sliding out of an 18-wheeler

                                                          down-shifting out on the highway like a harmonium

                    For the familiar mouth and whispers having finally replaced the god-endless pontification

Rejoice for the chickadees chikkerring low in the bushes                    for the dead mosquito no longer zizzing

                    Rejoice for shadows half painted in moonlight          for the night grass gossiping to the neighbors

                              For the moon sneaking in, under, around, and through the branches

                                                          For the moss bed hidden down by the water

    Rejoice for the willows fingering the edge of the shoreline       for the basso profundo of a slow moving freighter

                                        and for sweat and juices pooling in all the right crevices

                    Rejoice for the moon and the planets and the morning stars sneaking into the bed with us

                              For nights that end too quickly          for a hot wind and sheets kicked into a tangle

                        For the cool side of the pillow and the blue jay shrieking Me, me, me ME

loud enough to obscure the cry of arching bodies from the neighbors

                    Rejoice for the sound of the oud and the cimbalom and the click of a CD still skipping

                    Rejoice for the DNA of thick ankles                        for eyes dark and quick as a sparrow’s

              Rejoice for the new sun in the cattails              For poppies pole-dancing in their upside-down red skirts

                                                          For irises with their beards jutting

    And rejoice the whisper of breeze cozying up again to the willows begging for the slow dance to start over.

Pain, Near the Heart

Love, was it under the lemon tree
the first time our eyes met
the wind quivering along the spines of the tall grass?
Or, was it by the catalpa
the first time our palms touched
the red sun on the wild poppies?
Love, was it under the street lamp
the first time your lips salted mine
the moon over your shoulder an amber amulet?

Or, was it in the open field
the first time we lay together
the cicadas restless, then silent, in the branches?
Love, was it in the busy intersection
the first time you held me to your heart
a hot wind slithering down the skyscrapers?
Or was it that same intersection
the first time you let go of me
sirens screaming in all directions?

Love, was it by the water
the first time your words stung me,
the sand and clouds a cauldron of chaos?

Or, Love, was it deep in the forest
the last time you turned your back on me
the wind pulling the curtain of night across the horizon?