August 10, 2005

scream my name above the din

Study for Totem Landscape of My Childhood. 1937, Wolfgang Paalen

Three poems:

New Habits
-- by Barbara J. Orton

You've made me your horse,
and I don't mind.

When you leave town
at midnight, debts unpaid

and a hard wind lifting
the dust out of your hair,

I'll take up new habits:
whisling, chewing my nails.

Bank robbery's not so bad
when you think about it.

Outside my window
the pin oak hisses and rattles.

I've lost something, but look--
these things in my hands.

Boutique Quixotica
-- by Catherine Bowman

A little atomic number on the sale rack.
Lots of castles. Lots of knives and forks.
Lots of closet skeletons. The fitting room
flooded with the strands of the score
he left on her answering machine. A drive-in
movie screen: their cloud-built bed
stuffed with opera lens and whatnots.
How they loved to Euro the plot
in a ceremonious old-world why not,
play Scrabble with only the X’s and O’s.
Nonstick knickknacks stacked
high on the truth table sewn from trick-thread
and midnight scissors. Buy two get a double
agent gratis. How bountiful the boa—

When I Was a Jersey Girl
--by Maureen Seaton

When I was a Jersey girl I hid
my Jersey ways. Predictable as milk, I
paled predictably when New Yorkers said:

Jersey? and they were right. They despised
my yellow Jersey plates, my Garden State
cockeyed, solipsistic, anesthetized

take on pig farming in that isolate,
Secaucus, my bowling with extended
family at the Elizabeth Lanes—

Pizza, Rheingold, Lucky Strikes. Uncle Ed
disappeared for years in his Acme
apron with the chop-meat stains. I bled

red clay. Mosquitoes binged around me
like bulimic fiddles. At night they popped
through bedroom-window screens, small Harry

Houdinis, spiraling for my sopping
hairline, my ears and eyes, tiny vampires
of shrinking shoreline, stinking sucking swamp.

I tunneled and bridged myself away, tired
of Mammoth and Union, crewcutted, baffled
boys in a state without a real team. My

accent grew anonymous, stifled.
My cosmopolitan tongue swelled. I lied:
Born, not raised. I said: water, wash, castle

inconspicuously, as if I
were a famous radio announcer paid
to sound generically benign as pie.

maureen seaton has a poem in the new edition of backwards city review, which, I believe, is now available


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