Ms. Jane tugged at the hem of her knitted dress,
smoothing it over her torso from hip to breast.
She bent forward, pouting in the mirror at her image,
with a confident wink at her bold, smiling visage.
Attractive still, at fifty-four, if one were to compare.
With her fingers she teased her candy cotton hair.
Jane, supervisor of the typing pool at Equitable Life,
hoped to find a young actuary and become his wife.
Back at her desk, she applied a coat of nail lacquer
while chewing gum. She was a popper and a cracker.
I sat in front of her, transcribing from disc to page,
much like a small animal in a clattering cage.
After Jane's nail extensions were painted and dried
came interminable tapping. I wanted to hide.
She must have been bored as she watched round the clock.
Her job was to make sure no one ran amok.
I hear the sounds of rain as a brigade
of stalwart soldier/drummers,
united in spirit and heavy in numbers,
marches rhythmically in parade.
Bullet droplets saturating grass and trees,
releasing a ricocheting barrage,
create a shimmering mirage
of reflecting pools though deserted streets.
The soldiers cross barriers and borders.
Though each hit seems random,
and spillage is with wild abandon;
surely they follow deliberate orders.
Eradicate every arid space.
Drench it mercilessly through the night.
Determined to win the desperate fight,
they splatter in quick time every single place.
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I sat in my rocker in the den reading an epic poem sent to me by a friend. She referred to it as a series of poems, but I saw it as one, relating the stories of former occupations of ninety-nine retired seniors residing in and around Berks County, Pennsylvania Dutch country. Many of the poem's principals are of Dutch heritage.
I became so engrossed in these memories that I began to read their words aloud. I pictured myself as each person telling an audience, in turn, about his or her young working life.
I was Helga, sitting at a machine, sewing a pair of men's pants, when something black and wiry whizzed by my eyes—a floater. No, it buzzed, and franticly circled my head, darting at me, aiming for my nose, a fly. I waved my arms helplessly. I had to finish these pants, but the fly was relentless. My boss, Mr. Schwartzkopf, would be coming to the factory in thirty minutes, expecting me to have all five pairs of pants. This was the last pair.
The fly taunted me until I stopped sewing. What I actually did was put down the poetry book, imagining I was turning off a sewing machine. I went to the broom closet in my kitchen, which in my mind was Schwartzkopf's utility room, and returned with a mesh fly swatter.
In my absence the fly was resting somewhere, perhaps on a wall or a table. I sat down, placing the swatter close to the rocker, hoping to resume reading or sewing, waiting for the fly to sense my presence and continue pursuit. As I reached for the book on the coffee table, I saw my nemesis, settled and still, sitting on the poetry book, the fabric.
I hesitated swatting it there, squashing it flat like an ugly scab, scarring and soiling the book with its juices. I took a breath, sighed, and smashed the swatter down on it. Mr. Schwartzkopf would have his five pairs of pants after all. I could sponge the fabric clean.
My dear, your sonnets wax Shakespearean,
were Shakespeare a barbarian
spewing curses in the local Clarion.
Each phrase flows with lucidity,
a honey-smooth fluidity,
such soppingly sweet stupidity.
The rhythm, rhyme, and meter
could not be more concreter
if smashed against a wall like a skeeter.
Your motives are, at best, illusive,
your methods, not at all conducive
proof—poof. They're inconclusive.
Everybody will ignore you.
Cease and desist, I implore you.
—Medusa, with many thanks to Linda Klein today for her poetry!
Tonight, 4-8:30pm, Sac. City College’s El Gigante presents Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders (plus open mic) online at cccconfer.zoom.us/j/9348057923/. Host: Danny Romero. Tonight is the publication reading for Issue 25. Info about the journal, including obtaining past issues, at sinfronterasjournal.com/.
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