Cruel winter, refusing to surrender
in the face of the calendar's insistence.
All night, the winds howl
like some beast, wounded
but not mortally: so angry—
snarling, lashing out.
You, weak, huddle in the darkness,
waiting for regeneration,
hoping, but with your eyes shut tight.
In the morning, fingers of sun.
The temperatures rise reluctantly.
You are the monster recreated,
staggering from your dungeon,
your pale arms, elongated, fluttering
butterfly hands toward the light.
LAS RAMBLAS BAR DE TAPA
for Brenda and Becky
The waiter is Spanish: dark skin,
black eyes, swooping raven’s wing
of hair. He, like my two friends,
has no idea how little my stomach
and the idea of food have in common
in this hour before I go onstage,
has no idea how I’d like to have
a glass of something, no, make that two—
hell, I’ll take a whole bottle:
I don’t care where in Spain
it came from, and he can skip
the glass, too. Behind us, the windows
are open onto West 4th Street, a breeze
shivering the back of my neck.
A guitar plays. My palms sweat.
His voice, when he sets the delicate dish
of olives before us, is a song,
his tapering fingers setting the tempo:
arauco, arbequina, manzanilla,
empeltre, sevillano. My friends hum
in appreciation, enjoying the melody
though the words are unfamiliar.
He bows a little as he pours the wine.
We clink our glasses. I admire the way
the others pick the olives daintily, pinkies
extended, while my hands shake
and my throat closes like a manhole cover.
I am scared to death in Greenwich Village,
as trucks roll by and diesel fumes roll in,
by the thought of walking to Cornelia Street
and my certain death before an audience;
but at the same time, watching my friends
eat with all the joy of kids with candy,
I know that without these two
I’d simply be scared to death.
WHAT WE FORGET
Magic: if you stop
looking for it, the glitter
becomes dust you must
clean up—something to add
to the list of chores
you need to tend to
before you can have a life.
How easy it is to forget
when a bill must be paid
and money must be found,
when a tire goes flat,
when a love is cruel,
that all you need to do
to create the world,
to make the stars set
and the sun rise,
is to pick up a pen
and take a deep breath.
APRIL 22-23: A DROWNING
It leaves a hole, a black one, and deep.
You fall into it, calling and crying:
forming a fruitless human chain
as the water closes over head,
heals, unlike you, without a scar.
Have you done enough?
Could you have done more?
Futility: enough is never enough.
The worst, though, is yet to come
after the shock, compressed by grief,
has coalesced into a hard diamond
whose every facet cuts.
It’s a form of penance.
Wait to get a form,
fill in all spaces except
In line again for the exam,
and one more time
for the opportunity to lie back
and watch the redness snake
from the inner arm
to the plastic bag below.
After, I’ll take myself downtown,
to the dimness of the pub,
where I’ll lean the bandaged arm
on the table, head on hand,
and wonder about the likelihood
of your appearing.
It has happened before.
You, for whom I years ago
shed blood, to no avail.
He looks better than I’ve seen him in years.
A benediction, the words of his eldest daughter,
staring down blankly into his dead face:
the skin pale, the cheeks rouged by some
impersonal makeup artist of questionable taste.
His teeth, my cousin says. Thank God
they’re going to bury him with those teeth.
Later I find he’s been tied to his bed
in the Westbrook dining room for years,
trussed by tubes running in and out
of arms, nose, throat; monitors
clicking and chirping like so many crickets
on a June evening. I have missed
this ridiculous end to a man beloved
of children who hung on stories of animals
and extraordinary flavors of ice cream,
like coconut. Ignorance is more than bliss.
After the funeral, my aunt--daughter and wife
of the town drunks, her own sister-in-law once claimed--
laughs as her mascara runs, flavoring with tears
her decision to take up the symphony
where maybe she could meet some rich doctor.
Furled about themselves tightly,
clinging to the soil which once housed them,
the newly birthed coils—coveted—
the dark green of a prayer,
hide from scavenging eyes even
as they reach toward
the opening sky of spring.
To tread warily through the detritus
of a just-past season, watching
each placement of a footstep—
that’s the rule: look to the ground
with a practiced eye
that separates treasures from trash.
MARCH 7, 1996
Son: winter's child,
born of night and blizzard.
Now, while wind cries
above the eighth floor,
you sleep in a haunted blue light,
eyes padded, otherwise
naked to the world
for which you are not yet ready.
Separate tonight, I lie awake,
staring at the shadowed ceiling,
knowing: you are out of my body,
this fate is out of my hands.
Just as the floor of a house in inlaid with a mosaic, so the floor of silence is inlaid with poetry. Great poetry is a mosaic inlaid into silence.
—Max Picard (quote courtesy of Loch Henson, Diamond Springs, CA)
Our thanks to today’s fine contributors! Anne Britting Oleson has been published widely on four continents. She earned her MFA at the Stonecoast program of USM. She has published two chapbooks, The Church of St. Materiana (2007) and The Beauty of It (2010). A third chapbook, Counting the Days, is forthcoming from Pink Girl Ink, and a novel, The Book of the Mandolin Player, is forthcoming from B Ink Publishing—both in Spring 2016.
Welcome to the Kitchen, Anne, and don’t be a stranger!