Mar 042017
 

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Fog Walker

…….misread rain blurred flyer

Trust me. I’m one who loves all fogs—
misty, yellow, blue, rolling or grey—
I’ll walk your fog down busy thoroughfares
at any hour, clean up its wet messes,
pull it away from streetlamps and hydrants
but let it sniff around in the shrubbery
or blow its light breath against a window.
Some of the shaggy ones like to lumber ahead,
while others twine and shiver around my ankles.
Some squat stubbornly on lawns, others gallop
so I have to run to catch up with them.
I’m experienced. I’ve chased the big ones
rolling down mountain valleys, or huffing ashore
to slobber a coastline. I like the challenge
of herding something that doesn’t have a shape,
that lets me step right through its middle
and walk inside it instead of beside it.
I used to live down in my parents’ basement
playing video games for hours but now I’m out
in the damp air with my wispy charges
floating around me, obscuring the treetops
or stretching themselves across a ravine.
Tear off my phone number from the bottom.
For a small fee, I’ll also feed your fog
so while you’re at work it won’t get anxious
roaming your apartment stripped to the basics
since your ex-wife left with the two kids.
Stay in your cubicle, eat another doughnut.
I’ll walk your fog until it gets so weary
it barely billows over the park’s swing set
where you used to push your kids on weekends.
I work all hours, but I prefer the dawn.
You’ll hear me out there with my jingling leash
tugging at dangerous fogs that loom and rush
across the country roads where drivers speed.

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Crooked Ruler

This ruler’s crooked—see!
It’s thin warped wood.
Lie it flat—no matter—
The line I draw is curved.

I plucked it from a bin
full of look-a-like rulers
so I could draw some columns
down the edge of a budget

and now I’m stuck with it.
Bold inches mark one side,
while centimeters like eyelashes
are painted on the other.

I could snap it in two pieces
but maybe I’ll adjust.
Inch by inch you can’t tell
and it measures scantlings.

It’s only wrong by the foot—
when you try for a straight line
you’ll end up with an orbit
pulling you out of plumb

like a promising politician
harmless as a candidate
whose trajectory turns oblique
once voted into office.

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Dr. Griffitt’s Ginkgo

Andersonville Prison Camp, Georgia

What was that slender tree, the leaves aglow
And rustling through the stench like ladies’ fans?
He nursed the Union soldiers starving in rows–
Slopped gruel against parched lips, held dying hands.

Marched out beyond the palisade, his wrists
Roped, his ankles chained, he gaped, amazed
At the golden tree, how it managed to persist,
Its bright leaves glittering through the smoky haze.

Untied to shovel clay for the mass grave,
He stooped for a leaf. The guard’s whip burned.
He vowed–if he survived–someday to return
And thank the tree for the fierce way it gave

Him hope that the unlikely might be true—
You could flourish even here, eat shit, drink dew.

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Roses in the Rain

All night the roses
Delivered too late
Held their poses
Under the lightweight
Florist wrap.
Left by the door
After a brief rap
That everyone swore
They hadn’t heard,
The roses I sent
Could speak no word
Of sentiment
As they grew chill
On the front stoop
While my mother, ill,
Sipped her hot soup
And the cat on her bed,
That heard the rap,
Curled back in the spread
To finish his nap,
And my sisters whirled
Out the back way,
Umbrellas unfurled
For the cold, dark day.

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Shadow Tissue

……….for Sharon

My sister finds a note pinned to her door
and tries to puzzle out handwritten words
part French, part English. She knows it’s a complaint.
But shadow tissue? That phrase is English.
She shows the note to waiters who just shrug.
No help from dictionaries so she tweets,
and followers love it, this shadow tissue.
It glows on screens, and slips into the mouth—
some like to whisper it on long commutes.
And isn’t it better not to understand?
Think sea foam, think clouds over the sea,
think the ineffable—that’s shadow tissue.

At last the note writer knocks on the door
and points to shadow tissue. It’s the awning.
The rain runs down the faded, striped canvas,
wetting the neighbor’s terrace just below
whenever it’s unrolled after a storm. . .
“please be careful opening shadow tissue.”
My sister agrees, and now that she’s back home,
she tells me her story about shadow tissue,
how she still loves the phrase—shorn of mystery.

But no, here it is, she’s passed it on to me,
light as a cloak stored inside a thimble,
a substance so right and strange that I tremble
as I unfold shadow tissue like a scientist
about to discover one of nature’s secrets.
How lovely, I think, as it flutters up
and drifts across the room in light-filled waves,
for this is surely the meaning of meaning,
shadow tissue, what it all comes down to—
if I can only grasp how it’s put together,
these shining lengths, these gauzy swatches,
so definite, yet impossible to wear.

—Maura Stanton

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Maura Stanton’s first book of poetry, Snow On Snow, was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award and published in 1975. She has published five other books of poetry, Cries of Swimmers (Utah 1984), Tales of the Supernatural (Godine 1988), Life Among the Trolls (Carnegie Mellon 1998), Glacier Wine (Carnegie Mellon 2002) and Immortal Sofa (University of Illinois 2008), as well as a novel and three books of short stories. Her poems and stories have appeared in Southwest Review, Antioch Review, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, New England Review, River Styx, American Poetry Review, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review and many other magazines and anthologies. She has won two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, an O’Henry Award, the Supernatural Fiction Award from TheGhostStory.com and the Nelson Algren Award from The Chicago Tribune. Her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Poetry Daily and the BBC radio program Words and Music. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

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