Tulips

Tulips

Length: 454 words (1.3 double-spaced pages)

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How to Listen


I am going to cock my head tonight like a dog
in front of McGlinchy's Tavern on Locust;
I am going to stand beside the man who works all day combing
his thatch of gray hair corkscrewed in every direction.
I am going to pay attention to our lives
unraveling between the forks of his fine-tooth comb.
For once, we won't talk about the end of the world
or Vietnam or his exquisite paper shoes.
For once, I am going to ignore the profanity and
the dancing and the jukebox so I can hear his head crackle
beneath the sky's stretch of faint stars.

Jet Lag


Oriented, suddenly Aurora,
I rise without alarm in the random dark,
Already full of purpose, without coffee
Or tea, to the cat's delight, revving her pleasure.

Breakfast is a poem, light, in good measure,
A grapefruit split to reveal the spokes and rays
Of the sunburst wheels on a golden chariot.
I dress, I shake the dew drops from tips of my tresses.

It is as if I can hear them, imagined horses,
Astir in the stable, fogging the air with their breath,
Snug under blankets, awaiting the curry comb
And oats, ready to set out over the hill,

Over the sleeping city, over the sill
Of the sea, islands dribbled like pancake batter,
Knowing where I am is always East,
Always ahead of the day that's going to matter.

Simple Arithmetic


I am still imagining the men lined up, the ones I imagine who want me. I'll tell you everything I know: there was a boy, a girl, and a boat. And palm trees, but the mosquitos on the island chased them back to the boat. There was a boy, a girl, and a dog: I still can't get the story straight — magic fruit? straw into gold? — and night's black velvet has arrived. I am glad for my life and the high clear voices of four-year-olds in the Allegan Public Library. I am not the girl in the story — I am the girl whose mouth is mainly shut but who imagines it open. But where are the other boy and girl? Holding hands and walking into the library while a baby falls out of a pile of money with astonishing grace.

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