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October 17, 2013 Poetry

Three Poems

Jill McDonough

Three Poems photo


Alone in Utah

I go out to eat because I'm lonely. 
The waitresses are lovely.  I tip well. 
I spread my papers out, eat in the kind
of places that have booths, scalloped
paper placemats, line drawings of presidents. 
Nixon looks like Bush.  Everyone kind
and funny, students writing their brave
hearts out even when the power failed
and I had them write in deepening
gloaming, snow soft on the windows, turning
white to gray in the ambient light. 
One girl writes about her stint in the loony
bin, the broken feeling, feeling broken
then, some better now.  She writes about hallways
and we see them, footsteps, dirty socks and I say
we have to find a way to get out from under
the bed
. We laugh and laugh.  It's
a wonderful class, and I wished I was dead.

What a thing to say.  But it took me all day
to get out of bed that winter.  It's chemical,
the distance from Josey a kind of radiation,
homesick in my body, nausea. This is how
to do it:  crawl out of bed, bent double with cramps,
weep on the toilet, go on.  A cup of coffee, water
boiled for tea.  Trick yourself into moving
with promises: a drink after work, a movie.
so-not-into-it-dot-com, I'd think, hauling myself
over to the classroom, charging myself: three
hours. Give them what they deserve.
Waiting tables, I chose to love the ones
I poured coffee for.  Now I let myself fill
with tenderness for undergrads and murderers,
imagine them  as children, little boys and girls.
Privilege and wonder, her underbite and glasses. 
His new haircut, her white socks.

Casual Sleep

I dream we’re all so tired all
the time we start watching strangers
sleep.  Videos of people asleep
all snuggled up in flannel, under down. 

Sleep-tastic grow the YouTube channels. 
Mattress stores tuck sleepers in their tidy
cotton beds.  A cottage industry yawns
open:  major in Sleep, become a Sleep Coach. 

Commodity, new field:  I was in finance but now
I’m in sleep
.  Sleepers in shop windows wrapped
in fleece, conked out on couches.  Subway riders
scroll through sleepers on their smartphones,

brushing sleep from dreamers’ eyes with thumbs. 
On Craigslist, “Strictly Platonic,” one man’s
an open minded expert, can sleep for days,
his listing says.  He can sleep through literally anything

He lists his biceps’ circumference, the height his shoulder
could heft or nestle your heavy head.  The best
sleep of your life
, he promises, next to a photo of him
in crisp, sky blue pajamas.  Brushing his perfect teeth.

The Beautiful Woman

The beautiful woman opposite me on the bus is laughing
and fat.  I love her braided hair. I want her ring, her laughing
mouth.  I love her so much I take her picture. She is on the phone.
I think she knows I’m taking her picture.  I think she doesn’t care.
I love her spill of thigh-fat freed from that rise of grey knit skirt.
She doesn't care we're trying not to stare. We only wish
whoever she's teasing on the phone was us. No, no, no!  She
can barely get it out, says something in a laugh-choked
half-bus-drowned patois.  She makes me want to pack the pounds
on both my thighs, go back to the time I found frosted blue eyeliner
like hers.  I was twelve, didn't know the hundred ways happiness felt.
It's always like this for her: she moves through a world that’s wilting
with love.  All the world’s busses filled with dopey smilers, every
face on every sidewalk beaming back at her, wishing her well.


image: Caleb Curtiss