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Poems from "Swallow" chapbook, by
Northampton, MA US
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Poems from "Swallow" chapbook
We're all trying not to think about sex or cake.
That bitter word hurled from a car.
A moment ago you felt pretty.
Trying not to hammer the nail
into anything but the board.
Hard hat men sucking on coffee,
women with their hands down their throats
like a magician pulling a ten-foot rope out of a bottle.
It seems to go on forever,
We're trying cold baths and grapefruits,
another route around the tar
someone's grateful to be laying down.
Saying throw me in the briar patch,
come on, do.
What a great distraction brambles are.
Rubbing and rubbing the saw against the wood.
What wound is he favoring
as his whistle strips you like paint?
We're smashing pies into our faces,
we're cutting open our skins. The better to eat.
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (Abridged)
I know who is responsible for all my problems.
I would rather bake a pie than repair a latch.
I don't always tell the truth.
I think that I would like to be a florist.
I am not afraid of snakes.
My father was not a good man.
More than once a week I feel hot all over.
I do not believe that my sins are unforgivable.
I like surprise parties.
Ghosts and angels influence the events of our lives.
I try to be polite when interrupted at work.
I would rather buy shoes than take apart an engine.
Most people will cheat if given the chance.
I do not seek out fistfights.
Sometimes I feel happy for no good reason.
My sex life is satisfactory.
I am afraid of water.
I would not like to relive my childhood.
I know the source of the voices I hear.
It is not true that I do not like everyone.
I would rather dance than play baseball.
No one is following me.
I admire good manners more than intelligence.
I was not beaten repeatedly as a child.
I have never been so drunk that I fell down.
I trust myself around knives.
I am not afraid of lightning.
I think more often now about death and the afterlife.
My style of dress is flamboyant.
I cannot say that I have never had a vision.
The Fear of Puppets and the Fear of Beautiful Women
have in common that your tongue is not your own,
is a hand reaching up through your throat,
making your plastic eyes roll a hard eight.
You have to look at whatever the hand wants,
and it wants to make them laugh, the beautiful women,
but not the way they'd laugh at a dog,
which is what you are. You are covered in fur,
the cheap kind, someone decided you should be orange
like a rug from the decade when everyone was blind,
even the beautiful women, who bred with men in sideburns
and embroidered vests, and one of their offspring was you.
You know the word venustraphobia.
It is not a tropical spider with delicate green legs.
The fear of beautiful women is different
from the number thirteen or crossing bridges,
though the fear of being bald is sometimes compared to it.
Beautiful women have not confided in you
about dentists, or the dark, or getting on a plane.
The fear of puppets stays in their heads.
You can still tremble unstrung. Open your mouth.
It might be your own words coming through this time.
Pupaphobia: having a fist for a windpipe,
the fist of the one who holds you on his lap.
I want the truth or
quiet, you can't have both
in daylight, in company,
from the baby-blanket sky we turn into rooms
you can't have if you're human meaning
no desire without its rind of talk, I want
that orange uncut
better than to sit here with knives
spinning the sun in a bowl,
I want the truth like a fat lady
wants cake, sticking her sweet fingers in her mouth
in fecal shame,
I want quiet like letting the beaver
alone who nibbles on the neighbor's lettuces
because in her world she is right,
pines hushing in the dark and insects gold
dust in the last beams, how could any
great hand that shaped the clover
fall harder on us
poor toads, I want to turn it
all off, the lingual grid gone black
and only hands left, right
in the sag and salty hair of us,
dear fatigue, lift me at last I want
to forgive whoever
asks me and maybe others.
These poems are selected from "Swallow", a chapbook by Jendi Reiter, which won the 2008 Flip Kelly Poetry Prize from Amsterdam Press. Visit http://www.tinyurl.com/swallowbook to purchase a copy.
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