Poems from “This Uncertain Voyage”


A steamy plate
of polenta and shrimp ragout
night redolent with the spice of skin
sifting into downy comfort,
fullness of shoulder
tucked beneath shoulder
thigh on thigh, arms askew.

It's easy to forget for a moment,
the hump of pillows piled across the bed.
Bit by bit memory returns,
bit by bit the longing seeps
into the ragged texture of dreams—

ripples of appetite
lap at the edge of absence—
the taste of Brunello, spill of corn meal,
tomato paste dried on the counter,
the lingering sea-smell
of crustaceans cracked and peeled and eaten—

no sensation sharp enough
to break the fast.
Hunger feasts on remembering.

Born Yesterday

Every wintery Saturday,
safe from the tramp of goosesteps “over there,”
my sister and I would read plays aloud
from a collection our mother got
from the Book-of-the-Month Club,
Best American Plays, 1940 to 1945.
Those were the years Our Boys
marched off and came back—
or didn't.

Snug under an Afghan on the studio-couch,
we divvied up parts—I, the younger, got butler,
or third bystander; my sister,
helping me with the hard words.

She inhabited the important roles—
timid Laura in The Glass Menagerie,
The evil Count in Watch on the Rhine,
Our Town's Emily.

Oblivious, we breezed
through scene after scene,
stories about frustration and lost dreams,
betrayal and suicide,
hunger and war,

sniggering at words we didn't understand
but knew were off-limits, like “gigolo” and “slut,”
“bastard” and “Gestapo.”
pausing for a moment when

Emily suddenly cries from her grave,
I never realized before
how troubled and how in the dark
live persons are.It goes so fast.
We don't have time to look at one another.

Excerpted from This Uncertain Voyage from Coffeetown Press.
Do not reprint without permission from the publisher. Copyright © 2024