Monthly Archives: January 2012

a pen still writes: interpretations

This poem was provoked by this news item from NPR and my initial misunderstanding of the headline’s syntax.

A Pen Still Writes: Interpretations

“After 25 Years
in a Woman’s Stomach,
a Pen Still Writes.”

I. Biological
A good story takes 25 years
to write.  A good stomach,
25 minutes to digest.

II. Literary
Clearly “stomach”
is synecdoche for “mind”
and “pen” a metaphor
for ultimate creation.

III.  Feminist
Notice how the Pen
is given agency
whereas the Woman
is but a passive vessel.

IV.  Freudian
A clear case of penis envy.
She ate this phallic object
with semantic symbolism,
for to digest is to possess.

V.  Socratic
If it did not write
would it still be a pen?

If she did not swallow it
would she still be a woman?

VI. Relativity
Her twin, traveling at the speed
of light, swallows an identical pen.
Twenty-five light-years later,
there is no one left to write to.

VII.  Existentialist
It is not the pen but the woman
mute, alone, suspended in a vat of acid
The doctors, her husband disbelieve her.
Mais en mangeante le stylo, elle est libre.

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Come with me to the Grassy Knoll
where the dust of the dead
blows in the sun, a grainy breeze.

They still fly proud the Texas flag
and sell tragedy because selling
is how Americans grieve.

People say “no” to the homeless man
hawking “The JFK Journal.”
Tourists and Texans say no.

A little girl in a shirt that spells “HOPE”
in red glitter is speaking Spanish, taking
pictures with her mother’s cellphone.

They all come to look at the Grassy Knoll.
The trees are small and green but the grass
is as soft as prairie hay after a stampede

with patches worn smooth like the hide
of an old steer.  It’s so small.  It was
so fast.  It’s all so long ago…

Main Street becomes Interstate 30,
runs right through it, through
Kennedy Memorial Plaza.

All roads converge there;
the past narrows in on us
under the tunnel with three arches.

The past narrows down to a tunnel.
The roads of history, evil, and good
entwined like an Indian’s braid.

They came here with me to the Grassy Knoll,
not to see the memorial pool,
not to see the plaza or the past,
but to see what we all might have been.


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made of ice


I had a hunch that something would happen in Milwaukee.  I just knew it. I could feel the protective veil of Wisconsin—which I imagine looks like a halo made of snow—dissolving around me.  Have I worn out my stay or have I made too short a pitstop?

An hour on the tarmac– that word is no good here; it conjures up black asphalt and reflective tape, Presidents waving, the Beatles being swarmed. But today it was a tundra, a white, flat maze with small ruts carved out by alligator golf carts and baggage trucks.  We spent an hour on the tarmac, waiting as a Wisconsin woman in a neon parka hosed down the plane from a cherry-picker with de-icer the color and consistency of Agent Orange. The powder faded to green.  We were still on the tarmac. Finally they told us there was a mechanical problem.  After another set of “fifteen to twenty minutes” promises, we were “deplaned.”  Spit back out the belly of the aluminum whale and into the Mitchell Airport terminal again. I spent the rest of the afternoon turning on and off my phone, thinking of Grandma in the hospital, thinking of the calls I couldn’t make.

Wisconsin, why did you do this to me?  I thought.  But it’s like Lucy asking Ricky if he’ll let her in the show.  She knows the answer already but she just has to ask again.  Their relationship depends upon that request.  Wisconsin, I knew you would do this to me.

Meanwhile, it was 75 in Dallas, we were told.  And sunny.  Other airplanes took off, silver into white snow.  The little glowing batons held by the air traffic controllers stood out like red foxtails in the tundra.  Airplanes took off.  It wasn’t the snow, you see, but mechanics that caused our delay.

They fixed the plane. We re-planed from whence we had just deplaned.  Another 45 minutes.  A fresh coat of deicer.  A fresh set of promises of movement. A stale swath of “I do apologize once again…” from the flight crew.  The skies turned black.  Tracks worn by luckier aircraft showed us our way.  We took off, and there was no joy in leaving, no joy in the wait being over.  No joy in the fact that I suspected all along Wisconsin would do what it does best.

Why is Milwaukee en route to Dallas? Only the airline company can answer that.  But I sometimes feel that Wisconsin is en route to everywhere I go now, grabbing at my ankles with that white halo, a lasso made of ice.

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yesterday, the moon

Yesterday the moon dangled in a halo
of orange and yellow clouds
that collapsed, just after midnight,
like a dainty rubberband.

Tomorrow the sun will plow
across the sky like a yoke
in search of a lasso, causing me
to draw first one, then the other, drape.

Tonight the face of the moon
yawns into a grimace.  He
doesn’t like being caught,
unawares, without his finery.

But he cannot see the rain
from his parapet of stars.


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Frozen lakes interrupt
patchwork of farmland,
white and cracked
like the skin of an egg.


From above I see
my high school,
Schmeekle Reseve,
Division Street.
I am sure of it.


After a nap, I see
Miller Park, home
of the Brewers,
ribbed like a lizard’s
head, surrounded
by empty parking lots.


This time I don’t
see the Tappan Zee.
Pilot flies turbulent
circles over Long Island.
The ocean glows
as if the sun was trapped
underneath, so bright
it looks frozen.


From above I see
the high school
down the street
from my apartment.
Stately, old fashioned,
looking like a School
for Gifted Mutants.


From above I see
the yellow cone
and sleek blue windows
of the library where I work.
Now I’m one of those
noisy planes always
flying overhead.


Look! I tell
my husband.  See?
But he always blinks
leaving me unsure
how I can see all this
or how I know
what my life should
look like, from above.


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