one poem

one poem
in a quiet room
beneath an indifferent sky

the empty fields that define
the season of loss

these are only words
and you are only a stranger i
pretend to know

it’s the lack of sound
that frightens me

the wind maybe
or a distant siren
or the kitten curled up and purring gently
on the edge of the desk

my son’s toys
without his tiny perfect hands
to move them

and it’s been four days now since
the planes stopped flying

since my fingers felt the need
to crawl across
a blank sheet of paper
and do you notice that the
clocks haven’t stopped?

do you believe
in selfless acts?

not anymore

we have moved beyond the
age of famous poets
and into the era
of glorified killers

my wife wants love
and all i give her
is despair

the neighbors scream at
their children

the children run
blindly into traffic

even these small deaths are
when they are all we have
to call our own


[b]To Greenpoint[/b]

July insects buzz the sidewalk.
It’s twenty minutes of rectangular and bleak to anywhere.

See the cracks,
the lines crisscrossing
the telephone poles, the concrete
and your hand,
this street disappears into empties —
beer cans and sky.

You’re walking through airless shadows.
Your shoes don’t make a sound.
And we have no idea where we’re going.

[b]Empty Bed[/b]

The muscles of my tongue cup him.

Broken backed chairs lean forward expectantly
and the rug curls in anticipation.
No one can close their eyes but him.

Then moonlight does what moonlight does,
but faster.
Shadows speed across his face
like a hand struggling with Braille.

I struggle for something not so solid.

Preparations, retreats —
strategies are traced on the sheets
covering his thighs.

Only when he’s sleeping can I think.
Such things can be done
with a shadow.

[b]The Anatomy of Distance[/b]

Picture an oil painting,
In the Medical Academy, by a Dutch master in 1741.
The walls are in shadow, appear to be black.
Our walls are blue.

I. The Doctors:
In the auditorium,
in our room,
spectators surround the body.
One touches it and looks at us.
He doesn’t mean to touch the body
in a way that has any kindness in it,
As your fingers attempt to sign nothing
with their grasp,
but his hands are as gentle
as the soft astonished faces of the men staring at us
as we stare at them.

II. The Body:
The body does not appear
to be sleeping but dead.
Not just the pallor but the lack of eyelashes.
The upper lip curls in ecstasy or disdain.
Although the kidneys vena cava intestines
splay into our faces,
the body
is the only one
who escapes in this picture.
The one
truly alone and hidden.

III. Us.
You and I are hidden
from each other
by the body,
the deeper we thrust
our cutting, fondling instruments
the farther we float away like unmoored boats.
Until we lie next to one another
on the same bed
in different rooms
the same color as the inside of an eyelid
or eggshell,
the same color blue.

[b]Hysterical Blindness[/b]

My life is pain.
I could be a hypochondriac.
There’s some kind of multiple choice here,
but I lost the pencil and forgot to mark the page.

I’m not quite sure — I wake up sick
in the morning, nauseated by all the light.
My feet leaving the mattress
for the floor gives me shooting pains

I’d have to ask my doctor,
but she stopped returning my calls last month.
She said it was getting too intense
between us,
all that blood and exchange of bodily fluids.

She had a thing for latex.
I think that shows a fear of intimacy.
We only kissed twice the whole time
we were together.
Anyway, it’s over now.
She won’t even renew my prescription
for codeine.

And I’m left with this migraine
and an unnatural swelling behind my left ear.
My skin, it tingles
sometimes, along my fingertips.
I’m sure it’s the precursor
to some sort of paralysis.
And the light, ah,
the light!
It scalds my eyes.
Makes them tear constantly.
This can’t be normal.
Tell me, this can’t be

by Christine Hamm (c)2002
([email]Bronzelizard [at] cs [dot] com[/email])

[b]Author’s Notes[/b]
Christine Hamm is the literary editor for a new magazine, Wide Angle. She has an MFA in creative writing, and will be teaching a poetry-writing workshop thorough the Women’s Studio Center this fall.

Christine has poetry published in Shampoo Poetry,
can we have our ball back, Poetry Midwest, Stirring, and recently had work selected to be in Tricia Warden’s new
on-line site.


[b]Allegory of X[/b]

Being chased toward
a cliff in the night
that divides land
from the absence of land
with no warning save
the gravel that tumbles
away from itself.


Gleaming water-skimmers race,
stop, start, collide and multiply,
converge–instant constellations–and disperse
over a widening puddle.

[b]A River[/b]

The current takes
lull and rapids
into a circle
with no tangent
at stream or sea.
Soil from the banks
is gathered,
sold in pouches
for its powers,
among them
shaping waters
and, in spring,
reversing their course.

[b]Further Shores[/b]

The sea that roars
gently in a shell
also crashes in a cup
held to the ear,
among other vessels
whose tides have only
to be taken up;
their further shores, named.

[b]Grand Canyon[/b]

For epochs, water
has cut with clear knife

and worn with slow polishing
layered depths of rock
while, for epochs, rock
has dammed the floods deeper,
dissolving into hosts of currents
that, slowing, leave
sediments of future stone
or, flowing by, build
stalactites in caves downstream.

[b]One Flesh[/b]

How could we prove
than the sum of our parts?

We’re already two backs,
four ankles, twelve saliva glands,
forty digits.
And more.
We are already eight tear ducts,
countless illusions.

by J. D. Smith (c)2002
([email]smitros34 [at] hotmail [dot] com[/email])

[b]Author’s Note:[/b]
J. D. Smith’s publications include the collection The Hypothetical Landscape (Quarterly Review of Literature Poetry Series) and the edited anthology Northern Music: Poems About and Inspired by Glenn Gould (John Gordon Burke). J. D.’s poems have been nominated for Pushcart Awards in 2000 and 2001, and his prose has appeared in American Book Review, Connecticut Review, and Literal Latte.

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