[b]They Say[/b]

Good poetry is coming
to the point quickly is not
allowing your reader
time to think is making monkey
out of senses is sky with
pepper ducks is stench
of scorpion beetles rocking
on their backs is warthog
singing the blues is mother’s
cooking going well
for once is your reader
suddenly slapping forehead
with hand and saying
damn that is exactly how I feel.

[b]Final Draw[/b]

For forty-eight years my father
matched his luck with SuperEnalotto.
Tuesdays and Fridays he prepared
after-dinner numbers.
His eyes would close in concentration
to receive divine help
behind steepled hands.
One day, he loved to say,
I’ll make my bed on Italian liras.
What he wouldn’t say was he hated
minding cars in a gas station
instead of criminals in a courtroom.

Even now cathetered to
a hospital bed, he pleaded me
to play his numbers for him.
You’ll see, he whispered
as if I was his alibi in murder,
this time I’m going to win,
then you can go back to college.
I turned away in sudden pain.
That was something I’d never do
even for a million gold bars.

Next day I played his card
and waited for the evening draw.
Afterwards I thanked God
that the room he shared with
six mutating patients
was spared of television,
that hospitals close early to visitors.
Next morning one of the nurses
confessed over the phone
that my father had succumbed to sleep.
With caught regret, I feared
he already knew how Saturday night ended.

[b]Manila, 1997[/b]

Here violence smirks from street corners,
sneaks upon you everyday like vipers:
family massacres by drug addicts, gang rapes,
shooting friends over a couple of beers –
the media presents it so coyly.
Like forbidden fruit.

* * *

She rises from bed, squats beside the daily wash
with gnarled hands. A baby wails from a distance.
But she dares not stop it. Her husband would beat her
for interrupting. Better it than her. It knows
nothing yet about sex or violence. Her hands scrub harder.
They feel dirty under all the suds.
But how it wails!

by Arlene Ang (c)2003
([email]aumelesi [at] libero [dot] it[/email])

[b]Author’s Note:[/b] [b]Manila, 1997[/b] was previously published in Perihelion (Premier Issue, June 1998).

[b]Bio:[/b] Arlene Ang lives in Venice, Italy as a freelance translator and web designer. She also edits the Italian Niederngasse. Her poetry has recently appeared in Poet’s Canvas, Scrivener’s Pen, Eclectica, Tryst and tree candles. Recent awards include: Absinthe Literary Review 2002 Eros & Thanatos Prize Winner and Clean Sheets 2003 Poetry Contest 2nd Place Winner. She is the featured writer in the May 2003 issue of Epiphany Magazine.

Camels & Sand

A strange melange of curves
against the thorns and barbs of war.
Dog-eared berms wrestling
with another storm.
A soldier sleeps against
the barrel of his gun,
dreams of cherry trees at home.
A white picket fence inside this world
is concertina wire and guards
in suits of glaucous camouflage,
bombs for crickets
singing in the evening light.
Camels pass in dusty colors,
their instincts blend
with parched terrain —
they’re born prepared —
and we are not.
Sand is all the grass they know.
They wander by so casually,
an orange sunset at their heels.

*First Published in Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry

Opening the Closing Door

Your only son is a stat in the war.
Our U.S. flag will grace
his coffin coming home.
Royal blues inside the cloth
become a permanent bruise of grief.
Your nightgown weeps down
dumplings of your swaying hips —
his father sits in twilight on the patio
replaying games of chess he lost,
the house a place of hollowing.
No message from a general
can mitigate the darkness here.
Serenading nightingales,
off-key and singing all the same.
Talons gripped the olive branch;
it splintered into gray remains.
Time to dye white towels green.
Surrender is impossible.

You leave his room just as it is.
Walk a plank beside his bed
as if the sea had not destroyed
this paradise you nailed down.
You’ll dust each week, change his sheets,
hope sunlight visits icy grass.
Opening the closing door
will break your wrist.
You’ll iron a basket of Sunday shirts.
Count the buttons, put a stitch
in slipping ones that threaten
what the truth demands.
Placemats stay in stacks of three
as if a patch of DNA could tell a lie.
His toothbrush stands
attentively beside the sink —
a monument to sterile wish —
a column in a coliseum
crushed by the falling sky.

*First Published in Poetry

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