Dance of the Seven Veils
by Anne-Marie Thompson
Wielding tipples, party guests appear
in evening gowns and furs, in three-piece suits,
top hats. King Herod sucks a yellow pear,
adjusts his white tuxedo, offers fruits
to them, and then to her, but she is full
of motion, rapt inside her coil and twist,
inside the oboe lines, the cellos’ dull
and hungry groan. She flicks a naked wrist:
another layer gone. Black slacks, a coat
and camisole, silk stockings peeled from skin.
Like a faltering body when its throat
is cut, the fabric hangs, then jerks to spin
and fall. Each piece removed strips off the years
between this modern stage and that first set—
back to turbans, robes, when Herod wears
a crown instead of tie, and further yet,
until she’s gone so far she’s back at flesh
and breath alone—as if to find the core
of a long-buried prophecy. The dish
is bare, spattered with juice. He calls for more.
A Consecutive Sentence
by Lucy Biederman
The perfume at the party smelled embarrassing.
He nodded, he nodded his head. He didn’t want to
do much but chronicle in the dark car the day’s
disappointments. He nodded his head at the party.
Women’s bosoms breathed human, sour
as someone’s son’s gym shoes. The embarrassing
smell of it. He whittled the night down to absolutes:
nod head party, a man like a man bored in a book.
Maybe here, maybe here, he said about the car map,
the wall map, rug map, floor map, shower curtain map.
The map didn’t talk back. No one wanted to think of him
saying that to the map. His mind thought private
letter ruling. His mind was a disembodied
attorney at law. He cast around like the hook
into the bin of plush cheapies behind the glass,
precious. The menu didn’t have the entrée he wanted,
the salad; appetizers are too much, desert inconceivable.
On the Fourth we folded gold chutney-filled fried babies
into napkins and ran to the other side of the pool
but he saw and frowned. His mind thought
equal signs, hyphens crossed out and replaced by dashes, chips.
His chair was the color of chocolate buttercream cake.
Picture a time-release photograph of the frosting wearing away from
the arms of his chair. The yellow inside-cake bloomed like a sponge,
delicious. Many times I took a bite, wanting to taste what
I thought I saw. Under the cake was a metal heart shining
private I tasted when I ate the cake. He seems short, thin.
His mind thought hyphens changed to dashes,
periods. It was always saying things were over. No
one wanted to think of him putting on his periods,
but then they started to like it, anticipating the hilarious
disappointments like a bad team losing. Okay, they said,
whatever. He said when this sentence ends it will be
my choice. His mind thought the longest sentence
in the world, laid out along the railroad tracks,
heated and trembling, solace in the nubs of its commas,
sense in its semi-colons, the pause and push of them,
period hovering like a horsefly on the next page,
the next page, the page after that. Him with a teacher
at a folk concert at a bar, a youngish woman in a floral skirt.
Picture a time-release photograph of him in a 1BR getting
ready for work, walking to work chop-chop in his suit in a city
by the water, sidewalks clean as countertops, holding a hard
pumpernickel roll to eat at his desk. Yes is the sound of the hoses
of the cleaning crew across the street washing off yesterday,
scattering its molecules, polishing its tangibles. No
is the sound of his mind thinking equal sign hypen-to-dash,
rolling the period to the peak of the hills, lifting the period –
first a pumpernickel roll, then small as a poppy seed –
over the rise and fall of this day, the next day, the day after that.
On Finally Blaming Myself a Little Finally
by Maggie Glover
My porch upon the cliff, my house upon the mountain—
I push my sneaker between the roots of the maple,
remembering the gypsy moths, their wormy threats waving
from its branches, the low-flying planes that followed
with their heavy smoke dipping into us (my mouth, his mouth)
until, cotton-eyed and ragged, we circled each other in the dirt.
This is how I got him back: I bled myself against the tree,
I dressed in pink, I let someone else have him.
From the other side of the valley, cows peak through
the bare trees: a little moo shapes the forest, just for me.