A French Statue
by Kevin McFadden
Liberty’s so high up, you think—you expected her
down-to-earth. No such luck, you clasp
at your mother’s skirt. She knows this place
where names get changed, some by accident,
some not, where immigrants learn a new sur-,
or as you’ll see here, a last. You’re next. Your
name. Your next of kin. Next, you’ll learn,
is how to move lines (not queues) no matter what
that kind Irish passenger taught you. Next,
please. Next. And this the city you heard of but
a year ago as your parents explained in Hungarian.
Soon enough you’ll be in school, they’ll ask
what you speak and Magyar, you’ll repeat,
Mud-your—a tongue pronounced with mud.
Hungary you’ll learn for its own pun by first
Thanksgiving. Turkey you will learn to stuff.
More and more each year, you’ll grow
to love the Salvation Army Santa ringing bells
to bring Christmas. You’ll give me coins to feed
his kettle and say these people were your first
taste of America, sugar cookies, weak cocoa,
Wilkommen, what the lady said to you-so
strangely, with a will—those first few crumbs
of welcome, have some, Or is it ‘Bienvenue?’
Neither, thank you. You’re welcome now.
Hard to tell you from a local. Hard to tell you, too,
what I’ve clung to, phrases you fed, American as
mom and apple pie. Brand spanking new. Chew
the fat. Take a load off. Each a measure of freedom:
the Drinking Gourd, forty acres and a mule, a chicken
in every pot, a man on the moon; and odd numerologies
of urgency: second wind, the fourth quarter, the bottom of
the ninth. At contradictions we never stopped: free
rein, Statue of Liberty; you had me take it all with
displaced patience, just in case, any way the wind blows,
you never know. In the meantime, make yourself
at home. All systems go.
by Amber L. Cohen
“I felt a Cleaving in my Mind—”
I hope it was a relief, for you to be rid of it, empty
now after the passage of my brother and myself
through it tens of years ago. Or not quite empty,
because of the cluster of cysts that bloomed there. I say “bloomed”
and think of how I’d teach metaphor to my beginning
poetry students. “What blooms?” I’d ask animatedly.
“Flowers” they’d respond dully, and I’ve already
got some in mind: your favorites, marigolds, bursts
of orange and red like little suns. Why like little suns?
See how metaphors proliferate? A riot, a welter, out of control.
One could say they metastasize, like cells. Anyway, empty,
as language is. Almost empty, but for how we figure it.
The surgeon’s silvery scalpel incised first through soft skin
and the flesh that gives, then further, to the indurate, a ropy
tangle of adhesion and keloid. A uterine garden, to extend
the conceit, from a grotesque Briar Rose, fallopians branching.
See now how the allusion functions, how the speaker
draws from outside the poem to bring in another layer
of meaning. Meaning, such as it is. Was the surgeon that romantic?
Did he grow up reading fairy tales? How would he describe the absurdly
red, wet object sitting in the stainless-steel tray afterward for biopsy?
I’d liken it to something more specific, maybe, more personal,
an empty pocket after Tashlich? A collapsed balloon? When one popped
at my third birthday party, you tell me, I ran to you and Dad
demanding “Fix it!” and that was the first hard lesson,
that some things are irreparable. Or is it incurable? Six of one.
Half a dozen of the other. The night after your surgery I do
my daily injection and then sleep. I dream we hand each other
thorny roses; they prick us and we bleed. I wake and laugh
at the cliché, at the failure of the poetic imagination. Pretty funny.
Hysterical, you might say. Not irrational from fear or
emotional shock, but in the other sense of the word, causing
unrestrained laughter. No, no, I exaggerate. Not
unrestrained. More funny peculiar than funny ha-ha.
Good material for a poem, you tell me on the phone.
Fertile soil, if you will. Fertile as that organ once was,
so pluck it. Pluck it out, pluck it forth, this source. My own
illness is multiple sclerosis, a name unwieldy on the tongue,
and I wonder, what if it were called simply many scars?
Our words are acquired like wounds. What a relief
it would be, I think these days, if I could excise the part
of my mind, or is it my brain, that plays these maddening trick
by Angie Mazakis
From the table, I watch you and the TV staring at each other
after the cartoon movie we have just watched—two blank screens,
as though you are trying to connect what you have just seen inside the TV
and inside yourself, with the uneven lines of this world.
I write my name in a notebook and don’t want anyone
to see it there. So I draw around it, fill in spaces,
put a roof on it and my name disappears
and turns into a house on a farm in the rain.
I see myself walking to the door, turning my hand on the knob
and going out to the room where the guests are sitting, and they see me.
But I am still here, standing at the sink, drying my hands.
And now I step toward the door, the difference between here and there.
I’m thinking of how the cartoonists just shift one line in her face.
Just one line in her face,
and she shows cartoon sadness
and then she cries big cartoon tears.