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Polish Dancer Prelude
after Chopin's Op. 28 No. 7

The birds have stilled. He cups his breath the way
his mother read the music sheet, possessed
Chopin. What are these numbers on his chest
if not time signature, a score to play?

To everyone, he's dead. He drags each day
behind him like a shadow, someone's best
friend hanging—purplish—from a hook. He's dressed
in rags that patch his skin towards decay.
The winter rides his hands. A fear, like whiff
of black shoe polish or a cattle car.
The barbed wires keep him in; lice dance his head.

He fingers his mouth haltingly as if
in search of keys, a melody, a scar
whose mother was a wound that ached and bled.

Recording of Chopin's Op. 28 No. 7

 

The Local Physician Returns to the Ski Lodge

The ski lift that brought him up
isn't the ski lift that sends him down.
And the movement rouses his suspicion---
does the slope glimmer a lost amulet?
Is it the sun or hoarfrost around his eyes?

The descent is neither vertical
nor horizontal, neither short nor prolonged.
The stretcher carries him deeply into the middle
of things, often called sitzmark
because the body rewinds into playing dead.

Sitzmarks, when they occur,
are halfway between eggs in the caravan
and a water-baby squish.
He never thought of dying twice,
or six times at the same speed,
in the same ski jacket, wearing the same
ski goggles down the same trail.

Perhaps it is all about timing,
believing the funeral before searching
the coffin for a corpse. Perhaps
it is all about the snowplow, wind direction,
the washboard. Perhaps it really is
a matryoska of funnies
if not for the painful backcrawl of joints.

He's thinking he's lost the ski poles
going down, he needs to relocate his hip
for the flight scene, he needs
to return to the hospital—as planned—
for his afternoon rounds before he's found
splayed on the snow, before
he's forced to listen to the medics hum Mozart
off-key over the radio because
it's been a rough weekend for everyone.

 

The 38th Secret Love Poem

After scrubbing the blood
from your panties,
my hands burn from the laundry detergent—
but don't feel any cleaner.
How quickly water blushes inside
a white basin. The heat crawls up my arms,
undressing me. I've put my throat
in your drink again.
You don't need to see
the streaks down the glass. You know.
On your sideboard,
a biblical passage
details how the juices
from Eve's half-eaten apple
partook of Adam's fingers.
Your face appears in the french window—
a study in foetal grey.
I kiss my left wrist for you,
using my tongue to remove the taste
of salt. Outside, birds wrap
their feet around television antennae.
The clouds, dragging their weight
like garbage cans or breasts
over rooftops and trees,
deploy a primitive urge of their own.



[Arlene Ang is a poetry editor for The Pedestal Magazine and Press 1. A poetry collection, Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon, co-written with Valerie Fox, was published by Texture Press in 2008. She lives in Spinea, Italy. More of her writing may be viewed at www.leafscape.org.]

Copyright © 2009 by Arlene Ang, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.