Birthday

Mary Petralia 

 

I said thank you God

and almost believed it,

 

then a woman in a riot stole

toilet paper and paper towels

 

instead of a TV or cell phones

and a radio DJ made fun of her;

 

you cretin, paper products

aren’t a benefit of SNAP

 

plus you don’t even know

how to pronounce “judgmental.”

 

But really it’s not so much that I want

to preach to the choir

 

it’s just that I hope there is a choir

and it doesn’t necessarily have to sing

 

but more, hear, and it would be good

if the choir knew what it was like to be on food stamps.

 

I don’t blame her for stealing

those things,

 

I’ve done it; taken toilet

paper rolls from the beach bathroom.

 

A woman in a park

swung her dead child for three nights.

 

I stay up till midnight

to instantly win a new grill

 

but what I really want is the free

trip to Hawaii.

 

I love Hawaiian rolls,

they’re so darn sweet.

 

I hear Hawaii is no paradise,

the flying cockroaches,

 

but that flowery blue ginger

is like a purple heaven-bird.

 

I had a patient from Palau and that chick

was nuts but sweet like an Almond Joy.

 

The Pacific must do something

to create some chaos effect.                                                              

 

Maybe it’s floating radiation.

Maybe it’s crawling disappearances.

 

Maybe they just want their spoons

to not tarnish so quickly.

 

My daughter is upset because she didn’t get a picture

of the prison’s pristine garden as we drove by.

 

Sometimes we see basketball players in the yard,

nuclear white in uniform.

 

All it takes is one person

to describe you as mediocre.

 

You lie still and dull-colored

and think of that squealing skinned-alive rabbit.

 

Lie still and remember the way the Italian pines

shushed and curtained just for you

 

because you were only Italian back then and the fortresses

you built were in your backyard and not in your mind.

 

Peel off a vegetable’s vitamin skin,

your stone-thrown Medusa

 

snake hair only gray and soft wires.

Peel off another month

 

on a Japanese woodblock-print calendar.

Cherries still blossom. Warriors float.

Happily Working in the Yard

Danny Barbare

Stacking

the

limbs

of

the

pecan

sun

 

orange

and

yellow.

 

The

sky

is

green

 

and

the

paper

shells

are

blue.

 

Pushing

down

the

wheelbarrow

of

the

moon.

The Train

A.R. Zarif

home the Lorimer L to 3rd avenue

I sat across a sleeping man.

on my 20th birthday

on your roof all the Australian wine

and pear cider we could drink.

the sleeping man

on the way home

who I hope thinks of you

like the gospel

your hands like the gospel through my hair

making the whole train smell like sleep

Future Policy

John Grey

In the morning you mull over last night's

raw pulse and why you quarrel more

now that the fall wind has stripped the trees

and winter's just a bout of cabin fever away.

 

Winter. Damn that word.

Why give a name to the nothingness.

Indulge it with hot coffee.

The first crackle of wood in a fireplace.

Warm is today's meal.

Grab your share.

Whistle. Hear your tune

smother old echo, cauterize

the trembling halls.

 

Sit back with a newspaper

loaded up with other people's problems.

In your calm, there remains,

the faith of a marble statue,

that life is a game of the enduring,

and only an idiot sums up their attitudes

in the Ming of a china dish.

The saturnine sky of the orange sun proves it.

There is room on the planet for calm,

for words without edges.

Pick up the pieces if you will

but put them together as insight.

 

The cost of a plate is nothing.

Even behind cabinet glass,

porcelain cries out to be replaced

More work for skilled craftsmen

in the south of China.

Economy of scale, economy of rage.