LIBRETTO

Two Poems | Lauren Scharhag

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Magic Eye

When you catch my eye, I take off my glasses. That way,
there’s nothing between us. Sometimes, I like things
to be not too distinct, like an impressionist painting. Light
and color and mood more important than detail. I collect
Catholic kitsch, telling myself it’s ironic. St. Lucy with her eyes
on a plate. Baron Samedi with his broken sunglasses. I hold
eggs up to the light. I buy a house. Take a pregnancy test.
If a virgin can conceive, why not someone with no uterus?
I watch the minute hand, but it moves so slowly, I never quite
catch it. I take up yoga and time-lapse photography.
I search the light trails. I search the Crayola scribblings
of my nieces and nephews, hoping they will reveal something,
like those old Magic Eye posters. I could never see anything
in those either. Astigmatism. Light splinters in my vision.
My neighbor keeps chickens in a coop under her back deck. She
lets them out sometimes to flutter around the yard. They have no
concept of roads or jokes, of what came first; no notion of what
their entrails might disclose. I host a dinner party. Shuffle the cards,
pretend that I don’t know that hearts correspond to cups, try not to
think about emptiness. Attend a meditation retreat where emptiness
is the point. Start eating arugula, almost zero calories, praying for
the void to enter me. Find a god’s eye in the woods, purple yarn
dangling from the naked tree branches. A way into the labyrinth.
I need eye drops in ragweed season. Grumble about the clothes
the kids are wearing these days. Build a birdhouse. Buy seed.
Cry so easily. I stand at the mouth of a forest path, where the trees
form a tunnel, trying to see if it leads somewhere other than to
asphalt and traffic lights flashing red, trying to find the pattern
in chicken scratch. In the summer, I will stand at the other end,
chasing mirages on ozone red-alert days. I think I have loved
more than I have been loved, but there’s no reliable metric.
I hold Easter eggs up to the light. They lull me with their pastel
facades and promises of sweets. You have to carve your own path
to the center of God’s eye. Mark the way with purple yarn, hoping
someone will follow. A demon-red fox prowls in the undergrowth,
eyes yellow-green. Stop go yield. I plan baby showers for all
my friends. I plan kids’ birthday parties. Deviled eggs are my
signature dish. I tattoo myself with rabbits, with hearts and bones.
This is my only home so might as well feather the nest, even if I
dwell here alone. Look forward to Bloody Marys and mimosas.
Paint roses red. Build a pit for us to gather around the holy fire.
My journey has only just begun. My glasses discarded on the
bedside table. I don my sleep mask, craving perfect darkness.
Infinity can only be seen with the inner eye.

Theoxenia

A cadralor

Mammogram

There is a locker room where I get undressed, leave my clothes
folded and hung in a steel box. Don the pink gown. My breast flattened
between two plastic plates, fileted and butterflied, served up on a bed of radiation.
I await judgment.

Cowbirds

Pastures on either side of the highway throng with yellow-legged cattle egrets.
In medians, they trail mowers, catching grasshoppers churned up by the blades.
Perched on the backs of bulls, picking ticks off hides. Sated, pure white bodies
unfold themselves skyward, to return to the wetlands.

Fukushima

Alarmed by reports of mutated daisies,
you bring me a bottle of iodine tablets to protect
the delicate twin lobes of my thyroid. You ignore
the aspartame-laced drinks I consume, the Red Dye 40 snacks.

Hospitality

Our apartment on Cathedral Square was an island adrift on a sea of indigence.
They’d break into the lobby to have a place to sleep out of the cold.
We’d leave packages of food on the low wall flanking the tow zone,
like an offering. You never know what form the divine takes.

Henderson Beach

I leave the water and peel off my suit to find kelp and sargassum
garlanding my skin, green and brown cursive
marking me with the language of the deep.
These legs, like everything else, are temporary.

Lauren Scharhag (she/her) is an associate editor for GLEAM: Journal of the Cadralor, and the author of thirteen books, including Requiem for a Robot Dog (Cajun Mutt Press) and Languages, First and Last (Cyberwit Press). Her work has appeared in over 150 literary venues around the world. Recent honors include the Seamus Burns Creative Writing Prize and multiple Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations. She lives in Kansas City, MO. To learn more about her work, visit: http://www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com

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