Cow Song

My sleep rolls through the hust of crickets' purr
to find split girth, birth's note stalking my dark room.
Father slips on boots as her sound consumes
our squarish house. I am getting older.
I do as I'm told. The cow's tongue slurs,
one blue slack leg dangling from her womb.
He steps through the springer's black perfume
and palm to belly, checks for breath, the stir.
The hooked moon shifts through redwoods as danger
lodges, sifts in his hand. Tight lips spill
stifled goddamns while dark hooves scrape their lists.
He goes in arm-length with slip-noosed hanger
to loosen young shoulder from hip. Cow song fills
the silver pail. The shotgun sits and sits.

:: Susan B.A. Somers-Willett, in Crab Orchard Review (2006)


12:02 p.m.

under armpits
hold lunches
instead of briefs

squashed egg salad
two cookies
a hundred caolorie apiece

fine leathers
they look so couth
brown paper bags

they look so un

:: Doris Vanderlipp Manley, in If I Had a Hammer: Women's Work in Poetry, Fiction, and Photographs


Found Money

Almost every day I find
a penny on the street.
And if the penny faces up
I call it luck.
And if it's down
I call it money.

When I was young
I helped my mom clean a store at night
after her regular job.
I'd spray counters with ammonia
that went up my nose and stung my eyes
then rub away the fingerprints
with a soft cloth.
I'd scrape gum from the floors
and hold the pan as she swept
in dust and black dirt.

Sometimes I'd find coins in the dressing room.
I even found a dollar
behind a row of gowns.
No matter if I found a dollar or a dime
Mom made me leave it with a note
on the big wooden register.

Once I found a wallet
on the floor of a movie theater.
No name. No pictures. Only money.
Even in the dark I could see
it was red, smooth plastic red.
I looked at my mother
and she looked away.

Almost every day I find
a penny on the street.
And if the penny faces up
I call it luck.
And if it's down
I call it money.

:: Patti Tana, in If I Had a Hammer: Women's Work in Poetry, Fiction, and Photographs (1990, Papier-Mache Press)



Are these the same trees or the children of the trees that used to be
here? Nothing changes space more than trees. They rest us. At dusk,
exhausted & streaked with dirt, we sit beneath trees with slices of
melon. We joke. We sing. I never knew the farmer liked to sing till I
got old & he told me. Why would you hide this from a child? Singing
was his hope. In my family when people did not get what they
wanted, they walked out a door & stared at the horizon. They sang
too. My mother sang in English & my father sang in Arabic. They
disappeared for awhile or trimmed a tree with long clippers. Better
than hitting. Better than cursing or drinking I guess. I sat in the cool
den under the pine trees between my house & Barbara's house. The
farmer's grandfather used to own our street too. Our street was once
part of this farm. When I find Barbara this trip she says, "I don't
remember you so much. I remember your brother." In the old days
while everybody was secretly singing I hiked to the farm. Talked to
trees along the way. Told them our troubles. Purchased lima beans
for my mother. Asked for okra & Caroline folded the top of the bag
so neatly. As if she didn't have thousands of things to do.

:: Naomi Shihab Nye, in Five Points 3:2, Winter 1999


Industrial League Bowling

Treva's husband throws a strike
every time he's up. She quit school
at fourteen, but Treva does the numbers
like a mathematician: ten plus ten plus
ten plus ten to three hundred at the last frame.
She works first shift sewing machine

at Stedman's. He sands for Dixie Furniture,
but Dixie couldn't make a team, so he's on
with Stedman's by marriage, the ringer.
Their two kids come to Tuesday league night.
They'll know the ball like their own bones
long before they start at the mill.

When Treva's up, she wipes hands on her skirt,
tugs her blue-striped bowling shirt
--the company logo printed on the back--
vees petite fingers in her six-pounder,
and throws. Seven down. Three more for a spare.
Tonight Klopman's eases ahead after the first game.

Steadman's a strong second. Bossong's best
was called in early for a machine repair,
and they're a weak third without him.
Then it's Harrelson Rubber, Acme-McCrary,
Pinehurst, in that order. When your day
is the up-down-up-down arm of a needle

in cloth, a twenty minute lunch,
when you're bad to slip stitches or tangle thread,
and your boss lives in the white house
so big your cousins drive to town just to see it,
you own the ball or you die. This
will save you: the necessary roar of the roll

down the alley, wild scatter of the hit,
a boy setting pins and sending balls
back to hands that can spin, slide, knuckle, toss,
that can make split pins fall, hands
with grease in their creases, grease under nails,
sewer's hands with thread burns scarred into palms.

:: Barbara Presnell, Piece Work (Cleveland State, 2007)