The Circus Dog

Every couple of days the train
pulls into  some prairie town:
Northfield, Mankato, Cannon Falls.

Every couple of days the gymnasts sigh,
and the Flying Latvians mend their tights.
It's all to do over again.

The dog sees only the hoop of flame,
clowns dancing beyond.
He goes for it over and over.

Singed fur, eyelid melting into
perpetual droop. One more skid
to the sawdust  in Couderay.

He's embarrassing to the troupe.
Nobody plays with him any more,
not even the ballerina on her trapeze

gets it. She looks away
from the dog-shaped hole
in the paper medallion,

his chilling obsession
with chance
his cockeyed religion

his furious
of will.

:: Mary Rose O'Reilley, Half Wild (2006)


Camptown Races

At the iron sink I divide
garbage: cobs for chickens
husks for compost

chore the fugitive
daughter of a grim ancestress
ditched in favor of

the Lowell mills (12 hours
a day 6 days a week 18 cents an hour)
better than her home prospects

once the solemnly composed Union
officer bared
his dusty head and delivered
bones swaddled like an unlovely infant

or diaries or nothing. Preferring rupture
to the role of family servant
rude to the consoling preacher

this willowy forget-me-not
spectre of a woman quit

milking slopping spinning
canning fragrant hot
berries shiny as forbidden
lipstick and removed

furtively, like a convict, a few eggs
in her apron, no shoes
or worn shoes pinching
each mile

to a hostel
with her own kind (and wrote
to Aunt Tillie Eustacia Dennett:
"I work for wages not bread")

stared at the piano roiling the parlor:
Camptown Races (racy, naughty)
Oh Promise Me
Billy Willy Kissme Again
sometimes Moonlight Sonata

though skin from her fingers
peeling with lye soap remains
between wide, valuable planks
I pace, casting entrails before

and applecores behind, in her
uncivil revolutionary shadow.

:: Joyce Peseroff, in The American Voice #29 (1992)



I am wearing dark glasses inside the house
To match my dark mood.

I have left all the sugar out of the pie.
My rage is a kind of domestic rage.

I learned it from my mother
Who learned it from her mother before her

And so on.
Surely the Greeks had a word for this.

Now, surely the Germans do.
The more words a person knows

To describe her private sufferings,
The more distantly she can perceive them.

I repeat the names of all the cities I've known
And watch an ant drag its crooked shadow home.

What does it mean to love the life we've been given?
To act well the part that's been cast for us?

Wind.   Light.   Fire.   Time. 
The train whistles through the far hills.

One day I plan to be riding it.

:: Suzanne Buffam, in Crazyhorse #75 (Spring 2009)



I acknowledge the dishwasher his further mopping.
The knives I've dropped.
The restaurant we work in once
was a bank and before that it was a restaurant

and before that it was a bank. We store sugars in the vault and gold
butter foil is sticking to the floor. The tallest man at the bar
leans into me. I hope you closer have into me a good closer, even closer

night. Across the street they're mopping and two doors down
there's mopping too. From the alley is a topographic rhythm

of horn players in succession. I run my hands over every table
with a rag. Maybe someday this will be a bank again

when the waitresses are ghosts and deeds
have been turned over. I imagine my money as a sign of good exchange.

It's late, you've been deserted,
I say to the man dissolving sugar into coffee.
I'm from a big family, he assures me,

I like to be alone. Sometimes I can see in a stranger's eyes
all there is to know. This love of loneliness. Ask me

what state I was born in.
I am waiting on you, my cause célèbre, can I bring you a spoon?

:: Gabriella Klein, in Field #73 (Fall 2005)