Thursday, February 26, 2009

Poems by Jennifer Armentrout

In My Favorite Memory of You

Quiet clings to street corners. No cars are out,
sidewalks ice-packed and slick. By 3rd Avenue

the snow picks up with great, fat flakes
like soap. I want to stop and catch one

on my tongue but it’s cold. Instead we walk
as fast as we can to the bar. A couple dozen

Santas jingle by. All of them drunk, some shouting
“Ho ho ho!” as they pass. We laugh

until we get inside and see fifty more: a sea
of cheap beards and velvet. I think nothing

can be more absurd but am wrong. In the bad light,
the snow makes your hair look gray. Like a kick

to the head I see us spin out. For a second
our future spreads till you reach up and brush

your hair clean. Now you are gone and everything’s wrong.
Coffee spills on my hands without burning. Bird wings

litter streets as if plague cut them off in mid-flight. I write
you letters, take up meditation. I examine my grief, peel

back the skin of its story—a torture. I touch each word,
you, lover, friend, your name—then let it drift

like snow off a roof. At the end, I’m told, I will see
its essence. But when I look there's nothing,

just a chasm, my belly its lip. I picture my hand
dipping into a silver bowl, a plastic ballerina inside.

Floating mid-air, she begs to be touched. But I can’t—
she’s only a trick of light, an illusion. Late in my pregnancy

I ran a fever for six days and felt nothing—no flutter, no kick.
I’m not saying this is the same, just that the wait’s its own end.

The Lipizzaner

Next to your show ribbons hung
this photo of a Lipizzaner your sister
saw in Austria. I’d marvel at it:
I’d only seen stock horses and Pintos
since I’d moved to the country.
While you braided your hair,
I conjured the Airs: levade, courbette,
croupade—tried to make my legs
as graceful. No use; of the two of us
I was always the clumsy one, who
could draw a horse but not ride; whose
limbs were all bruises and bends.
I reached for the frame, intending
to drop it ‘on accident’ when you said,
“Take it. I don’t want it.”—
you’d learned only yesterday
your sister wasn’t your sister
but mother, who’d given you up
at seventeen, married a year later,
and left the country.

I had nothing
to say about that so I walked home,
popped tar bubbles in the road
with my toes, and stuffed
that photo deep in the trash.

Jennifer Armentrout lives in Seattle, Washington, where she works as an IT Engineer for a Chemical Distribution company. Her work has appeared online in The Adirondack Review and Rock Salt Plum Review, and in print in The Wolf UK and Orbis.

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