Beauty is Quite Strange, 6 by Roxanne Carter


photo by Katherine Elizabeth

Beauty is Quite Strange, 6

women are beautiful in a house. they look out of windows, their bodies slide effortlessly between archways, their cheekbones clang on lighting fixtures. nothing will stop a woman from making a beautiful home, from becoming beautiful in a house, from becoming a house herself. her legs will protrude from the doors, she will wear the house like a cocktail dress, she will lift her cigarette daintily to the gable-roof window, where her mouth waits. now this is a dream. this is not actuality. a beautiful house, a man she loves living with beauty inside. she wants to see that his clothes are handsome. that he wears a hat, keeps his chin smooth, and carries a handkerchief, offering it to her when she sneezes, throwing it across puddles when she walks in her satin shoes. they’re lost in this picture, a depiction of a home, a very beautiful thing. a woman… for instance, bouquets of flowers, shirtwaist dresses, costume jewelry, cake tins. all of these make living substantial. her energy goes every which way… the freshly cut sunflowers and basket of newly fallen apples make a beautiful arrangement of the table. she’s indifferent to etiquette, and when she’s alone, she will eat in only her lavender slip, standing barefoot on a newspaper. she doesn’t care. all right.

in the dining room, there’s a beautifully set table. they had arranged it. they did this together. he exclaimed, we did this together. there are flowers, there are fruit. here is a charming table, and what will it do? it immediately released something in them to which they responded. beauty is important. a woman has a beautiful life, a beautiful home, she lives with her head in the attic and knees pressed against the furnace in the basement. so firm they blush. if it rains and there is a flood, the torrent will come, and take her in one gulp. she will not resist, so encumbered by architecture.

                – Roxanne Carter
                   from Words Dance 12, Fall 2008


My Eyes Can See for Miles


My Eyes Can See for Miles

you kissed me like
a heathen,
with your sweet and
deadly scissor-lips
whispering
sins into my ears.

our hands quickly swim and
slither over goose-
bumped skin;
the speckled surface
quivering
and
our lips
whispering
(always whispering)

i can see
how your eyes darken
like a mood-ring,
your intentions lose
all subtleties;
your obviousness
sharpens.
you say, “We dream
through our skin.
Every time you breathe out,

i breathe in.”

                – Adam Smith
                   from Words Dance 3, Winter 2003


Gratitude by Ester Bloom


Gratitude

She once asked me
why I never wrote poetry
about her

my tongue darted around my mouth
like a startled fish when its tank
has been tapped

I looked at her and remembered
how when we walked from her house
to our favorite clothing store,

she pushed me to the inside
of the sidewalk, sure that if I edged
too close to traffic, I’d be sucked in

and drown. When I slept over
at her house
she toasted my waffles for me

and let me read the comics first, and,
in the old days, before anyone knew
what “learning disabled” meant,
she told me I
was the only one allowed
to call her dumb. Of course,
I never did. I had frequent nightmares
about her exploding: reduced to fireworks of flesh
by a sky-blue truck
as she played in the middle of
the street. The mornings after these dreams,
I’d sit with my nose

pressed to the glass of the bus window
until we pulled up to her house and she
climbed on, unfragmented, and I could
breathe again. When I turned sexual
(like turning colors, blushing,
bruising) she

was the only one who saw.
I lay on her bed, a five-foot long
panting, radiating thing:

hooked on, demanding
her hand in something less
than marriage: and she obliged

massaged me back to life.
There are no Hallmark cards
for thanks like these. No words,
and hence no poetry, til now.
Forgive me, love. I still dream
sometimes about you crumbling against

a pickup truck which I see coming,
which my screaming cannot stop. I keep my nose
pressed to the glass

now, til you absolve me.
I will not breathe until
you do.

                – Ester Bloom
                   Words Dance #4 Spring 2004


an excuse to smile by Glenn Cooper


an excuse to smile

for no reason
other than needing
today an excuse
to smile, I’m
remembering when
I worked at my
previous job &
we were opening up
the Internet Café
& a beach theme
was decided upon
for the party,
& quiet,
one-legged Danny,
who never talked much,
broke us all up
when he said he’d come
as a shark attack
victim.

                – Glenn Cooper
                   from Words Dance 7, Spring 2005


Untitled by Adebe D. A.


Untitled

your smiling mouth is enough
to pull me through
to the damp smoky
pits of hell
where upon arrival I will become
burdened by fever
and quicksilver veins

with your head rested upon my abdomen
I feel a black heaviness heave on me
like a large stone
that can never tell the difference
between wind
or sunlight
or snowstorm,
but exists merely
for its own self

carved from old marble
as you are,
and masculine,
I melt into you
like wilting violets,
using your arms
as a blanket
for tomorrow’s silence.

                – Adebe D. A.
                   from Words Dance 6, Fall 2004


Legacy by Margarita Engle


Legacy

The old immigrant woman
writing offended letters
to her American-born sons
tells me they’re too busy
to read her letters
or take time off
for a visit
so she tucks the sealed envelopes
into a box in the closet
knowing that after she’s dead
they’ll find her gift of wounded words
to keep them
busy.

                – Margarita Engle
                   from Words Dance 6, Fall 2004


on my seventh birthday by Michelledion Matthews


on my seventh birthday

dad teaches me how to fire a rifle cleanly
piercing targets dead center

cold blue-black bullets
smacking and puncturing
the pink skin of innocent balloons
unassuming pepsi cans
makeshift bulls-eyes scribbled on pizza boxes

i fire
dropthegunanddash
to admire the wounds i made
bubblegum rubber shriveled like terrible skin
shiny aluminum torn by a pointed head
cardboard corpses flaunting their battle wounds

dad says “all you do is pretend
the target is something you hate.”

i think of fractions
with mismatched bottoms that i can’t add
i think of tiffany-know-it-all
the slim blond at school who calls me whale girl
i think of dad
i fire cleanly

                – Michelledion Matthews
                   from Words Dance 3, Winter 2003


Street Jazz by Chris Kornacki


street jazz

most think
downtown detroit
is a burning garbage heap
so no one ventures through the city
unless they’re moving towards
some well organized venue
with tight security
metal detectors
and inflated ticket priced
safety

but me and my friends
broke
hopeless
and drinking
22’s of “high life”
out of brown paper bags
forget all about the $70
scalper priced concert tickets
we can’t afford
as we sit on the corner
listening to a jazz trio
who’ve set up stage
on the street

they don’t even lay out
a deep pitted hat
or an empty instrument case
to collect spare change
but play
for the sake of playing
with no other reason
than to put a solid saxophone shrill
into the footsteps
of the people passing
by

they don’t want our money

and there’s not too many people
moving past here
who are willing
to just sit out on the street
and appreciate that

                – Chris Kornacki
                   from Words Dance 8, Fall 2005


Lesson from The Gold Rush #3 by Tyler Mason


Lesson from The Gold Rush #3

Opening a door
is a dangerous thing.
You never know what storm has risen out on the horizon,
or if that storm’s wind has barricaded itself in wait
against the door, so that when you open it,
you are thrown against the back of the house,
with only the fat prospector
who is with you to help. What’s worse –
the house has no foundation. It lies on ice.
And when you fly back, the house flies with you,
until you, the house, and the prospector see-saw on the
edge of a cliff.

You struggle to keep the house in proper teeter –
maybe with a chapped face – an icicle hanging
from your mustache. Because it’s cold, of course.
But some other wind blows the house back on course.
Pushes you from the edge of a cliff and your house skates
downhill, coming to a rest on a little ice field.
Safe, except you haven’t eaten in days. That’s why
you were trying to get out in the first place.
That is why you opened a door.

And what if now you are on the outside coming in. You found
no food and the storm has picked up again.
So you return and enter the house and the fat prospector
thinks you a chicken. Every “I found nothing, sir” is
not heard.

He only hears you cluck. And you say,
“We could eat one of my boots,” and that just makes
him hungrier, until he has a knife and is chasing
you around the house. So you open a door.
The storm again greets you with a harsh wind.
As you fly, you are saying, “I am not food.”
The prospector gains a little on you against the wind.
“I am not cluck,” you say.
“I am cluck cluck. I cluck-cluck-cluck.”

                – Tyler Mason
                    from Words Dance 10, Fall 2006
                    Guest-edited by Jessica Dawson


(air terminal love) by Adam Smith


(air terminal love)

cross-armed and staring,
you sit
like a portrait
but
read like a magic
eye;

a cacophony of
sounds
and probabilities
of who you
might be
abound

your face stilled by
that
far-away look

and that makes you
famous here,
sitting in the
station

and i,
in bearded wonder-
ment,
(eleven days),
can only stare
at my
shoes;

stealing a glance
here,
issuing a smile
there…

in my mind
you’re signing
autographs

                – Adam Smith
                    from Words Dance #4 Spring 2004