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Maryland Blue Crabs


On their anniversary,

he was in another city

scaling steel frames,

his calloused hands moving

up and down

the spines of new buildings

while she waited

for him to remember.

At home, his name was thick
with fresh ink on the notepad,
each letter traced
over and over again.
The only gift she received
was from her oldest daughter:
a wedding couple
made of black and white
construction paper. Their little bodies
stiff, their limbs
rolled and twisted, each one
around the other.

Days later, when he appeared
with a cooler full of Maryland blue crabs, she covered
the table with newspapers.
He watched them as they laughed
and hammered away
at their dinner, the hot, brittle shells
cracking like porcelain. For weeks,
she would find pieces of shell
buried in the carpet.

All through the evening,
she stared
at the paper couple
she had placed so carefully
in the china cabinet.
The tape had already begun
to let go, their small, mitten-shaped
hands slowly pulling apart.



There is No God of Poetry

-- for John Logan


You tripped up the concrete steps
of your rented house full of students
waiting, wanting your wisdom and
one another. We'd have camped
all night for you, though it
wasn't a required class.

We shouldered you the last few feet
across the threshold, fermented pain
seeping from your mind, patted down
the vodka-and-pill refrigerator
for a cracker of sustenance
or an impotent cold compress.

Now every spring whenever rain
assails, I see you through
the thick haze, reeling on the deck
of a ship, drunk with Hart Crane,
arms linked like chains,
propping each other up.

I conjure all that blood, remind myself
there is no god of poetry, or anyone,
who teaches us the sense
in gripping the rail a second longer
in praying for a stranger who might leap
to save us from the stumble.

PERRY NICHOLAS will read from his work July 15 at Rust Belt Books.




Families shuffle sideways
in the intricate skein
of responsibility --
seldom stagger away
from brother's last defeat
or a mother's harsh words.

We seek a crisis
to keep from moving ahead.
On the edge of the net,
looking out, there's no one
to judge. No one from whom
to expect any more. Comfort
is found within the review
of bad behaviors & expectation
of loss. We puff wit
understanding, not sure
why others can't see
their one hundred bad choices,
but after years of lessons
I'm still figuring out the pattern,
where I fit in the web
I've helped to design.

JENNIFER CAMPBELL will read from her work July 15 at Rust Belt Books.


Out of the Damp


out of the damp of womb
our wrinkles do not stay,
puckered skin smoothes into talcum as we're
held under hospital lights to dry,
doctor's fingers like clothespins on ankles.

years of swimming pools and toy-filled baths
stored inside pink skin
begin to invade like slow flood
turn over years, laundry, washing
and bathing baby hair, johnson & johnson shampoo
in kitchen sinks.
we soak in sweat of lovers' beds
where wrinkled bodies are first imagined,
and towel off sunblocked tummies, half-slicked cowlicks
at beach, drench so so many summer gardens
when sun almost sets.
tea swallows, infuses three o'clocks and
rain balloons, ruins grown-up shoes.

then, talcum dusted off an age ago,
steeped in baptism, skin grown thin,
cellophane membrane creases like newspaper on pavement,
exquisite undrying.
we immerse from inside.
other hands bathe us,

NICOLE CARROLL will read from her work July 9 at Buffalo State College's Butler Library.

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