JANET BOWDAN'S poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, The Missouri Review and Tinfish. She teaches at Western New England College in Springfield, Massachusetts.
writing (on the walls)
As if I could see that far into the past
could on an overcast day the sky full
of omens walk along looking at something else,
window displays, hear its recognition.
horizon gaze open-focuses, contracts to close-up
you could almost touch minor characters
lilliputian from a distance now brobdingnags
as they turn major, the key's minor,
when the walls close in you get out, go
for a walk. cracks not in the retaining wall,
not the one required to hold the house up
just a sort of curtain wall, a cosmetic, a facade.
Back then the writing was on the wall and now
the wall's blank, a shell, the kind of blank that
if you shot, you wouldn't hurt
me, just a powder burn, a scar, unless we were
too close. hear the shot echoing in the past,
someone's shot a video, the turning again: which
story's etched into the wall with light? who
read it, who looks at the whole story, who turns
to look at something else, into the sky for omens,
demanding signs, a boy falling out of the sky, we
are too close: you can't stop watching, I can't look.
Back to the window displays carefully dressed mannequins,
faces painted in the reflection of the sky, the story
of giants in miniature, you watching. the angle of
ice 2 (on)
the question is what is being kept on reserve, what are my reserves
you could say if you had any curiosity about me
and I will just say I am intensely curious about you
vice versa would only be polite
but I'm sure you have your own life you have to get on with
your intimate concerns. And now back to me
say that there is a part of me not used, utilized, well what part
is that? clearly it's not the part that works, all working parts
in order, working non-stop it feels like, the ever-increasing speed
of the conveyor belt, the treadmill, the grindstone the nose is to:
do these images suggest a wearing down or out to you? do you think
I have, indeed, gotten smaller? of course to answer that
you have to have paid attention before. it's all right,
try this: does water expand or contract when it turns to ice?
A simple experiment will provide the solution. Put a full glass of
water into your freezer and leave it overnight or for several years
before checking on the results. It might help to mark the level
of water on the glass with a wax pencil, in case you are likely
to forget where it was.