archives spring 2009




It’s simple they said:
when you walk into a house,
you make sure it’s yours by turning on
the lights. It would be dangerous
otherwise. A fluorescent lamp
was shone into my eye, and they entered.
As promised, I felt nothing
the way an empty house has no awareness
of intruders or the violence done
to its walls with a paper cutter.

And now I can’t sleep.
I’ve been pushed into a room where
the cordon bleu looks like a bra padding
from my side of bed. The wound
under my right breast
is a door, unhinged. I probe it
as a blind would when disarming a bomb.
In this place, everyone
has been spirited away by some war.
Only the lights remain—
brightly working
to keep the moths awake.


Elderly Woman Found Dead in the Living Room

We enter
without learning her name:
she is the anonymous mailbox,
she is the neighbor’s index finger
indicating the third door
to our left. Her head is the first body part
to greet us from the couch.
In dying, she didn’t watch
where she placed her feet. There are egg shells
in her left slipper. And popcorn.
Her eyes are open
the way bowls are empty when they have
their bottoms smashed away.
At the corner of her lips, a small horn
of mayonnaise, dried
to transparency. How tiny she is
with the stretcher and black bag arranged
in front of the television.
In the meantime, a crowd
has gathered outside. That’s her, everyone says
as if they’ve sat with her every night
and had what she was eating.
Yes, that’s her.


A Kind of Monogamy

The well has long dried up;
the pail—pulled up and down by thirst—
lies severed from its rope.

                To keep animals out
and children, a table with three legs
up in the air seals the hole.

The coins at the bottom
still live their wishes after the wishers
have left, the village burnt down.


Poem That Has No Awareness of Being a Poem

Or how it gives itself away by going on
and on about the distance between two planets

when what it means is Wednesday
and the bruising effect that lipstick has

on a glass. A kind of Morse code,
it isn’t aware that it is changed by the person

who interprets it. Here, a cat is scratching
an earthquake on the intruder’s skin.

Here, we’re both drunk and married.
Here, loneliness as drizzle rewrites

the graffiti on the train. Word after word,
the reader falls into the poem and is disguised,

like a bogeyman checking on someone’s children,
a trapdoor with dead things to hide.


What These Elbows Say About the Afterlife

A father’s afterlife easily becomes your life.

During the war, he skinned cats until his stomach stopped feeling like the hollow of an elbow. He lived among the shatter of streetlamps, the gutted buildings, shrapnel. He fed his younger brothers from the tip of his knife. The war grew on him, he said, and tasted feline.

What is childhood or skinned elbows to a corpse?

The father’s dentures have been left out of the funeral, but still they leave bite marks when pressed against something that yields to touch—raw meat, felt paper, soil.

When the wound is deep enough, you can see the bones on which the elbows were founded.

You find it harder to sleep. There’s a new hunger in the dreams—the way the barrel of a gun tunnels through a man’s mouth. You wake up the exact moment you know you should be dead.

When a father dies in front of his children, he is asking forgiveness.

The father’s bed is small, with urine stains that map his departure from the body.

There’s no point now in walking away. You sit on his Antarctica. Your elbows press themselves against your knees. You hold your head in both hands.

You wait in your little-girl/boy clothes until someone comes to pick on you. Like a flower for the dead. Or a scab. 


Arlene Ang is the author of four poetry collections, the most recent being a collaborative work with Valerie Fox, Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press, 2008). She serves as staff editor for The Pedestal Magazine and Press 1. She received the 2006 Frogmore Poetry Prize and the 2008 Juked Poetry Prize. She lives in Spinea, Italy. More of her work may be viewed at www.leafscape.org.