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After the New Yorker Festival

I close my eyes
hollow my body

for flight   We rise
and I arrange

the barf bag
with an apologetic look

toward my seatmate
I don’t need it

yet   Meanwhile the
upsidedown clouds

begin their

furrowed troughs,
city skyline, the light

thick gold, a cloud
castle over there

My seatmate offers
a mint     The clouds shift

into a swimmer,
a penis, an anvil,

the meringue my son
used to make

when he was perfecting
lemon pie, all those

lemons over
the jaggy juicer

Now the clouds
are like crystals

we grew in glass jars
then mist around mountains

quilt stuffing, winter
curb snow   My seatmate

is reading light fiction,
she tells me

she is sorry
to say it but

I don’t look very good
and it’s true,

the motion roils me
but just after

the clouds
make a monkey face

and hold hands
they open

to the dotted lights
of Pittsburgh

and I’m nearly
home, my car in 18C


At the Belgian Border

Slatted chairs separate the sidewalk from the street
man in pointed boots, creases
in his linen shirt, woman walking
away we see a sliver of skin
on her back, the cars on the other side
of the draped tables, buses, motorbikes,
trams, Smart Cars kicking up noise
and in between the bicycles and the skin,
the clickclack of boots: the tables are empty

The cemeteries in Flanders are quiet
graves in lines like chairs
paper poppies at their feet, river
quiet, blackbirds screaming high
over trees, lilies, coreopsis, roses
in rows along the stones, the river
winking, absorbing the dead, the stones
saying NEW ZEALAND, age 19,
trenches dug up in an industrial park,
water standing in the underground tunnels,
wind turbines turning too high to hear

The map is cracked where the tongue
changes course from French
to Flemish, phlegm and umlaut
flat fields punctuated by craters
bombs set off by farmers
the cows are white like they were painted
the menu says kaffee or café
in white cups, strong not bitter
the spicy speculaas not like
my grandmother’s windmill cookies
pulled from plastic trays in pale rows
Later we eat frites at Graystraat


The Atheist’s Hypocrisy

After Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter

Major Scobie, you must confess. Your flesh
stings from the salt of shipwreck survivors

at sea forty days. What would you hold
to your chest at rescue, a stamp collection?

A loose one invites a single lick. Forget
Louise. Ignore the cockroaches,

the passed-over commissionership.
Here in West Africa, it’s Wilson to spy.

Or the Syrian Yusef. But suicide? Can’t
the priest absolve you or coax you to Mass

to slip the state of mortal sin, be witness
to your secret? Ticki, love isn’t safe

when pity’s prowling around. Refuse
the sleeping pills. Louise’s suspicion

isn’t worth the sacrifice. The young girl’s
scar will be concealed. She’ll learn

the disguise. Sail to South Africa
and start fresh your colonial farce,

your play at morality, misplaced disgust.


Long-Stemmed White Rose

That was how the mob don let you know you made the list, though
no one was taken out by Lenny Strollo, himself. He ordered Bernie the Jew

who told Jeffrey Riddle, black drug dealer with Mafia dreams,
who passed the message to Mark Batcho, a burglar’s burglar,

and “Mo Man” Harris, a crack dealer who lived with his mother.
First the rose was delivered, then the Youngstown tune-up,

twist in the ignition by a man with coffee on his lips, Vindicator
on the seat beside him, then a flash and debris of flesh and metal.

One guy’s head was bound with tape until it broke, another
gunned down watching TV with his wife. Sometimes they just wanted

a kneecap. The chief of police and some officers, the sheriff and D.A.
got a little income enhancement. After twenty years trailing and wiretapping,

a skinny FBI guy in penny loafers gave Lenny Strollo the jitters. Lenny
went too far, ordered a Christmas Eve hit on a newly elected prosecutor.

His man Batcho botched the job—The gun jammed! The gum jammed!
the target was hit but not rubbed out—an ex-girlfriend squealed—

and down came Strollo, and with him, a U.S. Congressman. 1998.
Mahoning was the last mob-run county in the country, just

part of the landscape. Today gangs of young black men, no politicians
in their pockets, pop each other with hand guns. Sometimes they get

the wrong guy, mostly they don’t. It’s the same tribal warfare only with
child soldiers, their fathers in prison, mothers on chemotherapy.


Outlook Ave.

Thought and deed, stud and beam, this house
is now mine.

The boxes I’ve saved will stay stacked since
I’m already in, a few years now.

The light-rich bedroom my winter office, painted kitchen table
my desk, under my feet, crimson rug from a friends’ estate sale.

Today roofers are banging up new shingles, slipping on sudden snow.

I miss the clean slate I never saw, the 1930 cedar shakes. I’m old
for a new beginning. Or at least

I didn’t see it coming. Maybe Youngstown feels that way, too.

Red-streaked Dutch tulips are a few inches up.

I worried but the roofers cover everything with sheets of wood, blue tarps.

We are all living temporary lives, my friend tells me.

She never unpacks. Half the year she lives with her husband,
emails her students in Texas from her office in Michigan.  


Karen Schubert’s most recent chapbooks are Black Sand Beach (Kattywompus Press) and I Left My Wings on a Chair (Kent State Press), featured in the Best Dressed section of the Wardrobe by Sundress Publications. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Waccamaw, Ragazine, Best American Poetry Blog, PoetsArtists, and The Louisville Review, and her poem “Autobiography” was selected by Tony Hoagland for the first William Dickey Memorial Broadside Contest. A 2013 writer-in-residence at Headlands Center for the Arts, she is a founding member of Lit Youngstown, a literary arts organization in Youngstown, Ohio.