italic calligraphy style4


Jenny Mahoney


There’s a bird spine in my tongue, dear –

you should know this — bristling from root

to tip. I think it wants to fly, or sing,

but it hurts me with its thrusting.

Or maybe it’s an eel spine, flat

on the cutting board, flapping is ribs

in the Protestant squeaks of my

dead mother’s tongue.

You can’t hear it but it deafens me.

Either way, a horse pulled a rock

from the Widow Murphy’s farm yesterday.

Did you hear? No? Of course all the men

helped, the sweat of themselves running

like tadpoles over sun rocks, pushing,

pushing so hard, I imagine they died

in a mountain of themselves afterward

and were glad for it. I know I would’ve.

What would you like for breakfast, Macree?

Slam whiskey? I’ll pour but don’t watch.

They’ve been slurred, these piano hands,

now old-woman graspy hands. Not one

muscle on a string-bone left, I’m afraid.

I’d play if I could. You used to like it,

but it’s hard playing with life being lived

when I see it and I do, whereas visiting

those tombs you despise on a Sunday

puts me in continuum, the black paper

of my birth certificate polished, ordained.

Here! look! For the first time I know who

my father was! That ragged little bastard

I adored with the precision of a corpse!

he fed me, clothed me, bought me shoes –

himself a poor man! Called me his twelve-cent

chicken painted til it weighed forty pounds

then plucked me and set me free. Two reasons

he had; slaughter horses to contain the wiggle

of my mother or smoke muscles to improve

the curse of life’s meaning. All our favorite

bills are due. I’d liked to have been a rich baby

fed butter and cream. Sin to admit, for it would be

eccentric of the innocent to admit their crimes.

I would still like to be a rich baby. Worse to admit.

I’ve been thinking about our future and the baby’s.

I’ve decided both should be yellow.

from Kind Surgery. ©2014.


Sweet Basil


I wonder about my Uncle Basil,

mother’s young brother who died

when all the pictures and streets

were black and just barely white

and even shoes were rare.

He hung around the Strand Movie Theater

smoking cigarettes in the dark,

damp places, I was told, once –

and that was all, that was all it took.

I wonder what he looked like,

what his death was like. I see a slung hat,

a grin — I cannot imagine death

my mother blamed her mother for:

kept him in dark rooms, she said,

no fresh air, no fruit.

As if that would appease the one

who punishes small-town boys

for loving the white and flickering

faces above and down alleys

and having fathers who uttered

the German grunt in 1941.

from The Wedding Tree ©2013


The Sky I Think is Up There


the cat doesn’t want

to be tossed off the bed

the ant doesn’t want

to be pissed down the sink

the dog doesn’t want

to be put to sleep

the radio doesn’t want

to be played

the mind doesn’t want

to think

the intestines don’t want

to squeeze

the blood doesn’t want

to be red

the hand doesn’t want

to grasp

the lip doesn’t want

to kiss

the hat fails to fly off the naked lady and land upon

my head.

from Waiting for Better ©2014




The fact that she had killed twice before

never bothered me. In fact made me strong,

for I knew that if need be she would kill for me.

What is dust but the broken-off ends of this world

that we filter and hate as best we can

in order to see air, and be glad?

from Waiting for Better ©2014



The Soft Weep


With tongue touching nothing

the frenzy-coated alphabet

rattled from his mouth into

the soft weep of a thousand.

“I have only just footed this

ugly ascent’s torn otherness,”

he cried. “So muscle the wound

and hush, Cantata, nor wince

the socket packed!” O my father,

who art in pieces, who art in wax:

shoot your snakes into the coiling sun –

then drop your bow, and run.



by Matt Dennison

from Kind Surgery ©2014