Issue No. 20 | Spring 2019
Guards and Guardians
correction made by Mac Autocorrect function
My domus is my domain,
where the location of
all light switches
is always familiar,
where my keys and my Ghiradelli chocolate bars
are right here, right at hand.
In the home where I feel at home
I have dominion over everything
(except the cats, of course).
What doors are open
to the openers of doors?
The lobby is their domain?
They guard from would-be intruders
the doors of my world --
standing in their assigned places
in the lobby of the American dream,
in which they had hoped to ride up.
“Sweetie, you always should say ‘good morning,’ not ‘ hello,’ to Carlos”--
Small shareholders-in-training become familiar
with shared rules of etiquette:
when to avoid verbal familiarities,
to whom one hands out holiday tips,
and whose hand one doesn’t shake.
And God said, Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness:
and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
and over the fowl of the air
the doormen of their building. [stanza break]
The super’s rules for his staff
include wearing white gloves.
Their white hands
and the white orchids in the lobby
increase the property values in our domain.
Speaking in Tongues
“Welcome. Please choose your language”
Sign in CVS drugstore
Welcome to the last month of the marriage.
Please choose your divorce lawyer, rephrase your accusations, and by all means pass Go.
Choose? this language chooses its victims:
I mutter, he mutters, we mutter
about each other.
Muttering is in a different dictionary
a weighted book in my backpack.
These sounds choose us and use us
in their world without passports.
Mutters are the unsaid the undead doing their calisthenics
inside our rosy mouths
until we can no longer shout or explain or sing.
No lawyer dare oppose
the exclusive territory they claim.
Our court date is set. Happy Mutter’s Day.
Welcome to your hell. Please choose your linguistic symptoms.
My neighbor was crisp as the pastries she baked
when she first moved next door,
feisty as the jokes she told me then.
Born in Germany, emigrated young--
she lost all speech after her stroke
except the one she spoke
when she was just a girl
and seldom since.
Reclaimed, chosen by her native tongue
or frozen in it to keep her other paralyzed limbs
company as they try to trudge
to their first home.
Welcome to your family holiday. Please choose your cutlery and your cutting words.
Do the teasers know or care
when tickling words inflame bare skin?
at their choice?
Please choose your language,
knowing well that malarkey
rhymes conveniently with snarky.
Welcome to the museum exhibit that explains that, “According to native American beliefs, spirits communicate with people through whistling."
Please choose to join these spirits:
whistle with them while they work.
That's not wind but the language
they are asking me to hear--
knowing it uncaps antidotes
to the secreted bile in teases,
knowing that it sings to
she who has lost her bearings
as she tries to bear
words' games of hide-and-seek [no stanza break]
played in the property that owns me.
Come, hailed by their whistles,
hear throughout your legal hearings
melodies clearer than those hassles.
Yes come, hear all their whistles,
for these wordless songs will guide me
beyond this wilderness of my own words--
beyond attacks disguised as archness,
beyond words ironed down with legal starches--
to where words are spirited again.
Hear and hail these whistlers
and choose freed words once more