how was your winter?

spring’s morning chatter
inner city birds return
catch up on gossip


Boxes in the Attic

Hundreds of Superman comic books,
clothing from her teens, old shoes
with holes and broken heels, a black silk
wedding gown from her grandmother,

newspapers from the forties and fifties
when she was the belle of the art world,
a pair of ladies high top shoes with no laces,
a Gil Hodges baseball card, he was hot,

Forty-fives of the Beatles and the Stones.
They were hot too. I danced naked
for John and George. Mick and I
danced naked together.

One cuff link from a lover she can’t remember,
lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, gifts from other
forgotten lovers, price tags still attached.
I hated wearing underwear

Twelve videotapes of herself in a coffin
without a stitch on, her fifty-sixth birthday,
deflated breasts, wispy pubic hair,
squirming underneath twenty-three men

she says found her desirable
Performance art, it was a hell of a show,
the mayor of New York stayed four hours.

She’s unashamed, unrepentant, my mother.

The coffin is there in the attic with the other boxes,
all twenty-three lovers locked inside.
Bury me with them, she cackles,
humping in the grave, that could be a new art form.

Jack Mc Guane

voodoo preacher man

voodoo preacher man
your basketball black fingers
pressing my skull around your game rap
jive slice serious
as a fur-lined hearse in june
i want to believe
that magic runs through your long bones
like liquid gold
shooting to the top
blowing the glass off
the ordinary air
i want to believe
that you can give me magic
simple as an all net shot
if i will only close my eyes
and empty my brain
and let that liquid lightning
jump through your voodoo fingers
into my bones
chicken claw scar mound
bleeding cross
voodoo man
who pimps for jesus
who squeezes my brain
between long black basketball fingers
i want to believe
that when i open my eyes
the world will be simple
as milk filling the bathtub
as the shape of a basketball
in my hands
as the shot in front of me —
a perfect arc
the ball touched only by my hands
and the net

wendy shaffer

the summer’s ending

the summer’s ending
i know it
by the little bit of cool
north i felt
blue in your eyes
by the way you’re straightening
into those fall colors
i’m riding past our first day
that will never happen again
and my legs don’t want
to move
so many little deaths already
and only one summer
they’re talking about god
how she stands at the start
and the finish of the race
the stopwatch in her hand
lately i’ve been thinking
it’s up to me
but i know
the giddy intoxication of our hot days
is ending
and i can’t stop it
any more than i can prevent
all those bees dying
their furry little bodies drying up
on the shelf
i can’t stop it
any more than i could prevent
your knee swelling
with bee venom
i know it’s crazy
but i wish i could go back
just for one hour
when the bees were first starting out
their complaining whine above the dry grass
when we looked at each other and knew
how ripe and sweet the summer would dissolve
in our mouths

wendy shaffer

sex addiction

stars unsnap
and hang
like broken garters in the hot sky

the moon is in my fist
and no matter how hard i squeeze
comes out

thunderstorms stay tied up
in my body
my body that whistles under
your blueblack
knuckled grip

until the world breaks
open into electricity
etching what will not change
with laser light precision
into the black

until the rain comes
pulling heat down
into the choked gutters

now starfish come unfrozen
swimming up into dawn

wendy shaffer


he turns his back on me
in bed
and calls it
asking me
why why why
i don’t get my poems
i tell him i’m not motivated
to send something 50 places
get 49 rejections
finally publish
in some small literary review
nobody reads
for no money
that was after we had sex
before we had sex
he tried to convince me
he was an expert
dream interpreter
and i tried to convince him
i was an expert too
that was a stalemate
in the other thing
after the sex
he got too close
he said i didn’t know
which poems of mine
were good
that was obvious
from the poems i submitted
to his newspaper
insinuating that poems
i thought were good
were bad
naturally i told him
he had no taste

i slept on the living room floor
my head hurts
my back hurts
i feel like i’m hungover
and i haven’t had a drink
for five years
i just hope
no more encouragement
comes this way

wendy shaffer

husbands complain

the husbands complain all the time
but they really like it
the way it is
mangoes rotting in the yard
ants eating at the foundations
a sour face and dinner is served
they wrap their frozen snouts
in newsprint, potato, commentators and pall malls
while intestines are removed
hearts stop
their wives go insane

don’t try to harvest the mangos
to cool them or give them away
to slice into the fruit
and sweeten the morning
don’t try to change the channel
don’t try to move the house
it’s been there a long time
everybody is accustomed
to the hedges pruned down to thorny sticks
everybody is accustomed
to the fallen mangoes —
bruised, tender, swollen, rotting
in the tropical sun

wendy shaffer

when you looked at him today

your feelings bonfire
the wet day the pain
in the neck throbbing
heart disease they call love
something warm and dry
surrounded by snow you become
accustomed to the shoulder
your cheek cups the sharp
edges of your lover’s profile
against a swollen snow sky
the storm coming on fast
you are afraid
of the spaces immediately
surrounding the act
of his leaving walking
towards the door hand
on the knob you turn
away what
does it mean
to love a little bit
more each day this gradual
building winter that won’t end
the pieces of your brain
imprinted in emotion
images smell voice becoming
each day more
a part of who
you are you are
him and he is
you a little bit
more each day this morning holding
each other in bed
for an hour half asleep you don’t want
to let go let
the day begin your fear
not allowing
anything else in
you hold on
waiting and living
your life between
times that you savor times
sharpening the activity
in your brain
times you begin
to take for granted
loving a little
more each
day so fixed
in its ability to change
to surprise and frighten
each day again
not what you imagined
in the stale closed room
of your brain where you know
nothing is permanent
and you hold
the image of his profile
against the storm more closely
and you startle yourself
into the present and hold yourself
down for two minutes in the middle
of all the irritation
to look at the coolness
of the blue in his eyes
you want to be there
breathing inside that blue
for two minutes inside the present
on this day clip
that image and hold it
up against the time come
rushing storm past
pulling everything into something
different like a snapshot
in a tornado lifted up up
up out of your grasp
you watch it disappear

wendy shaffer

scratching in the dirt

i want to be like the pair
of sparrows flying across the field
nosing into a curve
to the right
coming back up in a hook
to the left
in perfect synchronicity
then crossing at the fence
to pause in symmetry
on different branches
of the same tree

i want you beside me
both of us free
as the july air
both of us learning
to glide with it
wherever it takes us

there’s a sparrow alone in the dirt
kicking and scratching up dust
and i can imagine how that feels
alone down there in the heat
digging in circles
for no reason

sometimes when i’m pinned
under the moist earth of your body
i feel like we’re flying
both of us
trusting the wind

wendy shaffer

the curve

bianca is cutting my hair
she holds a part of it
taut over my head
between two fingers
and cuts it with her 300 dollar shears
she says at first
she was too frightened
to cut hair
and she just watched
she thought how
do they do this?
all that hair
where do they start?
and now she’s beginning
to master it
it’s simple
the head is round
you just follow the curve

when bianca talks like this
i feel like the world
makes sense
i can relax
the world isn’t really a chaos
of random accidents

before i go to the beauty shop
i wait until i hate
what looks back at me in the mirror
sometimes it’s six months
the hair all frazzled
different lengths
hanging shapeless
i bring the hairdresser
my fear
and each hair that falls
diminishes my strength
i know i won’t recognize the thing
the hairdresser creates —
some ugly duplicate
of the mass produced mass
of females walking around
all looking alike —
i ask them not to style
or spray it
just cut it
and let me out

but it’s different today
bianca’s cutting my hair
she listens to me
she does what i ask
she’s still learning
and tells me about it
i trust her
and today
when she asks if she can style
and spray it
i say yes
it makes me happy
to have bianca learn on my head
i feel like everything’s simple
the world is round
i’ll just follow the curve

wendy shaffer