The Penguin

Her wings belong to the body
of a younger bird,
as if while flying out of the past,
they witnessed something,
and hung back –
stuck at the horizon:
as if disappointment could be solved by distance.

At that moment,
her feet spread like fans,
her claws burned
to penetrate blue ice.

Clouds solidified.
The sky’s peaceful blur
was forgotten
like the features of one
who never spoke
in words.

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from The Last Word

The room smells like a hotel in a tropical city.  There you are (by now the dark geometry of your body is familiar).You move past a night stand strewn with foreign currency, a refolded map and an unfamiliar key and go to the terrace.  It’s the time of day when the streetlights below are coming on.  You are able to see in great detail, as if your eyes were those of a falcon.

You look down.  Beneath you – printed and reprinted, reproduced endlessly – is the word that you are.  You see yourself in scarlet neon, blue ink, and black type on billboards and labels, buttons and t-shirts, suitcases and signs.  Again and again that identifiable, but indefinable outline appears on envelopes, book jackets and in headlines.  It is as if the whole world is suddenly your echo.  And yet you are common, very common, an ant among ants.  This is real and as it should be, now that you are a word.

“I Give You My Word” (in an earlier version) first appeared in Writing for Our Lives.

“The Last Word” first appeared in The Cream City Review and later Dreams and Secrets: Woodland Pattern Book Center.

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The Vest Conservatory for Writers
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Milwaukee, WI 53202