First, the police motorcycles roll by
drifting somberly like sticks in a stream
stopping others as they slip by.
Then a vast line of cars
one by one with their headlights on
Men in suits sitting stiff and staring
Women holding tissues
to their delicate faces as they weep
into them until they crumble.
Children stare blankly, boldly
out rear car windows
and hope not to get caught
with their lollipops on the seats.
The Big Black looms ahead as if it were
a ship pushing through the pressure
of ocean waters. Who does it usher?
72-year-old woman with hands gently
clasping each other, one of them
wearing her wedding ring and the ring
her daughter gave her.
The woman could no longer stand
on her own, and the daughter couldn’t
stand watching her mother fall down
15-year-old boy from an accidental
shooting or an accidental suicide
or intentional suicide,
but the family is in denial,
and the note he left behind
was hidden by the girlfriend he left behind.
His head was reconstructed,
but he was pale and pocked
and did not resemble orange clay.
2-year-old boy neglected by his mother.
Loathed and shoved and moved around
and pushed too hard.
Laying in green overalls with a stuffed elephant
under a blue satin sky.
An accident up ahead.
Radio blares something not noticed before.
Birds separate and dissect their “V.”
They swoop onto power lines as if
an imaginary string holding them together
was suddenly let go.
The sun whispers on Kansas prairie cheeks.
It’s almost five o’clock.
A poem can be written in a form.
Form is the fur of the poem.
Of the poem is a blend of left flush
Flush right and an eight-line stanza.
Stanza number is the sum of the now.
Now what the __________. Tell me it’s not!
Not the mathematical Fibonacci sequence.
Sequence is mere speculation.
Speculate that I am an autosalesman.
I am an autosalesman, and I love you.
You are the eight-line stanza with the beat count.
Count out the sum of the previous stanzas.
Stanzas are feminine and lines are masculine.
Masculine endings are also called rising endings.
Rising is an onomatopoeia.
Uh, splat, sizzle, buzz, puff.
Puff is rethinking Hamlet’s soliloquy.
Soliloquy is a silly word, and I hope it’s not a typo.
Type oh a poem. Written in a form. A poem.
*Repetition of the last word or phrase of a line or stanza at the beginning of the next line or stanza.
in the northwest corner of 300 acres
of corn fields and grazing pastures,
I have been here for so long.
I watch the tangerine sun liquidate as it
sinks into the earth. I then sit in silence
only interrupted by the cicadas
singing and the growling of the barn’s
And the rhythmic squeaking of the
treehouse step, hanging from the
trunk by one rusted nail. And the mewing of the
newborn kittens balling up inside a hollow
tree trunk next to their mother who just
came back from the barn with a
barely alive mouse in her bite.
They are sleeping inside. Side by side. The
man and the woman. One of them will not live
through next year. And
the other will die without her.
They breathe in unison. In and out,
The Neighbor No One Knew
She lived down the street from my best friend, and when she died of Hepatitis C, we all heard about it and ran down there to raid her house. She was reclusive, but at night, when the streets were dark, and the trash was on the curb, she went out and collected discarded junk and transformed it into art between fixes.
Now she was the Dead Girl.
We scurried up and down the street carrying with us armloads of the Dead Girl’s artistic trash while snickering and thinking we were glad it wasn’t us. Empty soup cans strung together and painted. Road signs bent and twisted into shapes like birds and stars. Clothing and quilts she had made from discarded scraps of fabric. Hats, aprons, pants. Sculptures made from plastic milk crates, mangled to look like a man or a machine or a house. And the armless bust of a woman with no eyes and brown painted hair with an old rusty propeller attached to where an arm should be.
We called her PropellerArm.
We stuffed my best friend’s living room with so much of the Dead Girl’s junk that there was no place to sit.
So we stood and looked at the paintings on cardboard, the laminated flowers, the dolls’ heads perched on top of traffic cones, the tiki torch windmills, the precious, reclaimed scraps. The Dead Girl had just been buried. Her boyfriend sat at home in the dark. Junkies everywhere were making deals.
And PropellerArm stared back at us with white eye sockets.
The wine is in the glass and the glass in on the table. The cat is on the table drinking the milk in the bowl. The milk is in the cat. The cat knocks over the wineglass despite him usually being reliably graceful. The wineglass shatters on the floor and the wine spills out. The wine is on the floor and the wineglass is in pieces. The cat has padded away. The wine is seeping into the rug which soaks in this drink and a big red spot is forming and the glass is in tiny shards which will not be sufficiently plucked out of the carpet which will be stained with the wine until it is replaced but the cat has crept over the rug and the shards are in the cat and small red spots are forming. The glass does not exist. The wine is in the rug. The cat is licking itself with a milky tongue.
The shards are sharp and they are. The glass is. The cat does not exist.
Missi Rasmussen is an award-winning writer and Pushcart nominee whose work has been published widely in print and online. She is co-editor of the literary journal The Bluest Aye and is a professor of English and creative writing in the Kansas City area where she lives with her son and daughter.