Room 55 • Poetry Hotel 

Six Poems / Phyllis Klein

 

INCANTATION

The coat of a poet is patchworked, warm,

full enough to fit everyone inside.

We rest together in its tent of permissions 

and omissions, admissions, intuitions. Paisley 

confessions. This inviolate space, this human-errored space. 

We are fledglings huddled in its skyscrapered air, smell 

of planets, of earth musk. Listen to the banter 

of Spring as she loosens her leaf-felted robes. 

Birds flicker all around. Moles dig in. 

 

Beneath this coat we eat chocolate dipped in more 

chocolate. Sweetness spills, drops of honey

fold into spiced tea.  To soothe our plaid misfortunes. 

The coat of a poet has seams for fears, tears, for blisses,

kisses of silk on skin. It breezes smoke out of pockets

and into a glossy night. When we sleep, it’s a love, 

or a friend, rests on a hook. If sleep is outside 

the window, it’s our weighted blanket. Morning 

comes, wearing woolly sunlight lightly around its shoulders.

 

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MYANMAR MILITARY IN PURSUIT OF POETRY

— Including two excerpts of incriminating lines

 

They shoot down hands filled with artilleries

of verse, beat up feet filing into lines

of protest. They shoot at heads

 

but they do not know that revolution 

lives in the heart. In darkness, in daylight,

minds and hearts bulleted, to make them 

stop. But no silence. Poetry sharpens its quills, 

 

aims arrows into its targets. They began to burn 

the poets when the smoke of burned books could

no longer choke the lungs heavy with dissent. 

Now their smoke is everywhere as poets are doused

and matched. And still they write. Scratch words 

 

into cell walls with rocks, or with metal on plastic— 

bitter-cold vinyl ballads. Or memorized signposts

of the mind, indelible. Troubadours of protest 

in waves of heat. In monsoons on horizons. 

 

On every street in the world. Pursued by silver-ribboned 

militias climbing up a tyrannical ladder. Nibs filled 

with poison-to-the-wicked-ink. Fingerprints cupping my

 

face, your face, walls of alarms clanging 

against silence, revolutions of clocks’ hands.

-------------------------

LIFE IS GLASS

 

                                                     There are so many fragile things, after all. 

                                                     People break so easily, and so do dreams and hearts.

                                                                                      Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

  

Breaking:  Buzz of a bone fractured, burst of a bowl hitting the floor, 

boom of a heart splitting. Please like me. A dream as it shatters.

Please think I’m good. Whistle of a word as it severs from itself into the air.

Of a scream demolished. 

 

Moments of breaking:

Hand over the mouth, gagging, pushed into a room, door locked from 

the inside. Parties, drinking. Why did I do that? The seconds it takes to get 

lost. Smash of consciousness as it disappears. Disillusion’s waking 

croak. Where are my clothes? Fragmentation into terror. 

 

How it happens:  remembering, forgetting. Was I drugged?

After school, at a party, pungency of impact, taste without 

permission. No proof. In the sacristy, in a back seat, a hotel 

or a bedroom, did it happen?  

 

Breaking: dust of collision, whiff of dreams burning, nightmares strike, 

cymbals snarl in the brain. I’m repulsive. Floating above it 

all in a disappeared body. 

 

Why she didn’t tell: Pretend. It didn’t happen.

No one will swallow it. He threatened, laughed, was stronger, bigger.

It’s my fault. They won’t believe me. Pretend. Have to see him sneer.

Hide it. 

 

What happens next: Cracks. Panic, a plane taking off in the gut. 

Armor, as involuntary as neurons saying run but all there is is a 

wall. Looking ok, nobody knows. Get over it. What is PTSD? The thing

that won’t leave, the image, the smell, the taste that’s a plague.

 

The crush of shame. Lack of sleep. When is it over?

Feeling it, numbing it. Not understanding yet that greatness  

comes from damage. 

 

-------------------------

EACH ONE SO INDISPUTABLE

 

A man and woman sit in a room like 

this one, soft couch, chairs, desk.

And their opinions. Each one

 

so accurate, appropriate as the color

scheme of her outfit, as the soles

of his leather shoes. There they sit,

 

divided by ideas, viewpoints. One faithful,

the other, erroneous. One definitive, the other,

miscalculated.  A wall, a surface, bricks laid 

 

up with cement come between them. Vines take 

root. Until they are like statues sculpted to look 

like people. The air getting thinner. Someone 

 

should call an ambulance, save them while

breath still rises. The woman looks around,

eyes search for the door that doesn’t

 

appear locked, imagines how the street 

will seem when she gets there.

 

-------------------------

PENUMBRA

                                 Because in this world

                                 you have to decide what

                                 you’re willing to kill.

                                                      Tony Hoagland from Candlelight

 

Saving yourself means getting the glasses

that let you watch the moon cover the sun.

You drive or fly to the dot on the map.

 

For a couple of minutes it’s night, then day again. 

You imagine all this. Alone, just you and the dark

that is light. The moon, now a black song

 

backed up by blazing jazz, surging jazz,   

drunked-up jazz.   It won’t last. Like your parents 

smiling in the camera’s flash, did they decide to try 

 

killing you breath by breath? Or were they living 

in their own night’s gloom, and you, planet 

of heartbreak orbiting skies clouded with shame. 

 

Then the girl at the sleepover you thought would stay,

curly hair backlit by a flashlight. How the lover 

climbed over your being and left you. When 

 

the spheres of your body began to inflame.   Saving

yourself means looking through grief’s lens. 

Its totality, wax and wane, a shadow, its translucence.

 

Means feeling the moon start to rise. The earth turn.

 

-------------------------

 

ON WRITING A LETTER TO SHARON

 

                                                                               Rain Makes its Own Night

                                                                                                             Anne Michaels from Poems

  

Everything calling me after a deeply friendly sleep 

that holds my hand like a girl in kindergarten. The bed, 

affectionate, embracing. Sun romps in.

In her room, she asks when will she get better again. 

 

Nurse says not now. No more chemo left for her. 

Morphine waiting in the rain. Not a cold rain, and not

so heavy it’s a flood. The kind that splashes on 

your umbrella, beading up, eventually

 

soaking. Warm greens in the background, blurry. 

This expected but unexpected storm

that won’t stop until she does. From 

my radiant room to her wet one. Her friends, 

 

family, there with her. The rain no longer 

outside the window. What do I say to her?

How do I voice what I cannot comprehend? 

From my sunny room to her dampened

 

one. To the last mist, her name forever.

 

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About the Author:

Phyllis Klein writes, lives, and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Silver

Birch Press, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, Portside, and Sweet, a Literary Confection. She also has poems forthcoming in I-70 and

3Elements. She believes in artistic dialogue as an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels. And the healing power of

anything as beautiful as poetry.

Acknowledgements: "Incantation" previously appeared in Verse Virtual (June, 2021); "Myanmar Military in Pursuit of Poetry" previously appeared in

The New Verse News (June, 2021). 

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