Room 55 • Poetry Hotel
Six Poems / Phyllis Klein
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.
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.
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.
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.