6.08 / July 2011

Two Poems


It’s a mail slot for delivering messages
to your doppelganger. It’s a portal
to another dimension in which you and
everyone you know are made of
balsa wood and held together with
glue. It is not so far from the truth.
It is a wound in the heart of the building.
It is a window. It is your level self. It is
a wormhole. Stay back; it is not a slide.

You’re in the gallery of repetitive vision.
On the floor, the wall, are the spots
you see when you close your eyes, hold
your breath. The spots of hope and of
dread. In the mirrors stare the multiplied
faces of hope and of dread. Notice how
this room reminds you of the roller rink
on disco night. Notice how you removed
your shoes, but were given no skates
in return. Past mirrors and doors are
more mirrors and more red-hot dots and
posing beauties waiting for you gently
to un-pose them. Up the tilted ramp.

In the dark room: two chairs, two people.
Darkness overwhelms, you cannot see
the tips of your fingers. It is not calming.
Something will happen. People are trying
to get in, but there is only room for two.
Maybe it has been two minutes, maybe five.
You are to wait for fifteen, then something
will happen. You can’t wait. You back out
of the room to the red box pulsing.

And here are the speakers of your stereo.
Covered in crimson, twin suns setting
in the fine dust of the atmosphere
on a planet just this unlike your own.
Thumping, rusty hearts left wet too long
under dual suns. They speak a language
faintly like German, tinged with gutted
fairy tales, with Black Forest cherries,
with corrosion, with the march down
the bed of the river. Then the rushing,
the diving, the thunderous water below.

A Home Economics Exam

The dead boys live in the old kitchen
cooking up ways to remind us: they are

our kin. I dare you to knock and run.
Dare you to knock and stay. Silvered

portraits, fist upon chin, appraise. One
cousin a murderer not yet crossed

over, but ask his daddy how: one cousin
killed and guess who married his sister,

twin fists of rice and a fluttering veil?
What does that make the rest of us?

And me? In the bathroom, a mottled
mirror. In that mirror, three times, and

who will come to save me, cousin
Beau, a Carmen Miranda painting,

a scarf, a convertible legacy? A likely story.
O you cousins twice removed: sly voices

drowned by oncoming trains, crumpled
trunk of a body you could not grow,

mushroom unearthed in an album’s vellum.
All you unnamed cousins crowding

the ambrosia barbecues, jostling clumsy
unbaptized graves. I believe I believe

I saw writing in the fogged-up mirror.
I believe we are in debt, and we owe

at least one back. I do not want to believe
he is my cousin: a number, a story, a case.

When you sing into the kitchen,
only the wind whistles back, and

nobody is coming, save the cousin
who has now grown into his fists,

into the news, sneaking under darkness
awake from the kitchen, twin red coals

burning, burning, they say the dead
boys live in the old kitchen, why else

the padlock, the bar across the door,
the dead boys are cooking up breakfast,

warming their hands on steaming mugs.
Dead boys pass to us cousins old news,

rap on the wall for the boy who does not
sleep upstairs, and will not. Dead boy,

my dead boy, if you’re not dead now,
you will be soon.

Erin Keane is the author of two poetry collections from WordFarm, The Gravity Soundtrack and Death-Defying Acts. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she writes about theater and teaches in the National University MFA program.