Karen Kovacik

Page 2

In the Letter R
The wish to postpone arrival
the desire to be lost
begins in a wild box of crayons
when the child writes  R  A  I  N
in her drugstore calendar
and out the window
real silver is falling
and the word on the page
is more than the hinge and hook
of pressure on wax
the letters shooting open like parasols
or maples in slow motion
the calendar pages
March  April  May
dissolving into a city
the child has not yet seen
but she can smell its wet wool
its boulevards of neon and chocolate
the hexagons of sidewalk
that invite her in
and though her mother is cooking
veal pocket and green beans
maraschino tapioca for dessert
the child has booked a room
for the evening
in the letter R
where from its window
she watches the bracelet of lights
sway along the river
and beneath her sloping ceiling
beneath the roof of staccato rain
she undresses whole sentences
like paper dolls
or the sheet music for “Volga Boatman”
each letter like a piano key
which is not pure sound
not the world
but a button she can press
to make the world appear
turning TANG into TANGO
and though she can’t foresee it
out of a tunnel of reverses
she will aim for the dazzle
of what her English will allow
its boroughs now her boroughs
with their intricate streets
its river the one she will fish in
beads of rain lighting the way overhead


Woman at Streetcar Stop

St. Charles Line, New Orleans
Gone are the feathered masks of Mardi Gras,
gone, too, the Krewe of Zulu tossing coconuts
to revelers. It’s June, unending month of sweat
which glues her hair like chicken down
to her forgotten neck. Her shirtwaist—shirred
brown jersey knit—conceals a bladder pad
and crinkly arms. She’s maybe sixty-five,
her butt a flabby saddle no one wants
to grab. Twenty years before, I’ll bet
her swell of ass commanded stares,
and earlier, those heavy hips shook babies free.
So what if assholes call her “hag” or “crone.”
I’m forty-four. To me, she’s harbinger,
wherever she’s headed: grocery store or HMO
or church named for the saint
who sang Last Rites to victims of the plague.
I’m off to tour the Cities of the Dead,
but first I watch her haul herself aboard
the trolley car, calves sculpted still, purse smashed
against her chest. I’d guess she’s sixty-five.
And when some stranger offers her his seat, 
she settles in to ride and ride.




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