Prose Poems by J. Reuben Appelman, Allison Benis, Lorene Delany-Ullman, Beth Understahl, and Gail Wronsky
You will be accounted for…
by J. Reuben Appelman
You will be accounted for as an incumbent and my vote will be
to suck out your mango head. And with gay enchantment. End quote.
You are always balding from the neck down, and where a heart should
be is liver, and where liver a pint of Gibley’s. Disturb the
universe? In a minute there is time and the voices will die and
fall. They are neckties. I should love you, but am forced to the
porcelain. Attendant and pinned. You have torn open my shirt and
done nothing but giggled. You win a banana. The girl next door borrowed
my child for you and this is why you are hated. But even if you
were beautiful you would be christened and killed. God saves the
bloody marks so that we may wear them, otherwise not. And in the
jungle of God is your stupid fucking mango on the tree, and yours
is a skull and a hole that keeps talking. And it is televised. I
am watching. And somewhere is a mother whose child is playing, and
all day. And in this day she will turn her back. And in this moment
there will be lightness and absence. And a creaking of a swing will
stop. There will be static on the television. She will kick it but
not know why. A world will have gone by. It will happen sometimes.
Interior or The Rape
by Allison Benis
Without a choice but to couple, to be underneath. But this is an
idea separate from the act. Her back is white and turned from who
leans against the closed door. Hands in his pockets. Most desire
is the opposite of what we have and identical to lack. Maybe to
pull her satin blouse strap firmly off her shoulder. And to be seen
in the lamp light as a ghost wishes to be seen once and consequently
I will not let you sleep follows the pattern of most affection.
Even the woman who holds the wrists of another woman down on the
sidewalk or the Polish girl who dragged me forward by my ponytail
when I was nine. This is the feeling of a leash at the base of your
neck. The circular crease the rubberband leaves in my hair when
I take it down every night cannot be brushed out and wholly is the
fear of being forgotten.
Laudanum (Something to be Praised)
by Lorene Delany-Ullman
A bewildered day. The sun hesitates, the clouds are listless. California
Poppies grow next to our house and near the sidewalk. A Chinese
woman from the neighborhood plucks poppies from our garden, stomps
on the broken stems and flowers she’s dropped, strolls away.
She remembers the plant of joy, the habitual bloom in seedpods and
I am drawn to children, their unpaid faces, their folded arms,
the way they pick flowers from our garden to give to mothers I’ve
never met. In the minute-ness of seasons: October, a week of painful
heat. At Christmas, dry, hot winds.
The Chinese woman keeps spoiling our poppies: their orange petals
loosened then bruised against cement, the certainty of color plagued
by low shoes. From the extracts of withered poppies comes euphoria;
a carrying. Crush the leaves and place inside the cheek against
an aching tooth. I am allergic to codeine; Aunt Myrna Joy dies of
a heroin overdose, leaving one of her twin daughters to live with
us. (Is she Bonnie or Bonita?) The pretty child stays a few months,
carves her name into my desk before she leaves.
A spring like any spring: subtle and demanding. This June, an overcoat
of clouds will protect the monotony of summer months from clear
Outside on the patio in the near October
by Beth Understahl
The birthday dinner was cold. There were fireflies of feeling between
the guests. In a field past the suburbanite night, more fireflies
appeared intermittently. In their way. However erratic. Little accumulations
I kept looking forward to.
I’ve missed much of your life already. Exactly how much?
A normal-sized cake with candle-holes. Wax blown across the frosting
in a wish.
We were all waiting but no one got any wilder than taking your
birthday-self on one modest waltzing spin – the patio chairs
One of us was trying to get you to say what happened yesterday
and you thought, no. How much does it matter what happened then?
I can’t help believing that if you tell anyone what you wish
for it won’t come true. You also have to blow out all of the
lights at once. For every year. Obliterated.
The Melting Thrill
by Gail Wronsky
As though it were a piece of flesh ripped from a formless block,
Motherwell runs his hand over the marble spiral in his studio. He
has wanted to expose the violent torsion of opposing forces. The
more unyielding the material, the more painful the battle, he had
thought. Thus hacking away at stone, and here he nods toward Bachelard,
he has been hacking away at his own obsessive hardness. Only Yvonne,
a crippled nursemaid with horse-dark eyes, had ever been able to
melt his heart completely. Only Yvonne and the erotic metaphor of
her gaze had given him a refuge in the constantly turning world—his
life after childhood a series of tough spirals—fragility in
open space. Fear makes the world go round, she had told him. Men
harden into coils, not knowing where to turn. Yvonne herself flew
off one day like a gypsy moth, all powdered and loopy. “There
was something feral about her,” Motherwell tells Meret. “Like