They're the ones who pointed out the door
said you were unproductive, wrong, the like.
Once it was done, you feared them even more:
some wigged-out wraith, escaping underfloor
the vampire hunter with the hawthorn spike.
You have to broach the wretched, month-past task,
approach them in their high, expelling seat,
jerk your sagging breastbone in and ask
for references, insults in a mask:
"Tried very hard." "Good hygiene." "Pleasant." "Neat."
Why is it that we fear the ancient switch,
now closeted and curling in some box,
avoid them at the trade show with a twitch,
abandoning the old and vengeful itch
to sail on, with a tossing of one's locks?
Warm yourself with them, a blanket shell,
wrap them tightly round your frozen flanks;
hear their muffled, sad, hypoxic swell
as they go shooting down to that bright hell
where someone shuts their file and says, "No thanks."
Eulogy for Ken Spada
At thirteen, I met my first leather man;
he ran the shop a stone's throw from the hole
where I bought smokes. An ancient sable stole,
shell bangle, some weird pegged pants from Japan,
a Chinese tea dress crawling with yulan
in Vegas gold--all things picked out in droll
conspiracy for me. How he'd extol
the virtues of the A-line or a fan
you never needed, pushed the leopard coat
into your tiny hands. A pair of eyes
like that, to youth, is dangerous and dear.
I see him now, in Charon's little boat:
he shakes his palms and, looking up, he sighs
about how hooded robes are so last year.
Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway
They were all called Jennifer or Lynne
or Katherine; they all had bone-blonde hair,
that wet, flat cut with bangs. They pulled your chair
from underneath you, shoved their small fists in
your face. Too soon, you knew it would begin,
those minkish teeth were dancing everywhere,
the threats, the songs, the Herculean dare,
their soccer cleats against your porcine shin,
that laugh, which sounded like a hundred birds
escaping from the gunshot through the reeds--
and now you have to face it all again:
the joyful freckled faces lost for words
in supermarkets, as those red hands squeeze
your own. It's been so long! they say. Amen.
|Alexandra Oliver was born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1970. She attended the University of Toronto and received an M.A. in Drama in 1994. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and publications worldwide, including Orbis Rhyme International, Nexus, Future Cycle Poetry, The Atlanta Review and The Vancouver Sun, as well as About.Com's Poems After The Attack anthology, a collection discussing and reflecting upon the aftermath of 9/11. Her first book, Where the English Housewife Shines (Tin Press, London, UK), was released in May, 2007.