Allison Joseph

Poem as Gymnast

Look at that stunning flexibility--
coiled strength inside a body so compact
it twists atop a beam, landings exact,
amazing you with swift agility,
no understatement in ability.
You can't ignore its balancing, its act
of art and lineage, a blessed pact
of words made musical. Timidity
has no place in its life, so bare and bold
that you can only watch it spin and twirl,
agape to see it land upon its feet.
Eternal acrobat, it won't grow old,
assured that it will always turn and whirl
to satisfy the leaps of its conceit.


I'm sleep-deprived and angry at you, kid,
because you look like him and not like me,
a fragment of romantic history
I can't deny. You're proof of what we did
and what he left behind, his new girlfriend
as skinny as I was, but with no soul
to keep her up at night, hours on end,
no extra weight to make her leaden, old.
She's model-sleek, no baby-spit on clothes.
Your father claims he'll be kind of dad
who'll give you everything. But he still owes
you time and owes me cash. Who knows how sad
a father he will make when you are grown,
ignoring you as if you aren't his own.

Makeover: Esmerelda's House of Beauty

I'll need to pluck off all that eyebrow hair
then draw your brows back in--two sharp black lines.
I'll bleach your upper lip, but be aware--
this cream stings! You'll be squirming in your chair.
I'll cover up your freckles with this base,
foundation thick enough to hold a house.
I'll paint your cheeks, give color to your face,
so you'll forget about that cheating louse,
a jerk you never have to see again.
I'll perm your hair, though it is sort of limp
and fine, has more than just a few split ends,
or better yet: a wash, blow dry, then crimp.
And on your eyes, I'll brush this shimmery green,
so you'll forget he dumped you for a teen.


Allison Joseph lives, writes and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where she's on the faculty at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She serves as editor and poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review, director of the Young Writers Workshop, and moderator of CRWROPPS, an online listserv of literary contest information for writers.


Tiel Aisha Ansari
B. J. Buckley
Terese Coe
Carol Dorf
Jehanne Dubrow
Nicole Caruso Garcia
Ona Gritz
Kathryn Jacobs
Allison Joseph
Susan McLean
Marilyn Nelson
Janice D. Soderling
Shanna Powlus Wheeler
Marly Youmans

Jane Sutherland: I choose subjects that I cherish, or that spring from deep rooted feelings, or that come to me intuitively--dogs, roses, cranes, an iconic work of sculpture; and I concentrate on the details and slightest disparities in color, tone and textures in order to show how extraordinary are things we think we know and take for granted. The process of painting for me is connected to the physical properties of the subject as well as to its meanings, associations, and memories.
32 Poems
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