Molly Tenenbaum



Red script flourishes, circling itself.
A blue square, one per side, sets off a white swan.

It was the rubber gasket
that whispered the hither.

I wondered, at first,
was it all one space or did each door close
on its own small box?

At the back, a pull-down gate.
A little bed, two books, a pair of socks.
The inside walls are quilted tin.

The swan, dabbed gray for shadows,
jogs as the truck jogs, over a bump,

and who knows if that counts
as motion—not even the blue
she's painted moving through moves,
her angle depends on the truck, on where

it's going, and under it,
on streets ascending, and under them,
on the whole dark dirt world, a city itself,
of mica and sand, wire and pipe.

I don't believe one world is more real than another.

Remember when they sent people to caves
to see when they would sleep?

One little railing for earrings and a mirror,
and for the night, a wide-mouth jar.

It would be better, I admit, with windows.
At night, hatches latched, it's pitch till morning.

What do I miss? Air.
I love the quilted sides
and the rumble of warming.

Darling, why am I sad?
There's nothing like a cubby.

Nothing like a pair of boots
and a bed that folds up.



I thought swim meant to linger, splash toes.
The dog and I played Chase-the-Spray with the hose.
Leaping through sprinklers, a pose and a twirl—
Broke her leg, the neighbor girl.

My paintings were watercolor blots.
My chore, to douse Wfty Xowerpots.
The hose spilled the patio brick maroon.
I loved that word. Maroon, maroon.

At summer camp, last to lower in.
How could they stand it, shock on belly-skin?
What I really love at lakes? Pilings and docks.
Skinny dipping, I read, I lie on the rocks.

What I've known of pools: plugged ears,
And pounding a tilted head for years.
When it trickles out, it's hot.
Of showers: an ex who would not.

For him to undergo required serious debating,
Sympathy, and the house-heat to eighty.
Of baths: When it all gets intense,
Relax, they say, with candles and incense—

I wallow, but only in words of it—
Rill and rillet, guzzle, gullet—
Don't even care what they mean,
Stillicidous, ultramarine,

Pluvial, limnal, deliquesce.
I've never been in a boat, but took a class.
When I practiced on the rower,
The teacher criticized my hunkered shoulder.

The difference, I joke, is that jetsam is black,
As if marsh-talk and all the words for wrack
Don't rip, don't undertow.
Someday my mirror will melt, mercurial flow,

Someone will offer a drink, I'll tip up, slow,
A boat-friend will invite me, gulp, and I'll have to go.