Featured Poet

Susan Terris

( California )


Marilyn M. Thinks About French & Russian Dogs

Du Chien
a French phrase (that can't really be translated) —
used to describe Tolstoy's wife 
and sometimes me, since I want
to be a Tolstoy heroine —
is supposed to be about sexiness:
avoir d’élégance, de la seduction.
But I think, after all,
it's only another way of pointing out

who a man might tame
or teach to fetch
one who can learn on command
come, sit, stay, lie down, shake hands
someone to pet but one happy 
with bones tossed in her direction
and she'll follow his lead
play dumb, play dead
entertain him
walk by his side, get the paper
accept scraps, beg for treats, for affection
lick him with her rough pink tongue
invite him to enter from behind
warm his bed, stay home
waiting for him to reappear
obey, fetch, speak when prompted
know her place
be grateful yet like a wolf
be dangerous 
capable of sinking fangs into his throat.

Du chien has possibilities, I think,
but it does when used by a man  
still mean doggy and, also, bitch...

Meeting Ninotchka at Radio City
Life would be so wonderful if we only knew what to do with it.
                 —Greta Garbo

Black, yes always black, like a character from Chekov, I’m in mourning for my life; and, no, if asked, I always say “janitor” and never “poet;” yet it’s all right: regular hours, union pay, and, sure—there are women, a chorus line of them, leggy model-types, their poreless faces wearing thousand-yard stares, and, yeah, they remind me of pilings by the river, all the same size and shape yet nothing but splinters to hold on to; still, nothing is my territory and I specialize in absence: like the monastery-monk black clothes thing, so I earn it, burn it, then spurn it, and nothing changes or, at least, before tonight nothing changed; and tonight, too, began as a broom-and-dustpan Thursday where the stars were not in the sky but hustling out with shopping bags of make-up, scant thongs, fake lashes, false tits; yet who am I to talk, for false is one of my best things, it is—or was until I saw her there in the shadows, near the stage door, smoking, a girl in a trenchcoat and man’s slouch hat, a girl with a get-away face, a face for which any man would do anything, or I would—an oddly familiar face; and yet as I pushed the last trashcan out, and the heavy door swung wide, I saw not a girl but a woman—parchment skin, tired eyes and something flimsy on her feet, old black ballet slippers so thin I could see the curve of her bunions, and then I remembered how Balanchine swore he found bunions on a woman’s feet sexy, and I never knew what he meant until now and was suddenly in love with this woman’s feet; but, as she stood, inhaling and exhaling, one thin shoulder pressed against the grimy brick wall on the other side of the alley, she kept gazing at the stage door’s bright arc, until I began to understand that this half-real woman with her haunted face had blacker thoughts than I and that she might head west to the river pilings or past them even; and so I did something I rarely did, spoke: “Coffee—I have a pot inside,” but she shook her head, and it was then I began to run off at the mouth, “Hey, I’m harmless,” I insisted, pulling a notebook from my pocket, ”not a mad rapist, just a janitor-poet…” and as my voice trailed off, she smiled wistfully and murmured, “No coffee… no poems or heat, danke schoen, and mostly all alone is fine, but some dark nights, like this, I just want a little light….”

Next - Gerhardt Thompson


Current Issue - Winter 2007