Two Poems

by Jennifer Oliver

The Missing Pages of a Cheap Dictionary

He has cheated me.
He has lead me to believe
there is naught between nightingale and nystatin.
He's skipped the ninth through the nineteenth
left behind nincompoop and nitrogen
swallowed nipples and nods,
forgotten Nixon and Nobel
as easily as White-Out on history books.

Webster has consumed both Nix and Nobility,
misplaced noise, compromised nonchalance.
He discounted nonconsecutive, nondescriptive,
He dared to call himself complete,
to stand erect with a tight, broad spine
     (without nonfat!)

O, he came back.
Webster offered oafs and oaks, oaths and oasis
as if Nothing never happened.

My Father's Feet

They sound unnatural, almost like taffeta
being scratched against taffeta
as they dig resting trenches into grey New Jersey sands.

I try to sleep, flipping my head like a grilled cheese
hoping one side won't brown more than the other
manipulating sand into little hills,
a shapeable pillow under the blanket.

He leans back on the beach chair
(which he keeps adjusting, hoping an elusive notch
will turn it comfortable) and tells me the story
he always tells me.

"My mother", he says, "wore nylons to the beach.
I remember one day they melted."

I imagine her with a fresh layer of perfect skin.
She is plastic, in my mind, a mannequin on the beach.
I think planting this image is pay back
for the time she threw out his baseball card collection,
Hank Aaron rookies and all.

I turn my head once more,
signaling that this conversation is over.
I can hear him stand up
and I watch as he walks toward the shoreline
with five long flat beach chair imprints striping his back.

I see his feet, then his ankles, slowly disappear into the sand
like a candle being burned at the wrong end.

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