Apr/May 2016 Poetry Special Feature

Three Word Poems

by Judy Kaber

Image courtesy of the British Library Photostream

How She Forgot the Days

In Brooklyn she piled old newspapers
and rags in the children's wagon,
put the youngest on top, pulled
as the wheels banged over perpetual

cracks in the pavement, over hopscotch
chalk and carelessly drawn hearts,
all for a few pennies in her palm.
Intent only on going and returning,

she missed the way the sunlight pushed
down past apartment buildings, spilled
and split on the elevated train, turned
the tar as warm as a garden of asphalt

flowers. She worried at the rusted hinge
where the handle met the wagon, neglected
the laughter of her children as they bumped
down each curb, the smile of the policeman

in white gloves with a whistle around
his neck. Her mother was still alive then,
her father dead years before, hands curled,
fingernails blue, skin tinged pink—

suicide from illuminating gas. So
maybe she thought her world would go on
forever unless she chose to cut things short.
Maybe she felt that when she tucked

them in at night, the children would always
be there each morning, their small breath
telling her so much without words, their hands
a small constant, safe within her own.


When I missed the bus, I had to walk

feet like loose pebbles kicked along,
teen songs in my head, breath

a binge of air as I crossed the bridge,

oversleep and the world pushes past
oversleep and dreams elbow in

somewhere a bell rang and I was late again

on Route 109 Harleys sat on fat kickstands
boys in tight pants like black flowers

cars, people moving in perpetual lines

to work, but all I had, all I wanted was
to walk, to sashay, to sway in the gloves

of hot sun and pavement


Shadow Walking

After you come in from the cold,
before you forget what you are doing,
consider the path. Walk across flowers,
draped white trees, step in line where
everyone has stepped before you. Consider

falcons, the way their wings break
gray clouds, long past. Carry your coat,
hold tight to gloves, to luggage. Speak
in a soft voice, a hurried voice. Sift
joy from this place, let it settle,

keep it on your face the way
light flakes are held on the panes.

Mostly you move in perpetual tomorrow
not noticing what is before, beside, behind.
Only thinking about your tickets, security,
plane, who meets you at the end. This

quiet space immerses, nips at innards,
relishes delight. Outside are houses,
stables, driveways, steady, solitary.
Turn to your left for a moment.

Understand how the swallow-tailed fish binges,
violet scales flashing, long gone.
Wavering lines exposing
xylem and phloem of your veins,

your pebbly past, coins thrown in
zones of lost content.


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