Oct/Nov 2005 Poetry Special Feature

Two Word Poems

by Jennifer Finstrom

Fever, 1989

No boy is coming to save me.
In another hemisphere, another
world that courses parallel to this one,
I am the girl in the story.
I stretch and yawn, the bead
of blood forgotten on my finger,
the spindle rolling like an empty
cup against the door. Step
by dragging step up the carpeted
stair, I collapse on my childhood
bed, where I will sleep for one
hundred years.

In most worlds, thistles
do not enclose the tiny yard,
but in my dreams, the story confuses
me. I see my memories wiped
away by a flick of the witch’s
wand and know that she has left
me nothing. But still I wait
for the army to come, the men
whose smooth faces are
ravaged by indignant thorns,
the men who have traveled
a long and dangerous journey
to rescue me from myself.



I remember the plastic, stifling
masks of childhood, elastic
bands snapping my long hair,
my breath enclosed and wet.
We seek to fool Death on the one
night he leaves his secret hemisphere
to walk among us. The light-pooled
streets teem with hidden children,
their names wiped away, make-up
smearing their faces into one.

In high school I went to a party
as a fortuneteller, hair tucked
under a flowered scarf, silver
earrings chiming a lonely song.
I cast the cards of everyone I knew,
flung their lives into the moving
air like thistledown. In billowing
skirts, bracelets ringing my wrists,
I felt myself a temple, a sacred
place where fates mingle
and walk arm in arm together.

But now the past forms
an indignant wall at my back
and I can no longer see or remember
what is there on the other side.
Years pile up like discarded
costumes, and although
my dead are still few in number,
I can feel each day how people
are falling off the planet,
how they are rising weightless
and without masks, holding out
empty bags and walking
from star to star.


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