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10.28.20
Four Poems
Dear Ornamental,

I take the compliment
to my second self

in the garden,
white vinegar breath

an axil from her lips.
Learning how

a strong stake aids
a slender, unassailable 

stalk is a matter of self-
denial and solace. I want

appurtenances of accepting
the compliment

more than I can mother
another hour.

Patience, patience,
O despotic little nodes!

My second self counts
nigella seeds, sugar ants, BBs,

defending her right
words: bulbils.

Demanding a future
like the compliment,

black, focused, a hope
light as a petiole,

cardamom, clove.
My second spans,

fingers surrender
in E-Major cashmere

gloves. French Suite.
And me, grave? Of course.

I serve all my guests tiger lilies.


 



Dear Fine-dayers,

I have forgotten the form of sympathy—pulling out
my hand from death’s mouth has become a sticky affair.

Too casual, thick-tongued, blurry, too. Death’s symphony is on
the speakers that sit between the handlebars of the motorized cart

of the man I greet at Rotary Park. He walks his black and white dog,
flop-eared, and I walk mine, slowly, for twice tonight she vomited

at my feet, kibble, a blueberry I fed her at lunch. Picking her up,
holding her in my arms, it wasn’t lightness I felt, not her brittle

-built, hollowed-out body, but the spasm of a goodbye behind
my eyes, in my throat. The sky is a sheet of fire. Closed, the slide

slopes with ash. Tissue. Mass. Yes, there are flaps and secrets,
trick bookcases in the animal body, casks murky with old cola.

After she was sick, I knelt under the table and covered her
with impossible prayers. My hands said, Dear, dear, dear, dear,

dear—nothing, no syllable is impossible, not even a prayer,
not even walking a dog without walking yourself. Impossible is not

impermanent. After so many years of hihello-ing, I still don’t know
who I have been good to and who I’ve hurt. My dog leads me

into a fluff of mown grass. She stretches and lies down and rests
her face on her front paws, the white heart of fur on head opening,

quivering like a ventricle, like a baseball diamond in an empty park
at dusk, like a fermata repeated measure after measure in Bach’s

French Suite on Memorial Day weekend, coexisting not competing
with the freight trains. What have I seen? Jeeped line of nine

in the Dairy Queen drive-thru, dairy-free Dilly bar, Brownie Batter
Blizzard digitizing on a sign I cannot help but read. This morning,

leashed to a bench, my dog watched me move bricks from the patio
to the garage. It was clear there were fewer bricks than I’d suspected.


 



Dear Unfeeling Martinis,

Bless you,
stomach pump.

Bless you,
puce hole.

Bless you,
balcony

and cool
air that finds me

mentally
on the floor

pushing in
the broken door.

I open it
and hate it

with equal
slosh.

Just wetting
the cork,

bless it.
Shorn

plum buds
pruned

from Thai basil
in Italian terracotta.

I do miss
traveling

with my poison
pen, loving

this cocktail,
lying about

would-be
devils, demons-

trating my vile
behaviors, all

excessed
and how

feckless
I used to

behave
bowing,

boiling,
baring

my voluptuous
shoulders.


 



Aries

He began by parching me,
reserving the cup

for oracles. If I could
ward off famine

with signs, let them be
ram in the sky,

hard-nosed. Humped.
I coughed up cartilage,

crept to the wood,
his Joey can do better––

I knew I could––
I will. Show him

my grip, reared
to wring the stars

from his silk.
See him Taurus

there, crouching, Krios
unwinged,

bedding me golden,
razing my fleece.
 

JoAnna Novak’s debut memoir, Contradiction Days, will be published by Catapult in 2022. Her short story collection, Meaningful Work, won the 2020 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest and will be published by FC2 in 2021; her third book of poetry, New Life, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in the same year. She is a co-founder of the literary journal and chapbook publisher Tammy.