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Three Poems
Vows as Natural as an Earthquake

When I karate chop the world in half, I need you by my side. Everything has two pieces and you’ve never tasted an orange so ripe. The seeds are not visible but sonic. Each edition is a sound of Freudian relatives gathering around the altar holding their tongues out to take communism. In this religion, we all have equal gifts. In this marriage, we address each other as moralists with behavior that needs corrected. I swear to paw the wind as it gathers the harvest and not the boys doing their perpetual chores. Will you never treat the mountain climber like an ordinary intern? Please complete the following: earthquakes are to realism as parakeets are to X. By your answer, I know that you will forgive the echoes of my mother in my solitary gestures, the minerals that gather over time, that taste like iron and salt. Thank you for being myopic in your passion, for patiently blocking strikes like a ninja who has finished a meditation seminar on the deep mysteries of root cause. Happiness is a powder at the bottom of the canyon. I have faith that if we stand here together, the echo will seduce us.


Ordinary Orchids

The flea orchid, so small we walk on it every day and grind it back into the sidewalk. The stranded island orchid that exists with or without you. The ambulance orchid that will drive you to the hospital when you are pregnant with numbness; the first-aid orchid that will wait patiently in the dark trunk, that will suck the wound where you were bitten, that will cut away the shadow of what ails you. The pirated orchid that you bought in the subway—a cheap copy of someone else’s longing. The missing tooth orchid biting down. That vacant pain. The collar orchid bruised with thumb prints circling its neck, its spooned pout collecting the rain. The editor orchid that smells of deletion. Orchids looking for work, sunning themselves on the roof, buried under construction cones. Orchids crossing the street wearing leashes. The joke about orchids is that they bloom when you have given up. They keep careful notes in composition books that get lost under benches, they try so hard to live up to expectations, and then abandon it all on the dance floor. Too gaudy, too loud. Spent when the lights come on.



When I was the canopy, the rain waited at my bedside until morning. The dung beetles said I was a good house, even though the intruders slept peacefully under my veil. There was a patch of field that I shaded that would always be barren. Here the rocks copulated, here a cemetery was hidden under gravel. When I was born my pillow was a gravestone. My mother doesn’t like me telling this lie: there is a difference between secrets and bad manners. The etiquette news column taught that a good house is charming in its ability to hide all reluctance. The guests paid their nightly bills and so I let them scrawl names all over my walls; my mother dipped the paintbrush to whitewash a new morning. Every lie was a sealed envelope. 88 keys: the math books I studied said the exact same song was unlikely unless the player sat down with a purpose. How to explain that every man who came to my table hummed the same bass line? The ceremony lasted long enough for me to question what was happening. To survive meant to still be standing. In metaphor, the storm had passed. In metaphor, it would have been easier to pull up my stakes and to give into the wind. 

Erin Gay received her MFA in creative writing at Syracuse University. Her chapbook Portrait from the Tiniest Window was published by Mid-American Review (Fall 2006). Other work has appeared in Cerise Press, Field, New Ohio Review, and Ontario Review, among others. She currently organizes the 48 Bus Project in Cleveland—one bus, forty-eight commuters, forty-eight collaborative poems.