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"Butterflies Press”
Shelby Graham

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Diana Hartog


O to write a long poem,
to trail,
to drag a stick along a picket fence
dut dut dut dut

Knot in a Piece of String

I’m familiar with miracles, the breaking of spells:
The heart-broken mind, like a no-good
Toy flung to the linoleum
Suddenly works! Starts to march back and forth, a fine
Little soldier, perfectly capable of dousing small fires
And cleaning its rifle.

Toy Snake Wants to Say Something

At home I had a snake, white chalk links
Under chipped green paint
And I teased it Oh! into a coil so tight
Snake couldn’t speak, his blunt head
Gagging on the plug of red clay they gave him for a tongue,
Poor thing.

Courtesy of Texaco

Life is nothing like opera—you meet a nice man
and then you never see him again.
Nothing like the radio on Saturday afternoons, when the Met’s
red tonnage of curtain sweeps aside lint
and arias swoop cumulus: twin awnings pooled with rain
or the great ponderous breasts of women prone to diabetes.

But listen! Madame Butterfly is on her last pair of gloves: her cry
hurtles towards the fan on the bureau
where blades slice it scarlet, a smear
of ribbons fallen to the floor.

That was her seppku we heard. ‘Seppku’—the Japanese diminutive
for Madame Butterfly’s favorite niece, right?

--and not another failed attempt to align knife and fork parallel to the universe. It’s four, it’s over,
time for tea. Beyond the sliding glass door and the rusting hibachi
the waves are behaving beautifully: calm, almost flat,
they deposit along the sand the foam that
gathers at the corners of the mouth when speaking in public.

Held up against the view and inspected for spots, a silver sugar-spoon
moons the oblong moronic face one is issued at birth
if your mother wept too much (and you in utero, riding the swells)
or trusted the soothing gentle tone of the larger drug companies.

I’ll admit, my preference is to be in the flesh in a darkening
opera house. But first a nice man
would have to shuffle sideways downs the long row of knees
and ease without a word into the empty seat I’d saved by placing
a hand on the worn ruby velvet—to indicate I wasn’t alone,
that someone would be joining me.

Diana Hartog has written four books of poetry and a novel. She divides her time between a cabin in the mountains of British Columbia and a studio in Santa Cruz.

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