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New and Ongoing Work

This page is devoted to poetry-in-progress, as it's being written. I'll post a few current pieces and add revisions as they happen. No doubt there will be poems taken down and  others added in their places. Nothing is "fixed in stone" here!

Toadstools in Ellenwood Park, NS

Shelf Life

This marriage needs a red expiry date:
best before … with a written caveat
against long walks in lockstep. When both arms
lie mattressed at your sides; when her gold band
is smothered by a trinket box of fakes;
when you disturb a wasp and she berates
you as it targets her; when she purloins
your full attention but can never hand
it back; when you wear shop-stained pants to church,
then nudge her prayers -- "You look so big in pink" --

your best is clearly over. Your before
has dissipated like the morning fog
whose residue confounds you both with glitter,
though all that’s left is dew on suitcases. 


(c) September 2005 by Brenda Tate









Voices of the Fall

I've told you not to interrupt me. 
                                   Why are you so late this time? 
You sure love to waste our money. 
                                   On your precious computer again? 
Turn down that awful music! 
                                   I suppose you think you're still a teenager? 

The waterfall hisses over false stones; 
daylilies struggle against overcast. 
They have sun eyes and bow to nothing 
except monkshood with its darkness. 
Two calico cats twine among the flowers 
but never taste, on pain of death. 

Never mind; I’ll get my own supper. 
                                   It’s nearly eight and you’re still in bed? 
We’ll talk when I'm ready to listen. 
                                   What do you mean, you can't find the receipt? 
You will (of course) respect my wishes. 
                                   How can anyone live with your goddam mess?

Her kitchen windows are open to autumn, 
overlooking perfect lawns and Gethsemane – 
as she has named the garden – that place 
reserved for prayer and beautiful betrayal. 
Koi circle their pool, busy with hope 
and hunger, unrewarded by her bent shadow.

With the price of gas, you can walk! 
                                   When’s the last time you said yes to me? 
It's cheaper for us to eat at home. 
                                   Why can’t you do one single thing I ask? 
You're gaining back all that weight you lost. 
                                   I’m in good shape for my age, aren’t I? 

The fish know better than to wait; they pick 
idly at lily pads and watch the frogs 
ogling a few brave dragonflies. At the pulse 
of her footsteps, ring-ripples anticipate 
a green feast. But no crumbs are tossed; 
no goodwill offerings will be given today.

I'll keep in touch with her if I want. 
                                   You can't believe there's anything left between us?     
Shut up! I’m sick of listening to you. 
                                   Do you actually think I meant it to happen? 
You'll just run to your mother as usual. 
                                   What part of 'get out' don't you understand?

A crippled toad hitches its last journey 
toward silence under the backyard pagoda, 
dislodges a paper scrap buried there. 
Her original name is printed on it, bolder 
than the one she wears now, the one that counts. 
A spin of wind will lift it, take it away. 

Copyright © September 2005 Brenda J Tate


Call her Anne with an e – as in Boleyn or Green Gables – headless,
imaginary - your choice. They both fit. She doesn’t name herself
but understands that her legs bend wrong, knows how it feels to fall

in the middle, everyone watching. Anne hasn’t read her high school
certificate – probably can’t even see it. Won’t straighten, terrified
of people’s vacuum eyes. She’s memorized each tile, every carpet,

all the boards, stones, mud clods, styrofoam cups, cigarette butts.
Her father collects these fag ends but she seldom helps him. She
loves blown newspapers, faces that don’t stare and – especially -

obituary photos, their white mouths. Yesterday I stood beside Anne
in the hospital elevator, smiled toward the part in her hair. She didn’t
recognize my boots, couldn’t identify me. As the doors opened, her

mother pushed Anne out - born into a corridor, which broke
her engagement with the metal floor. When she dies (perhaps before most)
I hope they lay her flat on blond oak, white satin.  Then she'll look up at last.

(c) March 2006