Illustration by Morgan Maurer, 2011
Now scribbled letters from the ghosts I know the best—men built from bones of contention, women from hair matted against the drain, the horny linguist who eyes the tongue, sad starlet muttering stage directions, spectral ex-girlfriends wielding their housecats, hirsute ghosts of coaches past declaring you run until I’m tired. I don’t reply, can’t raise their spirits with this silly alphabet, A standing splay-legged, B in her padded bra. Instead, gnawed pen, gooseflesh and a mad dash to the photo booth, urge to verify my face, gray litany of grins and grimaces. Meanwhile, riddles—what is the sound of one hand pinned behind your back?
Yes, I’m scared the dead will make their problem mine, come pop my heart, that party favor fashioned from a length of red balloon. At night I pray for growth but not growths, that’s swell not that’s swollen, trains every hour on the hour, no lightning but fireworks, lit fuse and a lightening sky. Alone, I whisper encore, whisper anchor, flash familiar shadow puppets at the wall, same laughing dog again, again. Good luck, they say, with blood and breath and what the air scares out and what the earth beats from your body: piss, bejeezus, stuffing, tar.
Dora Malech is the author of two collections of poems, Say So (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011) and Shore Ordered Ocean (Waywiser Press, 2009). Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Poetry, The Yale Review, Poetry London, American Letters & Commentary, and Best New Poets. She has been the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, a Glenn Schaeffer Poetry Award, and a Writer’s Fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa, Augustana College in Illinois, Victoria University in New Zealand, and Saint Mary’s College of California. She lives in Iowa City. “Cold Weather” was first published in Chelsea, and appears in the collection Say So (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011).
Read a review of Say So here.