A Donkey’s Dinner

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Every book tries to explain how to cheat death
even the ones about dowsing, or those
dictated by God in a field
and etched on a cabbage. As a child
our school had only one book
which was placed on the floor
for us to read cross-legged in a circle,
half of us condemned for life
to read our books upside down

You can scare death away
with a scream, I read that in a book
though the fine print says
there are times death can’t be frightened
in which case you must change your name to
Hugh or Apollo and forward your mail
to a fictitious address. In the last book I read
a woman joins a search party, staggers
into the dark woods with the others, only to realize
it is her name they are calling

Juana Maria

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The last of her kind
alone and naked on a slice of terra firma
in the roiling Pacific. Her broken footmarks
in sand as revealing as print on the page
to the sailors stinking of whale sperm
and ambergris who covered her with trousers
a soiled blouse, and sailed her to civilization

We rescue the shoeless and Godless
those who suffer distocic births, yet
(and here the choir chimes in): Who will save
those among us so impoverished
they have only money?

The World’s Loudest Sound

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Where she came from, they waited for weeks
after the reactor exploded to bury
rows of rotting cabbages and nodding
birch trees, then they commanded the soldiers
to bury the dirt

“Keep one good friend,” she’d say
“as everyone will need someone
to bury them”

That old Greek monk whose mother died
giving birth to him was buried
by his entire order, who believed him to be
the only man in the world never
to have set eyes on a woman. The sound
as they lowered his casket, be it cheer
or lamentation, was as loud as a house
full of screaming children

“The eruption of Krakatoa destroyed
many an eardrum” she’d say
“You should never know from such a noise”
She was Mother Superior
in a housecoat. Her brisket buried
in fried onions was more holy
than a psalm

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