Poetry: Marianne Szlyk

Marianne Szlyk
In the House of Mirrors

She became a person
who showered at night, fell
asleep, hair wet, taking

Medusa’s form, only
stiffer.  Her snakes would not
wave, would not hiss, would not
turn anyone to stone.

She did not see herself
on these walls.  Neither did
the cat, her only friend.

The sky she saw at dawn
was white, a sixteenth-slice
that could have been a cloud, could
have been heat, could have been

only the sky before
it turned blue and couples
walked the street to work.  She

could live on sixteenth-slices—
on vacation.  The cat
ignored the sky without
birds or trees.  She slunk past

mirrors, hugged the cool floor,
its pattern mimicking
the leaves that would soon fall.



At McKenzie Bridge, 1988

Sitting on a flat rock,
I dip fingers into cold,
soapy water.  It darts past
towards PVC pipes and chrome
faucets we left behind in Eugene.

I expect fish to flash by.
I fear their nips and twitches,
the sharpness of fins and scales.
But I feel nothing.

This water
could be the blue-green marble
it appears to be, a simulacrum
of a river, an artist’s design,
river that I will explore
only in dreams.



In the House of Masks

Clouds cloak the sun that warms
the ground, the smell of black
pepper and scallions rising from matted,
unnamed plants.  Above the bulging ceiling
of clouds, planes criss cross, hidden
contrail marks fading into blue sky.

Inside, the Great Dane’s mask is
alone with the dozen shells lining
the bookshelf.  He beams at them,
his near-kin who hide the absence
of spineless animals that once dwelled
in them.  He ignores the apples
kept out in a wooden bowl.
They are not food.

The shells conceal what they think
of him, heavier than they are,
impossible to pick up.  They are
smoother, lighter, and polished, with pink
highlights.  Their horns do not pierce
skin.  The dog’s mask might be
sculpture, that doesn’t hide but
is.



Face App in the Time of Climate Change

Dwyane Wade poses in front of
the last snow-capped mountain in Nepal.
It matches his wise beard, matches
his crisp linen suit.  At sixty,
with bionic knees and ankles, Steph
Curry might still play.  His uniform
fits.  Draymond Green has barely aged.
Only his neck betrays him.

In the world of these pictures,
glaciers have withdrawn from us, leaving
crushed beer cans, piles of rocks,
polar bear bones.  Air in Maryland
thickens, clotting lungs,
grabbing hearts tight.

There we stay home, order take out,
let grandchildren draw mountains with snow
even if any peaks they might climb
will be bare and once there
they will see only fog
covering sprawl like an ocean,
like a translucent plastic sheet,
both of which are the same thing.

Miami is another memory.  Dwayne Wade
has long since moved inland, built
a mansion in Buffalo.  Lake Erie
is his ocean now.



Listening to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Fishin’ Blues”

Placing the needle
on the album,
she holds her breath, waiting
for one song
to transform her world.

Tall pines become
distant skyscrapers, felt
but not seen.
Hardwood floor turns to
linoleum.

Music bounces out of
speakers.  Twang-
ing words spring through her.
She is dancing,
imagining the Spoonful,

now middle-
aged men, on stage.
She wants to go
fishing, take the train to
where pickerel

hide in a river
like the sound of
quills Henry Thomas played
when he first
sang those Texas blues.

Marianne Szlyk is a professor of English and Reading at Montgomery College. She also edits The Song Is... a blog-zine for poetry and prose inspired by music (especially jazz). Her book, On the Other Side of the Window, is now available on Amazon. Her poems have also appeared in of/with, bird's thumb, Loch Raven Review, Bourgeon, One Sentence Poems, Red Bird Chapbook's Weekly Read, and Music of the Aztecs. She lives near Washington, DC with her husband, environmental writer and wry poet Ethan Goffman. Recently they were part of Pony One Dog Press' reading at the New York City Poetry Festival.

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