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Molly Tenenbaum

This Poem Does Not Go Deep

Word once aromatic, resinous

This Poem Does Not Go Deep

This poem sees a sudden of seeming importance (white seedhead asters
in prickly brown bracts), slides one eyeball-width to the left

to a plant-bauble shrunk black, and won’t follow up. Doug fir
in no wind dangles directionless hanks while this poem tests

its fingerpads on the hot cup, skips what’s next, but in an hour
shall lay out its tools on the table, writing a letter to its aunt,

riding horizontals like the date and the “Dear…,”
their surfaces like the toilet-tank lid to which sourceless dirt sticks

unless this poem drags its lint-free cloth. Flat, flat, this poem
has lain every night between panes. Woodlath floor, slats, mattress, sheet;

another sheet, and baffles of air in a sack of spread-out pleats.
This poem in the middle, iffily asleep, won’t lift a vertical pencil

for dreams. This poem likes a thing that’s the thing straight through.
Orange orange slices, fried egg egg, no music indenting the space.

This poem on silent rubber rollers. No one will knock,
but if they did, this poem wouldn’t perpendicularize in the differentials

of temperatured air, wouldn’t, from its terrycloth neckline, raise its pale oval shape.
This poem for paving the deck. This poem was run on the counters

as last night’s last act. If this poem stayed up late, it was just
with a sponge, to wipe them white for tomorrow’s first plate.

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Word once aromatic, resinous

word once plump, once apricot,
once the pine-granite scent of a mountain,
word once the grenadine dripping horizon,

word once gonadical, spongy, gizzard-hard,
could be squeezed through its powder-flesh coating,
slid front to back up and down in its wrinkle of skin,

word once walnut, foam husk
sticky and black on the hands, rind
cracked into ink,

word once an eye whose skinscape
shows what it feels,
if sag, then sad, if crinkle,

then cookie, word once the very colors
blue, brown, hazel, once curious
asked me, “What is your sadness?” and I looked down

at its round copper buttons, flower-print shirt,
“Those are good colors,” I said,
muted auburn, violet autumn,

word, I had a friend once who would not answer
anyone’s eyes, his at my collar, my throat,
never high as my chin. Word, though you look

at my face while you talk, I give you
dull tile of the floor, and your shoe,
brown lump with a pinprick peak.

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Molly Tenenbaum is the author of four books of poetry:  Mytheria (Two Sylvias Press, 2017); The Cupboard Artist (Floating Bridge Press, 2012); Now (Bear Star Press 2007); and By a Thread (Van West & Company, 2000). The artist book, Exercises to Free the Tongue, is a collaboration with artist Ellen Ziegler, about her family’s history as ventriloquists on the vaudeville stage. Her poems have appeared in journals including The Beloit Poetry Journal, Best American PoetryBlack Warrior Review, Crab Creek Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Diagram, The Mississippi Review, New England ReviewPoetry, Poetry Daily, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, River Styx, Shenandoah, The Southeast Review,  and Willow Springs. She is also a musician, playing old-time music from the southeastern United States; her two recordings are Instead of a Pony and Goose and Gander. She lives in Seattle, teaching banjo in the living room and at Dusty Strings Music School, and English at North Seattle College.

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