Sotto Voce

Here is the top of my head shaved off,
unbeautiful, the skin of a plum spit
into a paper bag. Here is Vermeer’s
Woman in Blue reading its contents.
The plum fits in the palm
of an invisible hand, yours, I think,
a sweeter meat, juice sucked
into aperture. Here is the wick
of a brush licked to a fine point,
telling a story like a map dipped
in ocean. Here a girl postures
street-side, excavated pit
tossed and landing in bordering
fields. And it’s raining. Here is
her thumb peeled slow and soft,
signaling a ride from a passer-by,
as if offering a poppy to a driver.
(Are you slowing? Have you slowed?)
The lady in the frame considers, hungrier
than most, she has something to say,
once she’s finished her letter,
though the thread of the painter’s
brush stencils her pale mouth
shut. I’ve told her the fruit is heavy
on the vine, and I imagine she hears me.
In a blank room down an unpainted
hall, a cavernous clock-tick, a train
patient on its tracks.

*

Christina Mengert‘s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Tupelo QuarterlyNew American Writing, Tarpaulin Sky, and Web Conjunctions, among other journals. Her book of poems, As We Are Sung, was published by Burning Deck Press in 2011; she also co-edited, with Joshua Marie Wilkinson, the anthology 12×12: Conversations in 21st century Poetry and Poetics (University of Iowa Press). She currently works as faculty and Assistant Director of College Programs for the Bard Prison Initiative, a program that offers a liberal arts education and college degrees to inmates in New York State. She also edits Dial 2, an online arts and culture magazine.

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