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  • Gołąbki

    By Dawn Potter

    1979

    which the aunts pronounced gowumkee you know cabbage rolls honey
    and packed into a crockpot pasted all over with pictures
    of happy brown daisies and then balanced them on the plush backseat

    of a cream-colored Delta 88 bought used off the lot from a dealer
    that Uncle Boy played accordion with in the beer garden up to Dunbar
    and drove them down nice and hot to the farmhouse for Sunday dinner

    even though our mother had already slapped together a bean casserole
    and our father had picked a thousand ears of corn from the garden
    and we were as stuffed as rats but the aunts ignored all signs of a previous meal

    and said oh go ahead you’re tall you can hide it so we went ahead and swallowed
    three or four tomato-sopped beef-stuffed toothpick-riddled cabbage socks
    because we knew that good table manners means eating every single thing

    old ladies cook for you no exceptions and then saying thank you afterward
    and offering to scrub the crockpot and at least eating gołąbki was like eating
    heaven that is if heaven was located in a coal-grimed empty five-and-dime

    between what the aunts called that laundry mat and a Mennonite bookstore
    which amazingly stocked all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels so as the dryers
    growled and trembled and we seemed to be slumped in plastic bucket chairs

    guarding the towels and undershirts really we were running and skipping
    among the fresh prairie grasses in bare feet sun bonnets hanging down our backs
    Jack the brindle bulldog frisking over the sod house as Pa’s fiddle sang the tale

    of the wild plains as the dryer whipped the sopped blankets our tight-lipped mother
    had unpinched from the line poked savagely through the ringer in the basement
    hauled into town in the trunk of the pie-eyed Plymouth our father had once upon a time

    bought brand-new making damn sure Uncle Boy had nothing to do with it
    four doors a miracle of convenience and even an AM radio pulsing disco
    under the foglit sky under the wet shriek of the mill whistle and O those gołąbki

    we ate them and they were a heaven just as sloppy and leaking as ours

  • Statement of My Creative Interests

    By Dawn Potter

    Death, by which I mean the sudden death
    of snuff bottles and weeping willow trees,
    undiagnosed roads littered with sorrows,
    and postal clerks languishing along the canals.

    And Sex, of course. That goes without saying.
    The insatiable queen; the pale and ruminating
    heifer; the snails, incompatible on a blue plate.
    (You see how the links begin to accrue.)

    To a certain degree Love,
    but with a teaspoon of Despair—
    star-crossed bats, an aging incognito ragdoll,
    three Polacks stumbling into a bar.

    Not Hate so much as Grudging Defeat,
    as when day breaks on time
    or the sparrow scorns her basin of chickweed
    while the furnace belches rank and artless air.

    Although Wonder, without a doubt.
    Those curious prosthetics, those animalia
    with their clever hums and coos,
    those quivering visions of Albion.

    And Yearning, always Yearning:
    the one-eyed child leaning out of the highchair,
    the lord protector pacing his damp yew walk
    as the Calydonian hunter straggles after the boar.

  • Cover Song

    By Dawn Potter

    Once I had a boyfriend (you’ll laugh, I know)
    Who strolling at midnight through a yellow-brick alley
    Grasped both my cold hands and sweetly bellowed
    “My Girl” into the small wind that ebbed and sallied
    Between our shadows. I’d known him for a week.
    He stared into my eyes and slowly decanted Motown
    Into the chill particulate air. Ignoring us, a plane idly streaked
    Toward Philly, a bus hooted, a few cars sifted by. I looked down
    At our four trapped hands: bowled over, yes, though fighting
    A queasy embarrassment. But you know, better than most,
    What I mean: how unreal it feels to play at romance, gliding
    Slickly beyond your homely self like a ballroom ghost,

    As if your everyday, tempted, shivering skin

    Couldn’t perform a truer rendition.

    from Same Old Story (CavanKerry Press, 2014)