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  • Elegy

    By Martha Rhodes

    My body given away, parts
    flown to other parts—a child
    receives my eyes, another
    my heart, the diseased organs
    remain, benign now.
    In death I am waiting
    for my soul to arrive
    that I may divide it equally
    among frightened neighbors.
    In death I pursue a man
    younger than my father
    ever was in my life.
    In death I am a mother
    who disowns her children
    in a market parking lot.
    In death a ghost lies
    under me, pregnant. In death
    I unbury myself and try
    to extract my soul surgically;
    it will not release, will not;
    I discover there is no one else
    this soul wishes to be.


    From Perfect Disappearance © 2000 Martha Rhodes. Reprinted with permission of New Issues Press. All rights reserved.

    • Ascension

      By Martha Rhodes

      Rose, the mother,
      as her child rose,
      up into the trees,
      with her shattered child.

      In her arms, the bifurcated child.
      “Don’t go, don’t go,” cries
      of the husband. “Don’t
      Leave me. I can’t bear it,”

      though surely he could
      come if he wanted,
      she thought, he could
      will himself up, up, to join

      them, his small family.
      John! But there he stands,
      smaller and smaller. “Look
      darling child, there’s your father.

      Now shut your eyes and forget him.”

      Originally published in Provincetown Arts Magazine

    • It Is the Horse

      By Martha Rhodes

      It is the horse in her he fears,
      her eyes, large and rolling,
      the yellow crunch of her molars,
      and her heavy foot aimed at him.
      He hears her in the stall of night
      approach, the other animals scatter,

      as does the dry dirt of the path,
      and the pebbles at his feet
      as he moves aside, as if to invite her
      to enter into the event horizon itself.
      He sees all her parts stretch out,
      a string speeding forward yet still,

      next to him, suspended in the cessation
      of time, the galloping fury of her finally
      arrested so that now his sleep markedly
      quiets enough for the shift of his breathing
      to stir her. She licks his salty spine—
      he is calm, now–pats his damp mane,

      Wake little horsey.

    • It being forbidden

      By Martha Rhodes

      to excuse oneself from table
      before each morsel is chewed and swallowed;
      it being forbidden to laugh
      unless he conducts, pitch and duration,
      his arms raised, our sisterly heads shamed
      downward; it being forbidden
      to invite another to that table who dares
      to be more handsome and charming than he.

      It being commanded to worship
      that occupier of the armed-chair,
      carver of pheasants, rabbinic imposter,
      tweed-suited weekend gardener,
      peddler of diamonds to the ghetto

      and we do worship him
      for plentiful is his table,
      joyous the summer camps,
      vast the Canadian forests,
      the Caribbean Sea.

      He who orchestrates with knife and fork
      pulls us to our knees
      and we pray with him who whispers
      do you love me
      and we cry with him who whimpers
      no one loves me
      and we kiss him on his temple
      no one touches me
      and we remain in his house
      longer than we ought, for he prophesies
      even you shall leave me
      and when we do leave him, as we must,
      we transplant lilacs and peonies from his garden
      to ours so that he shall bloom
      beneath our windows.

      Reprinted from Perfect Disappearance by Martha Rhodes © 2000 with permission of New Issues Press. All rights reserved.



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