A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose

Roberta Feins

lives in Seattle and works as a computer consultant.

She received her MFA in poetry from New England College in 2007. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Tea Party, Floating Bridge Review, The Lyric, Five AM and Antioch Review.

She edits the e-zine Switched On Gutenberg.

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The Fifth Confounding Element

Something is wrong with the earth
Chunks of gravel have been welded
together into one smooth surface.
And myriad blades of flattened grass
have shivered into powdery pollen
and been dyed white.

It eddies like water. It is weightless as air.

Something is wrong with the water
The pond usually wrinkles comfortably,
a soft and unmade bed.
Today it is stretched taut
and hard by some severe housekeeper.
Puddles crunch and splinter.

It is solid as earth. It crackles like fire.

Something is wrong with the air
Its presence is so empty, a scent beyond scent
which questions smell itself.
Your breath lingers wistfully
in the oven of your mouth
and is expelled like steam from a teapot.

It burns like fire. It hurts as hard as earth.


Nightly in our Foredeck “Library” Lounge

We are very proud to present. Our keynote speaker will be.
Thirty years among an unknown tribe. Rated Grade A,
he has been branded by the presence.

He will regale you, swale you, move you, tail you.

And he has journey. Hoo-hah has he traveled:
lepers in Liepzig, fjiords of Fordham,
A goatherd in a lonely corner of Tebrizi taught him
to whistle over 50 bird songs. (We’ll hear them all, starting soon.)
Several sets of zippers on his bags.

But sit, sit back, there is no eject button
on your velvet seats, no hemlock in the cupholder.

Highly educed, raconteur, raccoon hunter,
Hunter College. Straight pants, no flare.
Flair for the antidotal anecdote, credentialed
Penciled in, templed, dimpled.

In desperation, finger puppets on the screen,
Polack jokes, racist jokes, racy (but delicate)
innuendo. Orgasms (how did that slip in?)
Deep secrets revealed only to a few:

by phone to Little Rock, in the Dallas Limo.
Witness to his story, gonna let you in on it. Conversations
with the famous“Excuse me.” “No, after you.”

World-renowned whirled around.
Still uncrowned, on the town.
Fluent and truant, enthrall and appall.

A sadder part too; minor note.
Failure to balance, a metal door
clanging shut, silencing.

There will not be a quiz, but moments
of rapt adoration will be rigorous,
extracted. His satisfaction
requited as yours is guaranteed. Charmed,
amazed, alarmed charred, dazed.
Chilled, pilled, pelted, pleached.

You’ll thank us. We expect tearful letters, testimony
-als, large donations, obituaries. Elegant, germane, memorable.