Circulation at my library is way up
since I got my own live feed.
People stream me
during their lunch breaks and on the morning train.
I get real sexy with the books,
opening the covers,
working the hinges,
leafing through the pages.
I wrap my tongue around
penthouse words
like loquacious and perambulate
and fomentation,
fantasy words like naughty
and Lilliputian, ribaldry and nascence.
My fans come into the library
for a first row seat to my live act,
an Odyssean recitation of phonemes:
muff, puff, moist, hoist,
straddle, paddle, cream, dream,
bramble, scramble,
silky, milky, slick, slit,
meat, mean, sip, sin.
Afterwards they stick around,
sweaty and shaky, hoping to hear
me say syllogism or overdue
or to get a special sneak peak of me
shelf reading in the stacks
or pushing a book truck
loaded with graphic novels.
If they’re real lucky
I’ll tell them to shush,
whisper hot and quiet in their ears,
let them pay their fines
in singles,
slip the bills
underneath dust jackets,
let a wandering finger slide
along the uncut edge of
A Brave New World.



January is the curve
of my dog’s underbelly,
snow spotted and mud mottled,
warmest in its center,
my acres a swamp
dying to be paddled through,
a broke down shed lists to the left
in some interminable bow.
I’ve been hoping it could survive the winter.

We lay out a patchwork of blankets,
arrange a tea party and forget
how we were
snow blinded last week.

Pin a ribbon on my bikini
to never forget this thaw,
my bare legs, or the caps
of my shoulders blooming
next to the mire of African lilies and mums,

a sun hot enough to wring
the antipodean garden out,
to set ablaze the brickwork
of our family home
a coppery pot filled to the brim
with Liberty apples,
a laissez-faire mirepoix
fit for a pair of middle class kings.



I heard somewhere that fear is a sin
but Christ didn’t write that,
he didn’t write anything down
and neither did Buddha.
But that’s meaningless to worry about.
Besides, I think it’s worry that’s supposed to be a sin
which is more worrisome to me
because I’m supposed to be Catholic and I worry about everything,
like how there might be nothing to come after all my worry
or that I won’t have worried enough.
Anyway, this poem started out about fear
and, for the record, I don’t know where the Vatican stands on fear.
I quit paying attention when John Paul II died
because the guy after him scared me
and I don’t want anyone else telling me what to do.



What can I say to you, darling,
that you haven’t heard me say before?
That you are an oyster
and I am a grain of sand
trapped in your fatty pink folds.
That for all the time I’ve spent with you
I’m rubbing you raw
right in the sweet spot.
We shouldn’t hold on to the myth
that you can change me
any more than I can change
a stranger’s water into wine.
What can I say to you, darling?
That you shouldn’t hold your breath
because nothing good can come
from that kind of cruelty,
because you always find a way to fight
on the right side of a catastrophe.
What can I say other than
the stories we’ve made up
about goldmines and oceans and heartache
have always been in our heads,
all we have to decide
is how to tell them.

© Michelle Ornat 2022