the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




SEVEN WORKS
BY JANE MCGOVERN

PAPER CAKE

Please don't give me paper cake,
the kind that I would never make
in the usual sheet cake pan,
never prepared with heart by hand.

The frosting's thick and gritty,
piled much too high - what a pity!
Don't dare to give me that fake cake
or I will throw it in the lake!

================

THE FIX

She sidles up,
tail perpendicular,
furry cheeks
rub together
as she tiptoes
around furniture.
Her vacuous look
a question.

Her pursed mouth
musters a "Peep"
"Come on up," I say,
waiting for sharp points
to dig into my chest.
Hairs cling to my face
and I can't breathe.
She scratches her
pointy ocher chin
on the sharp corner
of my glasses.

Snuggled close to my face
the purr comes
deep and musical,
soft yet loud.
Oval eyes squeeze shut,
dribble seeps from
the smiley corner
of her mouth
drops dark circles
on my top
requiring me to
scratch, pet.

Her love session
ends suddenly
when a phone rings
a window rattles,
my leg shifts, I
cough or sneeze -
airborne, she flies
to another place.

================

SYNCHRONIZATION

He and she came for Christmas.
One smiled, the other grinned,
not necessarily looking at each other.
One sneezed, the other wheezed
but in different rooms.
They ate a stack of flapjacks
sitting side by side.
Eyeing the last two
they lifted their forks,
leaned forward
and stabbed them.
Cups raised in perfect tempo,
one a shadow of the other,
as they sipped coffee
together.
Now napkins
dabbing lips
in orderly fashion.
Oops!
Her burp
preceded his.

================

BUTTONS AND BUTTS

Big and small, long and short,
innies and "outies"
lint filled,
moldy,
encircled by a halo of puffy flesh
under shrunken tops
above fat metal buckles
that look strong enough to pull a truck.

An original fleshy fashion?
Consider the plumber\'d5s attraction,
his fatty bulge spreading
above a southbound crevice
between shirt and pants,
a dangerous direction
I do not wish to go.

================

BALLPOINT PENS

Nine million in
the county, lost.
Where do they go?
We need 'em.
We love 'em.
They come in
different colors, designs,
shapes, styles and sizes.
Fine points, medium or thick,
waterproof, retractable,
with or without caps,
refillable or throw-away,

Yesterday I saw one
by the answerphone,
today it's gone.
No one took it.
A box of twenty-five
lined up like soldiers in
crinkly, see-through cellophane
can disappear in an hour
but bag and receipt
lie boldly on the table.
Where do they go?
Are they with the elephants?

Found one last week
when I removed shirts and pillowcases
from the dryer.
Its innards, nuzzled in lint,
warm and happy though
dissected from its
peachy-clean shell
hugged by a salmon colored shirt sleeve
laughed at me.
Every garment fashioned in
tasteless blue freckles.

Once considered mediocre
replacements for ink pens,
they have evolved
from common hole punching
to peace treaty signing,
these fellows rule the world.
Help!
Brrring. Brrring.
Yes?
Take a message?
Wait.
Where's a pen?

================

TANKAS

Trees swish
like pendulums
in tornado's rage
leaving white ceramic bird
untouched

Hunkering behind
the Kenmore washer
she waits for
a normal
life

Jutting knuckle
from pulsating thumb
bent by
scrub buckets
or just old

Cold takeouts
are hot,
hot takeouts,
cold,
I should have cooked

Too busy for
bubble bath,
sun bath
or to listen
to you

================

WARM TIME

She lay, eyes closed,
listening to baritone ticks.
Her back to his side
she senses a bulb's glare,
hears his slow breathing.

She shifts slightly,
toes reaching gingerly
for the end of the bed.

His warm hand strokes her arm,
forehead, hair,
rests again on her arm.
"How's ma honey? Hmmm?"
"Ok," she whispers,
remaining still.

Outside a motor struggles uphill,
trash cans smack the ground.
Sounds of his fingers
rubbing the page of his book
remind her of cornstarch.

Her eyes open, close,
she clears her throat,
reluctantly opens her eyes
and sees lacy branches
against the winter sky.

Ticks sound louder,
he sighs,
slides his hand from her arm,
air squishes from pages
as the book closes,
she quivers.

She sits up, pivots sideways.
Cool floorboards
awaken her feet.
She stands,
ready to begin the day.