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




WORK
BY MEL KENNE

POPCORN

It sometimes happens
that one has nothing

interesting left to say.
So one says that. Then

that may turn out to be
something many others

haven't yet thought of
an adequate way to

express. Or haven't they?
Don't bet on it. Take a

        *
breath and it may be
gone again. Exhale a

second too soon and it
might return as only

another useless line in
a never-to-be-heard song.

No, it doesn't end yet.
It runs on and on, each

stitch only one in nine
or ten. Then, later, when

you come back to the
first one, you find that

it's already begun to
happen again: hungry

        *
eyes staring out from
a dilapidated barn's

yawning doorway as
kids run through damp

clover playing capture
the flag. Now evening

becomes night, and
before long the woods

freshen as dawn enters
quietly, slipping through

the oaks' wide archway,
where light settles,

letting one bright ray
fall onto a plump acorn,

out of which pairs of
legs and arms sprout.

"Oh, Pan!" it cracks
itself open and shouts.

        *
No, it doesn't stop there,
either. As it happens,

for hours rain pours
on the great, unplanned

city, drenching it with
cool, cleansing lotion,

causing it to turn back
and muse upon its maze

of antiquated drains,
as it hums a tune that

leaks through broken
lines, then seeps back

into rusted-out mains
to become gutwrenching

poison, like a bad poem
best forgotten before

it's ever been spoken
or read even once. Like

        
*
this one perhaps, or
perhaps not. Who can

say? It's alive! Or is
it? It suffers! Or does

it? Has anything really
happened? Oh yes,

yes! one wants to say,
but one actually says

nothing, one only
lives, loves and dies

inside clouds of doubt,
those grey areas where

ashes constantly seek
their urns, as, here,

        *

now, all around us,
buildings continue to

grow, stretching up
through brittle forms

like skeletal fingers
that reach higher

each day, as if they
were trying to clutch

something unknown,
as invisible as air,

but less attainable-
and somewhere else

        *
the sun pulses down
on a bleak stretch of

desert highway in the
millionth rerun of a

relentless Italian movie
(black and white), the

first scene of which
gives away its depressing

existential theme, as
down the dark hallway,

popcorn beats on the
lid of a Dutch oven.

        

Coda

Does it begin or end there,
with popcorn popping?

Possibly. The answer
depends entirely on

how one chooses to
interpret the sound of

emptiness growing
louder each moment,

like a growling stomach,
until its overblown

seeds are contained,
held up by your hand-

or left, virgin grains,
on the pan's greasy bottom,

to be scraped out soon,
gratefully forgotten.