Lisa Mullenneaux, one poem


BEFORE AND AFTER

Hard not to speak in elegies, so we are silent as we walk home from the film that has shown us there's no future in our history. We aren't ready for mass transit; we want to hear the sound our feet make on the pavement. It's 10:30 but the square's still rowdy, storefronts pulsing electric, street lamps burning

holes in the night, the great White Way that one day

will go dark because the play has ended. I steer us toward Astor Place and we stand by the wall of the sub station. There, I say, pointing to a slice of moon behind the Chrysler Building's terraced crown. Wads of cloud migrate with the slow purpose of East River barges or sea ice melting. We are not sleepy. We stand in a square named for a robber baron among a late-night crowd

in their vagabond shoes. Under our feet

engines rumble and air brakes squeal. Someone asks if we are lost.

ANGELS

you lost your perch—

the balcony of a Tuscan palazzo,

ceiling of a Baroque church,

or a Roman bridge that saw

centurions on the march—

and landed in a bed of ivy

in the gardens

of the Brooklyn Museum.

No, there’s more artifice than that:

a curator placed you

where green would frame

your alabaster curls

and you are laughing

at the soft, unexpected landing,

lips open, wings touching

the new growth of purple iris.

But your wings

are cracked at the shoulder joint.

Your journey’s over,

mine’s about to start.

And when the tour

of dead masters ends,

you are still there, the laughing cherub.

“Cheer up. You’ll survive.

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