Marianne Szlyk

Dancing in Watertown

Heat surrounds her, weighing her down.
Sweat on other people’s bodies pops
like the beat of this song.

She stands at the edge
of the dance floor, cut off
by the funk of other bodies.

A man slithers towards her,
reeling her in with ringless fingers,
far slower than this music.

Her back against the wall,
she pretends to dance.  He keeps
reeling her in until she

peels herself off the wall.
Wary, in the small space
left to her, she circles him

without touching
until he breaks off
before the song is over.

He circles the room
to dance with
the next girl who’s alone,

reeling her in
without touching,
then letting her go.


Memories of Facing West

When she first moved out west, the distance dizzied her.
She had spent three days on the train,

traveling from tree-covered hills and stone buildings
to flatlands to desert to the space between mountains.

Her mother sent her postcards from West Point.
Her younger brother drew a picture of a gun.

She hid them in library books she soon returned.
Her family was not moving forward.  She was not standing still.

She was running in place near the edge of a continent, on a fault line.
The picture window faced the river she rarely visited,

the mountains no one climbed.
To her friends, they were hills,

no more remarkable than the giant magnolia and monkey puzzle
trees that lined the streets downtown.

Her father sent her photos of Maine
where waves crashed on rocks and onto Route One.

She wondered when she would stand on that edge,
facing east again.


After the Death of a Strong Woman

In the morning, black rain
falls on traffic
and fragrant flowers the size

of her hand.


Write Where You Know

In the distance, reeds
preen and freshen,
moving in and out of
Russian green
shadows, in and out

of light.  Last bees
light on yellow sneezeweed.
No milkweed
this summer.  Birds hide
in tulip trees.

On this brilliant day, birds
speak.  Really,
really, one calls.  Doves
coo.  Red-winged black-
bird lands on nearby reed,

coming out
of hiding.  It is
the only bird I
know here, the only bird
that does not

hide from morning heat.
Water glistens.
Yellow sheen floats above
bronze water.
Turtles walk below.

© Marianne Szlyk

Marianne Szlyk is a professor of English and Reading at Montgomery College.  She also edits The Song Is…  Her first chapbook is available online at Kind of a Hurricane Press.  Her second chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, is available on Amazon.  Her poems have appeared in of/with, bird’s thumb, Cactifur, Mad Swirl, Setu, Solidago, Red Bird Chapbook’s Weekly Read, Mermaid Mirror, and Resurrection of a Sunflower, an anthology of work responding to Vincent Van Gogh’s art.  Her full-length book, On the Other Side of the Window, is now available from Pski’s Porch.  She invites you to stop by her blog-zine and perhaps even submit some poems:

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