Today's poem is by Jenny Browne

The Multiple States of Matter

If four legs make a desk, a friendship, a donkey
and its he-haw switch-backing our slow descent,
then which way to turn first? If four in the morning
and distant lands cloud the green tea, shall we begin
with the sound of one blue parakeet, loyal to sky
inside its wire cage. Not the wide laugh of the red
-headed woman who watched it with me, drinking
sweet instant coffee outside Suchitoto. I could leave now
and reach her before next darkness but I hear the hole
they have cut into her skull is like a busted taillight
refusing any sign of reversal, the sharp turns of her face
walled off from making new memory. I could become
the steady hands of the man who tossed a blanket over
the birdcage, conceal light, and call it night. I could have
throttled the Buddhist, earlier, halfway through dinner,
when he said, the real problem is you still think you get to
decide what kind of death is a good one
. He's right.
That's precisely what I think. The back of the donkey I rode
down into the canyon rocked beneath me for miles
but every time we stopped, she faced the wall.
She didn't want to see where we were going either.
This desk looks towards a wall hung with wooden masks.
Gods and monsters both, some with other bodies coming
out their foreheads. The being growing inside my friend's brain
is both solid and liquid, what science class once explained
to be the multiple states of matter. They didn't tell us
that the real sound a heart makes is not a drum
but a stubborn lub-dub, swollen and dumb in the throat.
The donkey I ride isn't going anywhere.
If the only difference between gods and monsters
is in which brain they find belief, why not turn towards
another story that shouldn't be true, a pickup truck
backing up over the head of a dog named Eggroll
and how the wet earth beneath him gulped and made room
for his brain to rest until the blind giant's joyride was over.
And the children cheered. And the mom wiped her eyes
with the back of her hand. And Eggroll stood and shook
is what keeps happening and happening next.
But five hundred miles away, in another state
of matter, the one who sits beside my friend's bed
must remind her how to swallow. Every few minutes he asks,
do you need to swallow and if she blinks, he says,
okay, swallow then.

Copyright © 2009 Jenny Browne All rights reserved
from Bat City Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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