Two Poems

Karen Blomain

                The Route

        Seven years later
        on my way home from lunch
        I'm wandering in old thoughts like tunes
        I dream to. So, say I'm half noticing
        a woman in Rea & Derrick parking lot
        shoving a shopping bag into the back seat
        of her car, her face buckled
        in on itself. Maybe that trips me up.

        Or it could be the one cluster
        of notes I can't identify for a second that turns
        out to be a song we used to make up to.
        But something happens and I've turned
        the wrong way and am heading down the street
        my other life played itself out on.
        I can't turn back. Unblinking, I watch
        the old trees no time can change

        and the holly I planted, three bushes
        now trees, one for each clumsy little helper,
        all of us pricked at least once
        before we patted in the mulch. Or maybe
        it's just registering: my friend in the hospital,
        explaining the tumor that has grown in her brain,
        how she has to turn it into an enemy.

        Mafia man, I suggest, joke about the cliché
        fedora, the gold tooth, I want her to imagine
        a shoot-out, her hand on the trigger. Gun him down,
        I say. Later she imitates the hospital p.a., a thick
        sweet voice: Admitting conditions-BLACK. The code
        for no more beds. After three weeks she knows
        the jargon. RED TOP means fire. It's easier
        to move the patients along the yellow lines
        to exits if no one suspects.

        More benign inventions to keep the terror away.
        But I'm safely in my car driving past and nothing
        in that house with the stonewall can harm me.
        I hum in relief, like when I'm afraid
        of something I can't put my finger on
        but there's a sting and I know without looking
        that I'm bleeding and somehow it's important
        to retrace the route my mind traveled to put me there.

Copyright © 1992 Karen Blomain


                At the end of a dry season
                small itches, the air smeared
                with pollen and the strum
                of wings against the screen.

                Stars so far away
                even those shooting past seem
                like wishes
                useless as thirst.

                What can come next? Not knowing
                that, who can know
                what to wish for. Suddenly
                in the night, rain

                on the flat roof, misunderstood
                at first÷a simple pause
                amid the banter
                of tree frogs.

                What was background
                becomes plot. Forty-five.
                Somehow a thrill when the reader
                in Peckville flips the cards gravely

                after my cut
                looks up: You have till eight-nine.
                Days later his voice
                registers like pictures

                of planets we see only seven years
                after transmission, images
                that might have burned
                off long ago. Such luminance

                we take on faith. And I think÷halfway,
                imagining the end of light:
                the eyes of children, blurry
                summer afternoons

                the way love
                shines us, the stars,
                without knowing it,
                I must have counted on all along.

Copyright © 1992 Karen Blomain 
The poems, "The Route" and "Halfway," are from Ms Blomain's collection, Borrowed Light, copyright 1992, and are used here with her expressed written permission.  Reproduction of these poems without her permission is expressly forbidden by federal copyright law.

Borrowed Light is a publication of Nightshade Press, Roy Zarucchi, editor, P.O. Box 76, Troy, Maine 04987.

Ms Blomain is the author of several collections of poetry, including The Slap and Black Diamond. She is also editor of the distinguished collection, COALSEAM: Poems from the Anthracite Region. Ms Blomain teaches at Kutztown University.

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