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Sample Poems by Claudia Gary-Annis


Teletype, circa 1976

No other medium could grant our wish
to dance together on a gleaming floor
of coated newsprint, clasping one another’s
next letter in a frantic reach of words.

No telephone could replicate the warm
click-clicking of our heels disguised as keys,
stepping across the platen on white paper
and through kilometers of humming wire.

No e-mail could have let me hear you think
between the words, some slow, some at a clip,
some pausing for my answer’s foot to fall
or skittering away from other questions:

—when can we speak again? where can I see you?—
the hurried editing, the mingled phrases
no longer filling anything but paper.
And then the keys grew cool, the wire quiet.



Labyrinth

No sooner thought than meant—no sooner meaning
than verbiage, though not a word be spoken.
We settle for the twilight intervening
on this cloud-covered stage, this field of broken
alliance, statuary, and intention.

When we awake, a city crowned with spires
surrounds us: a somnambulist’s invention
whose maze of pathways mocks at our desires,
whose barriers are poised to resonate
with thoughts we barely utter. Are you sure
that this was what we wanted to create?



Wedding Poem

You can make a fire with a lens of ice
so clear it tunes the sun and does not melt.
    
You will have a white dress
in which to be yourself and yet a bride.



The Fitting

        For Leonore
I.
Try it on, they said.
It wasn’t just the bows
and ruffles that annoyed her
but having to discern

through eyelet lace the wide view,
through gathered sleeves the strong grip,
below each frill the clear line
that she was looking for.

But when she saw their eyes,
poor buttonholes devouring
their likenesses in her,
she said: What if I do?

What if I try this on,
then leave it here for you
to touch as you remember?

Humor us, they smiled.

II.
Humor me, he said.
It wasn’t just to see
the ways her form inhabited
some flimsy cloth, but also

a scene that might unfold:
first the indignant silence
and then the reddened face
gazing at him—he wanted

to see her try that on.
But when she caught the mischief
inhabiting his eyes
she said: What if I do—

what if I try that on,
all of it, and then soon
it’s folded in a corner
entirely forgotten

for days or years until
it settles over me
raggedly, toward the end?

Try it on, he smiled.



The Test

I saw your heart beat silently
within a flat translucent sea,
cradled in waves of sound.

My doctor spun her chair around;
your floating image washed aground
in megahertz and pulse

whose quick but careful intervals
she said would spare the particles
that form your brain and bone.

From pictured sound your age is known,
from child to specimen you’ve grown:
your cells await their Test.

And if they are not of the best,
what then? What then? Would we invest
long days to nurture pain?

The doctor’s quizzing eye is trained
to hint that life may be in vain.
She learned to heal, she vowed to try,
but now her job is hard to classify.



Song of the Expectant Father

She is quiet now,
thoughts folded into baby,
letting pain ripen.

Soothing her, pacing,
calling nurse: these I can do.
Labor I cannot.

Maybe by sunrise
two of us will finally
unfold into three.

Preparing to hold
newborn, I claw worry lines
into a soap bar.