Two Poems by Genevieve DeGuzman

Boats

She stands at the edge of the dock
thinking to set off
for anywhere
              even the redeye of the storm.

But the boat drifts
dragging a net of obligations,
heavy barnacle gowns
             clanking a train behind her.

Because the question is always hard
and the excuse each time is the same.
It forms a pearl under her tongue,
              a defense mechanism
              nacre forming around the hurt.

She doesn’t take this communion though
just strings each one together to make
jewelry that brings out her eyes, a necklace
to wear to parties.

She paces on the deck,
bow to stern, starboard
to port, a prayer walked
              in long strides.

Knocking on wood for luck
doesn’t help, nor does
cracking it
with fists
making tender knicks on knuckle bones
              she will later sand down
                          at night when no one can look her in the face
                          and see in through darkened portholes.

It’s silly to build a getaway boat and keep it there
tethered, a pet
in its cinched collar
             or is it a string of pearls gleaming at the throat?

One day that boat will tip, list in a swell
capsize, go down
to where previous wrecks stock-
                          pile, to where monsters hide in middens.

Boats are named for wives.
Husbands are the oceans.
After a storm
             everything
             floats to the top

             or sinks.

Portrait

They say we only get one chance in life. No do-
             overs or dress rehearsals. We appear on earth

and then fall away. One of the hardest things
to accept is that all around us are lives
we didn’t lead, the paths not taken because

              we can only take one
              and then we’re locked in

step. You breathe close to me and I am small embers
pinprick-bright. To think that I could
whisper your name and with my breath

              ignite.
              I want to call myself a widow. She is a woman

whose husband has died, but that will never be
me. Then I realized it was me who died, or rather
I am that portrait,

              a woman inscribed in flame,
              eyes closed on the pyre

or maybe asleep. You disappeared, that door is shut
but everyone still sees
me. So I lit something else, a story

              of a wandering off,
              no, not of Penelope waiting

warming the hearth of a cold, empty
room; a story where my hands on display play the minor
chords, where your cold grasp exceeds my hot reach.

 


 

Genevieve DeGuzman’s work appears or is forthcoming in FOLIO, Ithaca Lit, Liminality, Reed Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Switchback, among other journals. She has been a winner of the Oregon Poetry Association New Poets Contest, a finalist for the Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize, and a resident at Can Serrat.

Twitter: @gen_deg


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