Three Poems

Laura Budofsky Wisniewski


Four percent of my imperatives
are Neanderthal. Oh traitor genes
that infiltrate my Homo Sapien,
crying, ‘Whack it with a club, just whack it.’

You can dress my naked genome up.
You can teach it art and poetry,
but it will pace the corners of the night
grunting, ‘Something else. There’s something else.’

Take my code to psychotherapy.
Just try. The dreams of fur and blood will not
recede with time. Nor will I learn to use
my words to kill. Evolve, my ragged tongue.

My eye teeth speak. The dead ones’ echoes call.
A shimmering light plays on the cavern wall.


Splitting Wood, Veterans Day

Only half the deadwood’s down.
A man’s maul releases
the sour smell of poplar,
severs the gnarled scars of oak,
bites through yellow beech.

The sun lies low.
There is a dangerous dusk
in which old shadows walk the perimeter.
Twenty-eight nights fall
between one full moon and the next.

The delicate skulls of birds
hide in dead leaves.
The wood is as willing as a child.
It’s not the lost leg, not the dreams
that strip the man out. It’s the children.
Their open eyes. The waste.


Love Song

What did you think
when you gave me your tongue
a tongue so wide and long
it rolled itself out like a bumpy red carpet?
It occupied me completely,
kissing you,
your mouth an unfamiliar neighborhood
of one way streets.

And when you opened your pants
and emerged,
like a bear in spring
sniffing the air for that faint sweet scent
of maple sap?

What did you think
raising, lowering, raising
that dark, beautiful lever of your body
fulcrumed at our conjunction?

Did you think :
one day the skin will fold like a velvet curtain
the limbs will knot and bend
the old fears will work their way to the surface
leaving tracks in the earth of the body?

Did you think :
our nights will infuse
the everyday air
with the past
and holding hands will be
magnificent and true?


Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Laura Budofsky Wisniewski’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in  Pilgrimage, American Journal of Poetry, Calyx, Blueline, Confrontation and many other journals. She won the 2014 Passager Poetry prize. She was a finalist for the 2017 New Millenium Literary Award, 2017 Fear No Lit Fellowship, and 2017 Paper Nautilus Chapbook competition. She is the author of the chapbook, HOW TO PREPARE BEAR (Red Bird Chapbooks).

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