Interview, at Headquarters
It wasn’t what you think: just
white gauze curtains parting
at the attic window. Three boys—
looking up, breeze skipping
fingers through their careless hair—
who saw me, hands full of treats. But
that time I stood back: older brother
calling, big-bellied mama pushing
a bent stroller. Cop car. Quiet.
Next Monday, schoolbell—
& I hear their voices calling in
the branches, pear & plum, fruit
warming on a sill in sun. Two
trot on. One looks up. Hangs
behind. Stone hole in his heart.
Who learns gate bell latch stair.
Button. Un zip. After the first
games he stands for me at
the window holding his treats &
(I swear) smiling. My hands say:
I knew how to treat him right.
He liked what love I had. And I
what he . . . juicy youth to spare:
why shouldn’t I have some of that,
or you, why not you, pouched &
sagging, with your bleared eyes,
your moth-eaten joints, &—like
everyone—a stone hole in your
heart? That elixir of perfect
skin & limb—who wouldn’t want
to put their lips to the rosy cup & drink?
If he said stop, would you have heard?
Cloak of Glass
Her cloak of flesh porous, imperfect, she
contemplates the rack of wraps for cover:
armor to enter the world. The cupboard
of disguise cracks open. She slides aside
the cloak of curdled silk, its inner shudder,
wet-veined gray. Picks the mantle
of glitter, its leaded glass faceted
to radiate one thousand thousand shards
of deflecting light, the instant she steps
into sun. Buckled in blinding collar,
diamond-stitched seam, she will vanish under
flash, masked as shattered ice. Mirror, mirrored,
latched in crystal clasps, she will admit
no one, & so evade abrasion. Within,
her own skin shrinks from the lining’s broken
scratch. Injury she trades for protection.
I make you shudder? Good. I could
have had your kids by
like anybody’s Nana. White hair gleaming
in the gas station’s white
Snow flickering your fenders close
to mine. . . .Check out my
my unremarkable parka. Catch the key
you left still sparking
the starved engine
of your car. By now I could have been
six blocks away, with Jess,
yes? & Jonah—
trussed in matching toddler seats. And you—
late, out the Quick-Stop
door, one hand
buttoning the baby’s coat—not quick enough,
you see that as our eyes lock
& load, yours
fired by fear. Mine, cold as a hanging judge.
An ex-con on the lam.
You’ve been gone—
what? five minutes? —long enough, I can hold
the heart in your throat.
Go on, stumble
through excuses. My stare stops you short: think
of a joy ride with no joy.
That amber light.
May your every night be riddled with the bullet
of my glare: what I could
have been. Done.
Judith H. Montgomery’s poems
appear in Ars
Medica, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Cider Press Review
, and elsewhere, as well as in several anthologies. Her chapbook,
received the 2000 Oregon Book Award. Red
a full-length collection, appeared in 2006; the chapbook, Pulse
in 2007. These poems are from Inter/View,
a working manuscript supported by a Literary Arts fellowship.