Irene Duyen

Ghazals For War (Two Trios)



"Here we have a chess game between light and shadow."
---Jean Cocteau

Found that ticket. Said I'd die a rich man after scratching
sense into fat cheeks, carving law into trees at City Hall.

Not afraid of fortunes; not afraid of those hook-nosed parades,
waving wet-babies from their shoulders down Main street.

Drove luck to the edge in a wheelbarrow, all the plump-papas
waiting for the crash and the mamas. Drew down from a full house.

On the other hand; said a poor man, laying silver on the counter
for a can of soup and papers, rolling my own. Shaky fingers.

They take pictures from this spot, put them in jars like chutney
so all the future Janets can walk them and pretend they know.



"My mother bids me bind my hair
With bands of rosy hue,"
--Anne Hunter

Blown smoke out a pinched window, brown butts in the bottom
of beer bottles, pitched on the roof when she comes up the stairs.

I'll take her man, truss that chicken up right, take his tongue
between my teeth and make him say "love" five times slow.

The book says runs red into those rooms where women wash.
She says wonderful, ignoring warnings from my whisper girls.

He's got a bullet for me, she says it won't fit my gun and if
it did, there are things to consider; maybe poor blind babies.

Doesn't see the soldiers in my thighs but sees the sword
left in my bed and now, now, now, she will be afraid.



"If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome:
if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent:
if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe."
--Lord Salisbury

Lung's on the right, stomach's to the left and I'm
in the wrong seat outside #205. Brain's in #206.

You'd think, with all the letters, they'd smell a slip
in "That doesn't hurt." and replace their coats with red.

Make them warriors, take those sheep, give them shields.
Give the bills to your second and slap those white cells.

Wear that hat like a lion's head and if they ask, tell them
if you want to, or tell them it's a new feline fashion.

Find the corner of that circle, pull each loose thread,
glide a slide above the light, but remember its name.



They'll teach those ears to hear backwards, sirens; bells
in church, screaming giggles with a knife next door.

There's Truth on tv, sitting next to Johnny, the frills
don't do her justice; the men in microphones do.

Took a fib to the cleaners to have the hem taken down,
longer's in fashion but the young girls still go bare.

Pity those men without reds and greens, forever unmatched
socks, Jackson and Wallace with accents and bad ties.

Flipped a fish in the pan, bones in the throat but tasty.
Didn't yell much but I saw it coming, right down the middle.



Un-child; I have blue, if the string says boy, ready
to count toes. Waiting on the edge of the letter.

The unfolded answer--No. Un-cribs in primary colors,
commercials with their baby-soft butts and brass shoes.

The policies, a dollar a day with gerber-baby bonuses,
guarantees of gassy smiles for the first six months.

Scenery; no chubby knees, ponies or high-school ankles
in this movie, no one to hold the camera crooked.

No need for colored eggs, rabbits or shiny presents.
"Please" like the hiss of an un-done prayer in old ears.



Betting it all on #8, might buy a wife if it's true what
gold gets. Even unshaven, he has that paperback look.

Kissing the metal rail, watching them pull like a wasp
on fly paper, maybe #3 with her long, snort-shake head.

Only been 6 and a half furlongs, got a mile-wide chest
and a mile and a quarter look in her eyes and her jeans.

But he's running lazy man's odds under her sweater, still
fighting to the gate, a virgin to those swing-doors.

White star means spirit, a stripe is plain mean, watch
those hooves, she's a mudder for sure and eats the rain.

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