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DOVE, Rita


Borderline Mambo


As if the lid stayed put on the marmalade.
As if you could get the last sip of champagne
out of the bottom of the fluted glass.
As if we weren't all dying, as if we all weren't
going to die some time, as if we knew for certain
when, or how. As if the baseball scores made sense
to the toddler. As if the dance steps mattered, or there's a point
where they don't. For instance wheelchair. Heart flutter.
Oxygen bottle mounted on the septuagenarian's back
at the state ballroom competitions—that's Manny,
still pumping the mambo with his delicious slip
of an instructor, hip hip hooray. Mambo, for instance,
if done right, gives you a chance to rest: one beat in four.
One chance in four, one chance in ten, a hundred, as if
we could understand what that means. Hooray. Keep
pumping. As if you could keep the lid on a secret
once the symptoms start to make sense. A second
instance, a respite. A third. Always that hope.
If we could just scrape that last little bit
out, if only it wouldn't bottom out
before they can decode the message
sent to the cells. Of course it matters when, even though
(because?) we live in mystery. For instance
Beauty. Love. Honor. As if we didn't like
secrets. Point where it hurts. Of course we'll tell.


THE NARCISSUS FLOWER

I remember my foot in its frivolous slipper,

A frightened bird… not the earth unzipped

but the way I could see my own fingers and hear

myself scream as the blossom incinerated.

And though nothing could chasten

the plunge, this man

adamant as a knife easing into

the humblest crevice, I found myself at

the center of a calm so pure, it was hate.

The mystery is, you can eat fear

before fear eats you,

you can live beyond dying –

and become a queen

whom nothing surprises.