Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Elizabeth McDonnell '05

Five Poems by Elizabeth McDonnell '05


My grandfather flirts with other women

He trails the current woman
through the guests,
his hips knocked into hers
like dominoes caught
in a sway. It's rarely mentioned.
The Gorgeous ones, he calls over,
winking. They can't resist.
I see my earrings he picked
off the table bend
towards her jaw, sized like
little fists. They way
it will get worse each year,
the slacking inhibitions,
the confusion.
When I look back I imagine
one of the earrings stuck
to her hair, the tear of wire,
fallen beads like the base
of a sieve. He blows me a kiss
over her shoulder blade,
face gray, indistinct.
The night lies backless
as a dress and he
has already forgotten
my name.


East Blue Hill

My sister stands where water pulses
over a bank. The sand collapses in
like a lung under her toes, breathes in

again with the tide. At night in Maine,
the harbor shivers. A thin moon
behind a surge of mountain. She knows

about last nights, the boy wading waist
deep in front with sadness in his
mouth. He curves fingers into hollows,

cups the water like a child. When she tells
me this story, she hurries the ending;
folds of dark over the length

of his face, the slow drag of minutes
until morning. Twelve a.m. One.
Her feet silently useless with cold.



Advice on the corner of 30th and Market

Inside the doors of a station, a man snaps his eyelids down, up at you like the shutter of a
camera. The arrival of a train rattles the heat grates underfoot like rows of teeth. Girl, you’re
too pretty. Don’t you get so close to hell. Listen to him tell you. The pocket over his chest
bloated with New Jersey playing cards and gin. Some days they remind him of a woman
sprawled with her hips in the sand, playing kings. Freckles on her shoulders like seeds
loose in a field. Waves entering him like static, the followed hush. Other days his face
hovers blank as a fence post. Outside the station, see rain seduce a nearly shattered sky. No
one is surprised; one crack is all it takes. Hell, hell…. he’ll tell the wall behind you if he has
to. The girl on the floor braiding the fringe of her skirt into knots. If you leave, he’ll tell
them both how things go.



Sleeping man

When you wake,
air restless like a fist
of reeds,
I hold myself in;
I fear my voice collects

your breath like a stopper
in a sink.

I want to reach you,
your speckled,
thin face. Still I buckle
inwards, pare

my sight around you
like a split
apple; will you fault me this rush

of fear? I’ve learned
to cork it

up like a wine bottle
until you are not so pale.
Outside, morning

We watch

and search for rain: without
which flowers wilt
to stone, without which
the dirt dries.

Never mind their
sufferings. We know
they will not

last long.



The fifth year without her began today. The sun snapped
over the horizon like a cheap plastic mirror while down

the street, a mail truck delivered the wrong letters.
You say it's a relief to know echoes can exist without

sound, rain now hissing over the screened-in porch
like an open mouth. After medicine she like to eat

grapefruit, watch the trees free themselves entirely
of their weight. Juice from the spoon would stiffen

her skin, though you never talked of permanence.
Years ago she raked the leaves with her fingers

while you watched from the steps, the first wisps
of hair released from her scalp like tiny seeds.