What I Learned From My Mother
— Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

This poem . . .
— Elma Mitchell

This poem is dangerous: it should not be left
Within the reach of children, or even of adults
Who might swallow it whole, with possibly
Undesirable side-effects. If you come across
An unattended, unidentified poem
In a public place, do not attempt to tackle it
Yourself. Send it (preferably, in a sealed container)
To the nearest centre of learning, where it will be rendered
Harmless, by experts. Even the simplest poem
May destroy your immunity to human emotions.
All poems must carry a Government warning. Words
Can seriously affect your heart.

Major League Salaries
— Melinda Thomsen

Now, I find a 10 million dollar
salary reasonable for players
that stand sixty feet from Clemens
or Martinez. Their pitches spin

forward in white and red seamed
swirls like peppermint candies
that change into jawbreakers
and could shatter a face

like what happened to your
poor cheekbone. The one
that pleats like a fan as you
smile or presses against mine

when the world descends
in leaden sheets was crushed
by a high school pitcher in Ohio
who had no clue of its value.

image: Tomma Abts, Mehm, 2005

* Contributor Andy Fox has worked as a private investigator and a bartender. He’s also edited a book of poetry and plays in the D.C. band Nice Breeze. He has published The Dust Congresssince November 2002.