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Donna Masini

Donna Masini

Donna Masini is the author of two collections of poems—Turning to Fiction (Norton, 2004), and That Kind of Danger (Beacon Press, 1994), selected by Mona Van Duyn to win the Barnard Women Poet's Prize—and a novel, About Yvonne (Norton, 1998). She is an Associate Professor of English at Hunter College where she teaches in the M.F.A. Creative Writing program. She lives in New York City and is currently at work on The Good Enough Mother, a novel.


My mother is scissoring strips of paper bag,
fringing the edges, stapling layers of feathery brown
      to an old

jacket, then, rings glinting on her wedding finger,
whisks the scissor up each ribbon of fringe, tricks it
       to curl, to turn

my brother into an owl. It's fall in the late
sixties. Late afternoon. She zips him in. Thirty
      years later

it's a sudden rush into another fall. You can see it
      in the invisible
exclamation points shooting through everything:

Wind! Trees! Shaky mums! The city's lousy with
a man on Houston St. says to what appears to be his
      date. Suddenly it's cold

to dine outside. In the open window of Paradise Thai
      two women lean across their flickering
candle, glasses of bright wine. A chilly tableau
      framed by night, a lustrous couple

of inscrutable statues, pineapple crowns rising into
      spires. At this point everything is still
possible. I wish they could see this. The moonlit
      spires. Their lustrous doubles.

Every time, every single time I've followed desire,
my friend said last night, pressing her palms on my
      kitchen table, every time:

Disaster. Its late. The babysitter will be fifty
Moon! Time! Fifty dollars! What an expensive movie.

Sometimes we walk out of ourselves, blinking into the
light, pulling our sweaters tighter, unprotected,
      regressed from our time

in the dark, the crowd snaking through the lobby,
      watching us, eager to enter
what we have left. We're always waiting for the next

to change us. Facelifts, my ex-husband said last week,
      are the new cure
for migraine. Light flickered its misty nimbus, his
      face breaking up. I held my head.

Jews have over twenty-five words for schmo, I said,
of nothing. After so much pain, imagine

we can laugh. Though if you think in anagrams,
parades and drapes, diapers, rape, despair and aspire

all come out of paradise.
What was my mother thinking

as she made my brother an owl, as an ordinary man
and woman leaned toward one another at a railway
      station table, away

from their marriages, across our TV screen, entering
the movie, heading into, then averting, perhaps,
      disaster. Perhaps.

We feel change coming. Season of exclamation points.
Fringy mums shaking their yellow frazzle!

Last week, still summer, the young attendant in the
      designer jeans store
held out our change, announced (sneak preview!) the

will end in 2012. According to the Mayan calendar.
So we might as well, he said, keep drinking the plastic

bottles of Poland Spring. Well, it's a doggy-dog world
as my sister says. My friend throws up her arms,

waves her bag of jeans. Her free alterations. Look
      how much we've done
in just a few minutes! Look how we wait

for something to change us: love, jeans, a "Train of
hanging in the subway car: As Gregor Samsa awoke one

from uneasy dreams he found himself
, etc. What did he dream? Did we find out?

Why remember the creature but not the dream?
What was my brother thinking as he flapped and whoo'd

across that stage? Whoo whoo whoo, he hooted for days.
Whoo whoo whoo


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