August 2001

Wendy Mnookin


Wendy Mnookin is the author of the books To Get Here (BOA Editions, 1999) and Guenever Speaks (Round Table Publications, 1991), a cycle of persona poems. A new manuscript, It Could Have Happened, will be published by BOA Editions in spring, 2002. The recipient of an NEA fellowship in poetry, Mnookin teaches poetry and creative writing at Boston College.
Scar    Click to hear in real audio

My mother parts her hair
and leans over
so I can touch the scar.
No, she says, you don't remember,
and goes back to making the bed,
snapping a sheet
so folds of lightning spark.

But I can't stop remembering
a woman in a wrinkled skirt
who carried me to her car
and held me.

The ambulance came right away,
my mother says, pulling the corners tight.
There was no other woman.

The grasses were quiet.
The sky hung its wet curtain.
Maybe you should come with me, that woman said,
her blue scarf scratchy against my cheek.



Shine    Click to hear in real audio

I want the honeyed stare
my mother gives my baby sister, curled
like a comma in her lap, kiss, kiss,
when she leaves for the movies
in one black shoe, one blue,
and just as quickly
comes home, but only to change.
She's in a hurry, stay out of her way.
I'm lucky, I can read in bed
until I'm tired, until phantom words
surface on pages of The Yearling.
They want something from me
but pages crumble before I read them,
dreams that scatter when my mother
opens the curtains, her hands
a hocus-pocus in folds of lavender
and green. When did it get to be morning?
The light, a white surprise, thins
and thins but doesn't tear.



Let's Do It This Year    Click to hear in real audio

Let's plant a pear tree in the backyard.
How many children do you want? 
It's hard to remember. Once 
they're here, they're here.
The children that we'll never have 
are the ones I love most,
especially at night, when the underside
of my eyelids exactly matches
the translucent skin of their fingers.
I don't know why I call you Jimmy
that's a child's name. We should
go to Spain this summer
even though we don't speak Spanish.
If we plant the pear tree now,
how many years before we get pears?



To My Readers    Click to hear in real audio

You lie around,
eat chocolate macaroons
and read to each other from Rilke.
Sometimes you read the Sunday comics.
That's fine. All words burn
into the wisdom words are born with.

You stare into trees,
your mind blank
as a first unwritten page,
when a female cardinal takes shape.
She was there all along, colors so muted
she seemed to be part of the tree—
but her beak, that bright red mouth!

Yes, you want there to be sex.
You expect it, would be disappointed
if, in all the pages of this day,
there isn't a kiss and a moan,
a hand, a breast, a thigh.
One thing, after all, leads to another.

What is it you've never done?
Do it.
I've written you here,
I can take you away.
Who knows what takes shape
after the cardinal?



Wendy Mnookin: Poetry
Copyright © 2001 The Cortland Review Issue 17The Cortland Review