Issue 35, Final Fringe

"My Flannel Civilization" and two more poems

by Molly Tenenbaum Issue 27 06.13.2011

My Flannel Civilization

Through fields of twitching feet,
     by streams of cramping calves,
our bassinet lamps leading home—
     in all the trees,
mouths opening for thumbs.

We’re taking the layette steps up,
     swinging our thick robe door,
padding our slippers across our lint floors
     in our rooms with the nightshirt walls,
our roof a sheet snapped,
     air-pocketing down.

The people familiar here—
     do you? but no, you don’t know them,
each wrapped in a private version.
     Here are the fathers, same
clean-edged lips,
     but their cries without words.
Here are the mothers, same
     close-up lips, but their songs
without words.

We’re all wearing hunstman and plaid,
     all in sock monkeys,
action figures, flying saucers,
     matching sets of planets and cats.
We’re stiff in our sizing, we’re late,
     it’s starting, we’re two trains away,
three lakes away, it’s started, we’re late,
     riding bikes rippling wheels like fried eggs
to a new place that looks like the old place.

Window of wafting,
     window of bear.
This cool breeze, what is it,
     winter sweet, and from
where? Softly, softly,
     fresh laundered cotton
settles a white
     whistling mask on our faces.

Then I Could Sleep

If I were scrap in the scraps, match in the box of matches.
If I were sleeve over sleeve in the washer.
If I were dirt in the dirt.

If I were one among gene-matched tomatoes,
Row in a crate of apples.
If I were, in the lipstick display, the pattern of lipstick end-labels.
If I were an ounce.

If I were wood.
If I were splinter, the ouch,
One o in the whole world’s long ouch.
If I were the road.

If I were postcards, same boring attractions.
If I were where you turn left at the sign, minus the sign.

If I were risen, punched, risen.
Or patted by hand, set hot on the table,
Eaten in less than a minute.
If I were shenanigans, Stop that right now,
If dad were reading, if I were the air
flying up from the pages.

If I were potato.
If I were winter and winter the only season.
If I were, absent a heart, abstraction of heart rate.
If I were dead, and dead
The only state.

My Duvet

Fringy, with hecklers.
Rag of a fortune, crag of a flock.

Pom-poms clocked. Alarming valerian.
Mushmelon, pumpkin, baffle of beams.

Bubbles with their hackles up.
Balloons, so carefully quilted.

Behind the closed sign, calliope pumping.
Snowprints squabbling the clearing.

Said the squirrels, Cannot visit now,
We’re too busy resting.

Said the settee, Cannot pouf, too mousy.
Said the hearthstones, Can’t rock, we’re spinning.

Said Polly, Well, crack my pot.
Answered Bantam, Chipper, chipper.

To every one, her tuffet.
Every way, perfume.

Molly Tenenbaum

Molly Tenenbaum

Read More

Molly Tenenbaum is the author of Now (Bear Star Press, 2007), By a Thread (Van West & Co., 2000), and several chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals: look for new and forthcoming work in Cutbank, Poetry Northwest, Tri-Quarterly Online, and Willow Springs. Honors include a 2007 residency at Hedgebrook, participation in the 2007 Jack Straw Writer’s program,  and a 2009 Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship. She plays Appalachian stringband music and has two CDs: Instead of a Pony and Goose and Gander. She teaches English at North Seattle Community College, and music at home in Seattle. Find her at