Three Poems


[audio link]

Our Mum
prickly as a mustering drill sergeant.
Our rides to church her personal
crusade against grime stuck
on Sis and me, unfit for the holy

of holies. Mum the merciless,
applying TP and sandpaper
hanky on the dupes trapped in back:
Blow! And into the TP

we blew. The hanky following,
into which she spat,
turning our stomachs empty
from the sin of arising too late.
Ears! Mum's finger in damp hanky
ferreting out our deepest grits,

Mum's clicking tongue lubing her palm
to stick my cowlick, Sis's bangs. Her
bristly brush. Her breath. Seven minutes
of torture, then the march triumphant

into church. Clean, cherubic, stinking of spit.
Our Mum. There, inside heaven's gate,
spit-shining each tormented child— 



[audio link]

We pretend entangling jungle,
grassy savannas, hear lions,
mynahs and apes cry wild.

Billy's having fun but Clare
believes they're lonely and sad.
What do you think, Dad?

Can a mynah mimicking speech—
Ahoy! Good grief! Hell's bells!—
claim a thought as its own?

What sounds in a lion's brain
while chewing its kill: crunch
of bone, or primordial voice?

Clare's in tears at the ape house,
Billy's making "ook-ook" sounds.
What do you think, Dad?

Is the pacing lion lonely?
Are we, peering through its cage?
Whose idea was this, coming here

to ponder monkey angst, twisted
songs of mynahs, and loneliness?
Should have seen a baseball game.


Seeing the World

[audio link]

Out of the televised
wild my animal planet daughter
We need to see the world NOW—

lumbering polar bears
teensy frogs in rain forests
great apes and green sea turtles
all disappearing!

She throws me her
say-something look
(putting me in lockdown)
and flounces off

so beautiful the world turning.

—Darrell Petska, Middleton, WI