Two Poems

The Giant’s Lunch Pail

Think of the prose poem as a box, perhaps the lunch box Dad brought home from work.
      —Louis Jenkins 

It’s a pirate chest out of an attic cluttered with old leather carcasses. The lid creaks on heavy hinges, a sound that maroons you in the back corner of a daydream. Inside, a tiny limestone cave where bloodstains catch in wadded waxed paper. Trails etched on thermos corks wind deeper into the cave. A faint sound of water splashes rocks. Light quivers. Mysterious smells—where else are you but inside a treasure trove? Nests of moss with furry skitterings. Rotting planks, flat rocks where snakes wait to startle you and stop your heart with their shivering. Will you find your way out? The paper scraps offer tantalizing clues. Their faded lines jumble into ancient charts guarded by toads you open and crumple again. They sound like the voices of whispering grandparents. 

Market Day in the Fairy Tale

The pigs oink at dawn from their bare, fenced-in corner. A squeezebox grunts tunes everyone knows. The locals puff clay-colored pipes, gnaw liver sausage and raw horseradish root, and clutch coins in dirty hands. Jugs of plum brandy, reliable elbows in any ear, wander the crowd. As children, the Jack-and-Jill locals think. We swam with Emil’s wife. Naked! And with Emil! They eye each other, owl-y. How far we’ve come, the squeezebox insists. Not for nothing, the pigs mutter, we’ve learned to eat our young. 

Here we go! the sackbut shouts. Full bottles please, the drovers pray—kissing babies, groping wives. Biscuits too. And don’t neglect the sausage gravy! Pigs pick along unmarked trails at the forest edge that wind out of sight past Grandmother’s house. Just walk, they seem to say. There’s always somebody knows the way.Castle towers fill the horizon with threats of foreign war. Edge of the earth ahead, the squeezebox warns. What’s new, drovers shrug. Give us a sweaty nap in the sun first. We’ll dream of supper, maybe naked!   

—David Steingass, Madison, WI