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Dead Poets

Author Biography
Poetry By
  Melanie Houle

Published on: 5/26/2010
Evening Rounds/Morning Rounds

Learning his earthly shell was tumor feed,
he cursed the name of every deity
he'd begged to break his cells' conspiracy.
Unstemmed, the traitors planted demon seed
to sprout fresh treacheries inside his lungs
and bone and brain and damned-near everywhere.
His prayers unheard, his sense of justice stung,
he heaped abuse on us, who cede defeat
and counsel him to settle his affairs.

Today, awake at dawn, he stands to greet
us, face alight, affirming his belief.
Who knows what new adventure's yet to find?
No need to mourn the falling of a leaf
or rue the residue it leaves behind.

Published on: 5/26/2010
Work Ethic

Don't know the meaning of a good day's work,
she'd scoff. She never tried to hide her scorn
for those she labeled to the manor born.
She worked. She worked herself too tired to dream,
sick-pregnant, painting ceilings in the heat,
scouring cupboards, laundering, ironing sheets,
mopping, scrubbing floors until they gleamed.

Lace-curtain pride had rules enough to dull
the gnawing discontent she hid away:
no airing dirty linen, wrong to think
of why your glass feels empty, theirs looks full.
Her brothers raised their glasses to hard drink
to blunt the edges; hard work was her way,
the fierce (unspoken) questions held at bay.

Published on: 5/13/2010
Ghazal for a Departed Father

What resides in a box of ashes?
So dry inside, blood distilled to ashes.

Soft-eyed women offer silver trays.
Their fragile pastries have the scent of ashes.

I look like her, the woman that you wed.
I have her picture: eyes as gray as ashes.

Beyond my sooty pane, the children circle,
chanting all fall down, ashes, ashes.

Dawn breezes rise. The wake behind our boat,
Phoenix, gleams like topaz through the ashes.

Published on: 1/27/2010
After the Stroke

Your history's compressed inside a smile,
like a portrait of an ancient king:
the white beard of a sage, eyes of a child.

A sudden sentence levied without trial
has made of you this unexpected thing,
a history compressed inside a smile.

You watch us watching, silent all the while,
a canted mouth half-hidden in your straggling
white beard. Of a sage's eyes, this child

can only dream. These heart-struck days are wild
with desperate questions, fears, imaginings:
a history compressed. Inside our smiles,

we read our blurring Russian novels, exiled
to uncertainty. It's too confusing
for the wisdom of a sage, much less a child

who wakes one morning in familiar style
to find a parent mute as wood, trapping
our history, compressed, inside. A smile

is all that's left. We must be reconciled
to watch you mime the notes you used to sing,
your history compressed inside a smile,
the white beard of a sage, eyes of a child.

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