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Dead Poets

Author Biography
Poetry By
  Claudia Serea

Published on: 2/7/2011

Asleep, I smile to the ceiling
and the ceiling smiles back.

At work, I always wear a smile
pasted on my cardboard face.

Hello, my name is ________.
How may I help you?
Right this way, please, your table is waiting.
Have a nice day. Bye-bye!

Smile, and everyone smiles back
They ask How are you? not wanting to know
how I really am.

Smile, smile, smile.
A nation of smiles goes by,
its soul hidden
behind this Plexiglas politeness.

If they would only ask, I'd tell them
how I arrived in New York
with two suitcases of clothes
and the silverware I bought in the Russian market.

I wore a long white skirt,
and I was ready to star
in the movie about myself
that never made it to Sundance.

I'd tell them, over eggs sunny side-up
how my mom looked at me
when I stepped behind the check-in,
my heart shrunk to a cherry.

But no one asks.
In my spare time,
I cut smiles from colored paper
and keep them in my purse.

If one falls off,
I always have a replacement.

Published on: 2/7/2011

The river wears them as hairpins
to keep its sand from sliding.

My brother and I pluck the mussels out
and load the horse-drawn cart
with dripping baskets.

The high-noon talks,
but the mussels' tight-shut mouths
keep mum.

Oh, later, they will open
and sing with the steam,

releasing their jewels to swim
in pepper and tomato sauce.

smelling of Danube,

they'll taste of the perfect summer day
when we dipped naked in the sun,

splashed, and yelled
at the bank across the border

Baaah, Bulgarian, baaaah,
lard-eye, fathead, pimplebutt!

until someone cursed back
Du-te-n pizda ma-ti, baaah!

sending us laughing
to the place we came from,
Mother's secret mussel.

Published on: 2/7/2011
Does a saxophone ever talk to you?

Brown roots reaching for underground water,
the black man's hands grasp at the sounds.

His hat is pulled over his eyes:
I guess them closed, or blind.

His mouth pours darkness.
Raspy brass talks

of bodies crowded, the rushing of floods,
the slowness of nights.

Sweetheart, sweet, sweet
is the meat they chop in restaurants.

The city opens its carnivorous wounds.
Sweetheart, pay for the moon.

Published on: 2/7/2011
The English Lesson

For an hour, we have English names.
Mine is Peggy; yours is Sue.

The teacher with curls draws the letter t
with one leg, a hat, and a cane.
H is a sway; e is a whip.

The word jumps from the tip of the tongue
stuck out to touch the pencil I hold
uniting my nose with the chin.

Through the teeth: The. The. The-ugh.
The, not za. Tongue out, out!
Lick the pencil. The. The.

The pen. The blackboard.
The desk we share.

The boy with sweaty hands
who looks under the skirts,
until the girls beat him
with the backpacks.

The Brooklyn Bridge in the open book.
The plane that takes me there.

Published on: 2/7/2011
Daniel's Bagel Place

The savvy Sabbath shoppers say
the challah is to die for.

I sit by the door,
looking at cartoons with Fats Grams
and Valerie Calorie,

as Sergio brews the coffee, winks,
and brings from the back fresh burekas,
trays of meatballs, matbucha salad
and pickled lox.

A girl walks in,
her hair blooming in golden multicolors.

What dye do you use? I ask.
It's natural, she blushes,

and the buses roar by,
another fourteen years.

Published on: 2/7/2011

That's why America is rich,
because it's where you live,
you, my only true treasure.
--Mircea Vintila

My mother sings to the chopped onion.
She sings to the parsley and pots.
She sings to the stirred stew:

That's why America is rich,
because it's where you live,
you, my only true treasure.

The kitchen is filled with sun,
the windows are filled with wind,
no letters came today:
That's why America is rich.

A white cat sleeps on the cupboard.
His name is Es-tu-là,
Are-you-there, the question she asks
when she hears a noise and stops singing

to listen to a branch against the roof,
the sunlight filled with dust,
the silence filled with leaves:

Who's there?
Claudia, are you there?

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