New York City skyline at night

Poetry

 

 


Jennifer Litt


Audubon Imagines His Birth Mother

as he crouches in a tangle of Key West brush
until the conchs sound, men heralding
the dusk. He makes his way to the shore
where he gazes on the beryl cast of the surf

and trails its curious light toward Haiti,
the island of his birth, her rumored slavery and death.
At dinner he meets Maria, a mulata, whose rich
tresses, delicate feet and graceful form invoke

the drama of the blue-headed quail dove.
He's stirred by her lowered lids and sensitive
fern lashes so much like his. What her eyes
need is an ornamental fan, one the Indians

craft from roseate terns, slim gulls with forked tails
and pointed, swift-like wings. Vermillion feet
and their breasts' blushing tint distinguish
them from their nesting partners, their common kin.

Audubon targets the muster with fine shot,
extinguishing their airy movements and cries
like tearing cloth. When he cradles his prized
specimen, he forgets about the fan and the dove

and leaves his other victims unburied on the sand.
He strokes the tern's head, inserts the wire and
poses her in flight. Then he studies, draws
and paints her to bring her back to life.

 

A Perfect Cut for Every Customer

Like a Turk in close combat with his scimitar,
Yatagan employs dangerous, proficient hands
with a rotary cutter, thread dip and a curved steel blade.
He tailors suits that fit like a second skin.

Yatagan employs dangerous, proficient hands;
one slash of his blade and a Chinese scout's head rolls.
He tailors suits that fit like a second skin,
no gaping at the neck, no popping of lapels.

One slash of his blade and a Chinese scout's head rolls,
Yatagan's orders increase like the Korean War body count.
No gaping at the neck, no popping of lapels,
his customers never feel like they're wearing suits of armor.

Yatagan's orders increase like the Korean War body count.
He carries the weight on the place between his shoulders.
His customers never feel like they're wearing suits of armor
because they move with and not against them.

He carries the weight on the place between his shoulders;
Like a goalie, he holds the severed head and kicks it back to enemy lines.
Because they move with and not against them,
the Americans reward the Turks for Yatagan's precise moves.

Like a goalie, he holds the severed head and kicks it back to enemy lines.
Then he deposits the decapitated body at U.S. military headquarters.
The Americans reward the Turks for Yatagan's precision moves
by providing them with hand-rolled cigarettes and thick, strong coffee.

His boss at Hickey Freeman praises his expertise.
"Yatagan employs dangerous, proficient hands
like his ancestors did on Korean land. His legacy?
He tailors suits that fit like a second skin."

 

 

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