The following three poems will be included by permission in The Collected Works of Mavis Hopgood scheduled for release in 2014.
Asking for Nothing
Where will you be
when the wind stops
and the long sleeves
of your pale dress
no longer sail you
through the afternoon?
Death of a Refrigerator
It’s cold in here
it whistled one morning.
So because we’re friends
and live in the same house
and look out for one another
I called for a repairman.
No one came that night.
In the morning I heard it wail
So did you send for him?
Its voice was faint
its cubes were pale and watery
its light was weak
its temperature was rising
and the way it rattled scared me.
I’ve heard how things rattle
just before they end for good.
I deserved better. I couldn’t say it
but to get even
I took out all my food
left its shelves and bins empty
gave it some baking soda
put my chair in a corner
and ignored it the rest of the day.
That night again no one came.
In the morning
it was all white
with black crud lining its lips
during the night
it had spit up its motor.
When the repairman came
with a dust mask
and a handtruck
like a stretcher with wheels
I heard him say compressor.
I glanced up when he left.
I could find a new one
one with those space-age shelves
and lighted pull-out baskets
and bins with windows where
the tomatoes are always red
where the baloney is always
this rosy pink
and water and ice are there
without opening the door.
Or one that’s second hand
but in good condition.
But there’s a time for everything.
And in the meantime
there is no wax on the floor
where the old one stood
only black strings of lint
like maggots under a stiff dog
black dents in the linoleum
left by wheels
that never took it anywhere
never showed it the living room
or a sunrise from the porch.
It wasn’t what you would call a life.
You Were Beautiful While It Lasted
for Richard Whitney
Running out on what you could have once called home,
a woman cries out from the bag of her face at her bedside.
Sad as a whisper of love from this thing you have killed,
her voice is the heartbeat of everything you should avoid.
You were beautiful, you tell her, while it lasted. And she
learns how to scream in secret but not yet quite so well
that she can hide her open mouth behind her eyes. The
motion of your leg keeps coming back from the time you
remember having it. Cripple, the mouth of pain in your
side like a writhing shell to which you put your ear, you
listen to your future call you off, then back again, then
off. The rusted Plymouth you will follow to its grave is
idling on the edge of everything you understand. Leave.
She was beautiful, remember, but only while it lasted.
It has to end where you still know what it means to eat
a brittle taco while you watch the parking lot. There on
the nubbled bedspread is the naked skin of your failure
to hope for things just as they are. There on the nubbled
bedspread is the last girl you think you had a temporary
hand in making beautiful. You hope, instead, not for an
end to your doing this, but always for what stands there,
beyond the bleak victory of leaving, to stand there again:
where your leg comes back to you, briefly, as a mother
you have punished someone for, where you can watch a
movie at 2 a.m. that night in the next motel through
the temporary rifle sight of a pair of shoes. And you –
you with the wind of your life behind you pointing you
always forward from love – are beautiful while it lasts.