Stride Magazine -


For Diane

Love is a trap
that would tear her
like a rabbit.
                    – Marge Piercy

The counselor at the crisis
center prints ‘killed’
on a chart marking the cycles
of your life. You are all over
these papers, your eyes in the dots
of the Is, your crossed frown

in the Ts. Last night
the moon turned blood red,
not yours, but the spilled
light of the sun,
and we stood barefoot
in a snow that never stopped
and watched the skies for your man

in the moon. The counselor wears black,
a black shirt, a black beard.
You watch his hands,
then trace each letter with
a bruised fingertip.
The corners of the desk
are sharp. The picture frames
flare like the knives of a blowgun.
The phone is a club.
He speaks of circles,
how a man sends flowers to lick your face sorry,
how a woman will take it, take it. The snow

won’t stop. The man in the moon
beats his wife and grins at you, then
you are in The Center, a compound
with walls and stomping guards
and rolling fences and wires that go along
and go along and finally
they barb the air
and you and I are there,
holding hands, forming gates.


Her tangled hair is tangled more today.
Big Daddy in a four wheel drive
has kicked the tires and gone away.
And she has one foot on the top school step
balanced as if on a bluff
and one foot on the sidewalk, warm as sand,
her fingers darting salmon through her hair,
smoothing the weed colored shirt
and  turning to the friends
he says to hate.

Here are the children we’ve held as ours,
like rivers leaving their beds for a harder ride –
the boy he’s raised like a welt –
the girl he feeds chocolate and candy canes
and swears he’ll take to live
at the
Mississippi’s edge.

See. There the sky is a red wound,
and the water tugs her wrists 
toward trot lines, jugs that bounce
like a lover’s end,
treble hooks sharp
enough to scare a mother away.

As it is the river kicks and bends,
flashes its salmon flesh.
She will not lap his hate –
and sets her lines beyond 
his primate sight.

Already the sand goes down
to yellow-bellied cat and
pumpkin shades of clay.
Her tangled hair is tangled more today.
Big Daddy in a four wheel drive
has kicked the tires and gone away.


Winter’s ice will plant here,
unfolding her opalescent palm of seeds
and blowing on
our head shaped hoods
our cloth hands. Our scarfed, scarred faces,
finding the solitaire grocery cart
in the iced over lot
that months ago singed
with the youth of sandals and skate boards.
But nothing falls
or blows inside
the shelves of blood juices, the slabs of flesh,
the hungry beans and cheeses
flowering in civil rows. We seep
from aisle to aisle,
through incoherent black boxed sales,
the eternal clerks who smile
beneath fluorescent stars
and hold out coupons in their summery palms,
their long life lines sensitive, inflamed

as home’s fire.
At home we hang our empty-bodied coats,
our liquids dripping.
And the wine, racked, waits
for the shelving of spices and orange suns,
and someone
to shine a glass, hold up the stem and gaze
at a fruit-stained hand held out,

          © Donna Biffar 2002

Donna Biffar is the author of two books of poetry, most recently Events Preceding Death. A chapbook, DOWN, is forthcoming from Pudding House Press. Poems, articles and reviews have appeared or will appear in Orbis, College English, The Midday Moon, 90 Poets of the Nineties, Higginsville Reader, Kaleidoscope, Chiron Review and Poetry Motel. She edits River King Poetry Supplement and Head to Hand. She is a recent Pushcart Prize nominee.