Sunday, October 15, 2006

Michael Montlack

Monday Night Mah Jongg at Marsha's

coffee-brewing coven
Formica fortress
the gals all ready
giddy on crystallized sugar
spearmint leaves
and pecan-ring goop

gliding round after round
bridge table corners:
reform temple sister
-hooded social

the rant a Long Island chant—
Harriet's eldest engaged,
Norma's youngest at Yale—
chopped with Chinese
hands, suits: North South Crack Bam!

mentholated fog
further yellowing
the yellowed ivory
tiles shifting like tarot

to spell out for their fellow
broom-less ladies
of broadloom and shag
future generations of success

each fortune conceived, conjured
in long house-coat hours
not spent noshing or wagering
mere change-purse bets

"And Wouldn't You Love To Love Her?"

like a mare on thoroughbred legs:
some towering foal
still teetering
on a previous life's terrain

    her rasp:
those boot soles
scraping sandy gravel,
lightly lapping
rain-softened leaves

lending shape
to a breezy ghostess
delighted by her own sheets,
how they billow

    the pose
of white arms extended
as sheer capes unfold
sorrows, secrets, hiding places
for the invisible

    an icon:
fairy godmother
the fairy child

Nobody's Glamorous All the Time

My Aunt Pauline was a Jersey City stunner
and nearly everyone said she should've been
the Diana Ross of the Jewish Supremes
because she and her sisters—Sylvia and my mother,
all redheads: copper, carrot, crimson—
shimmied at cocktail parties in similar sequins and sheens.
And though only my mother could actually sing,
Pauline entered a catered event,
even in her less-crimson sixties,
like she was the new bride
or mitzvah itself.

All of her husbands died died died,
each creating space for the next
so that my Aunt Pauline always had
some romance or heartache
in her small beaded clutch,
too garish for funerals, too compact
for her new man's nitroglycerin.

After the third was gone,
she moved to Fort Lauderdale
to live with her daughter,
the lesbian, whose partner
had her own live-in mom.

Four women in a man-less house,
still my aunt curled her thinning hair
and thinner lashes
before leaving her room
for breakfast
or going to the oncologist
or therapist, who prepared her for another loss:
the left breast later reconstructed
so at 80 she could wear
those strapless sundresses everyone expected
upon her fabuliferous entrances.

Like the one she had planned to make
before meeting her maker,
who would undoubtedly be a man
or in the image of one
or two or three,

and up went my Aunt Pauline,
hemline hiked for paparazzi.

Michael Montlack's work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Poet Lore, New York Quarterly, Cream City Review, Ledge, Gay and Lesbian Review, Skidrow Penthouse, and other journals. This year he was a Finalist for the Frank O'Hara Award, a Pushcart Nominee and a University of Connecticut Soul Mountain Retreat Fellow. In 2005 he won Gertrude's Annual Poetry Contest and was a Semi Finalist for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center's Winter Fellowship. He lives in New York City, where he teaches at Berkeley College and acts as Associate Editor for Mudfish.