Barbara Schweitzer >

The Derangement of a Day
Soap Opera Sonnet 31
Self-Portrait Triptych 13




The Derangement of a Day

          Each morning still exhales the breath
of newborn day, like some soft
feathered thing or like some mossy 
mewer, head in dawn’s red-breasted
spread, wings opening to bequest
golden hours on us motley
recombinants who hotly weave
our minutes into small deaths. 
          Minute fragments overcoming
inertia: this must be the view 
from the stars so intent on blue 
and speed they wouldn’t need plumbing
any depths beyond their own crumbling
matters and wouldn’t bend askew
to wonder, in fact, would eschew
any philosophies of stumblings.
          Why would anyone use their time
tapping out wooden words as if
they were facts that let us outbid
disaster by their making. Find
a swath that has opened its lime
legs to the mouths that have praised it. 
It’s plundering feet that laid it.
Word don’t make. They mime.
          It’s weary-making for our eyes,
this constant scrutiny of days,
keeping diaries that betray
odd moments soon as the ink dries,
staring into peachy-mooned skies
imagining a plethora of ways
to write a lover who stays
between the lines.


Soap Opera Sonnet 31

         1. For want of a wife 
He’ll become no geography, float free,
unhitched, unmoored, unburdened, smartened, he’d
flee now if it weren’t for the slowed-down heart stream-
lined by affection still. He’s parried
the pain already. He needn’t rush. Rest
would be refreshing after festooning
all those yellow ribbons for so long; nests
are made for robbing, so says the cuckoo –
or was that the cuckold? Whatever! he’ll do
now whatever he wants to do, no wart-
hog-tied marriage to stop him now, so few
go west anymore, let her go. He’ll depart
as soon as he moves out of these doldrums.
Life has to be more than this beat of humdrums.
                   2. Seeking efficiency 
She caught him with dandelions sticking out
his mouth, his nose turned up at Kentucky
blue grass, tulips, and freshly mulched ground.
He wanted what he wanted, rousting weeds,
taking them down neat, quick; wild things have no
manners but efficiency, no wasted 
motion – like death should be. She had to know
which kind used up the least resources to make
a decision. She’d seen a squirrel fresh
dead on the road, by her calculations
too much horsepower was used and gas, guessed 
starvation was best for conservation.
She smiled to think of her affinity
to the groundhog and his efficiency.
                   3. Feeding fish
It was not for want of money – she had means.
It was not for love of danger – she’d been
to Mexico, was scared by the color scheme.
It was some driven thing in her, so thinned
by her life, shaved and matted down, mistakes
cut out of picture albums as if gone
when they were thrown away. For the sake 
of her children she did everything. Long
ago she’d turned to dust, mere motes in air
floating to the fate of breezes. They didn’t see
her in the same way you breathe without care
just knowing air is there. No reason really.
She just up and walked into the ocean,
seagulls overhead, ospreys, pelicans.



Self-Portrait Triptych 13

          No new tricks 
What else Barbie remembered: wild mushrooms
they picked off the golf course, thick steaks grilled out,
a long table stretching to the living room,
Pudgy the dog, being made a fuss about,
left to play “war” with the adopted son,
and while Curtie and Barbie watched TV
he took Barbie’s hand where his pants were undone.
Then he didn’t baby sit but lay on her; she
didn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling
on him, so kept it a secret for all time.
Her dad liked Ronnie’s father, the colonel,
and the colonel liked Dad, and, never mind,
she knew not to take their happiness down.
Later, Ronnie would bring them grief anyhow.
          The red rider
That pain does not die but takes its place
on a shelf that might not be dusted
for many years at a time, something gray 
and mysterious like a jack-in-the-box rusted
closed, pried open to wave the ludicrous
head of a clown. The physical pain counted
for nothing, little jacks without a ball, but
the women nodding over her, mounted
against her explanation, her veed legs
pulled, twisted, her private self pinned open
by their hands on her knees, her cousin begging
to be let in to see her, too, her mother’s chin
sharp against the ceiling: why is she bleeding? 
The wagon cut her, but they prevented healing.
Why would a child leave fear so untold?
Years unfolding and her hands would still shake
as she recalled the day she lost her foothold
and fell into the storm drain, was swept and raked
over the limbs then spit out on the bank.
Her Timex stopped, clouding like her panic
the register of time, and once two boys yanked
her from a riptide and she never knew if
she thanked them enough for saving her life
and, more important, saving her friend’s parents 
the misery of telling her own she died.
She searches for the child who in the end
never unswallowed; how she battened down
the tellings of these invitations to drown!