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*Listen to Valerie Loveland read these poems

6 poems by Valerie Loveland

Shopping Cart

                        The butter and chocolate ice cream melted first,
                        and the hamburger patties defrosted,
                        everything dripped mold or blood
                        from their boxes, leaving a trail
                        on the grocery store's shiny linoleum floor.

                        The milk became a brick, curdled
                        in its red and white carton. 

                        The food looked fine on the shelf,
                        but once inside my cart,
                        it spoiled and bloomed fuzzy green
                        then crumbled away in a black dust. 

                        Even the greenest bananas wouldn't keep—
                        they turned soggy with black peels and slipped
                        through the shopping cart's metal mesh.

                        Desperate, I picked packets of seeds
                        but even they grew too fast; rotted
                        just like the rest of the cart.

                        My fingernails grew long and fast—
                        my watch's hands spun like a pinwheel. 

                        I gave up and abandoned the terrible cart
                        near the check out lanes
                        stinking with moldy cartons and fermented juice.

                        Outside, in my meager sundress, I shivered  
                        as I looked for my car, squinting
                        in the bright screaming cold of winter morning.

                        My sandals crunched on ice and salt
                        as I walked among snow mountains
                        plowed high in the parking lot—
                        my new long hair flapped in the wind like a flag.


Fused Glass Course

                          The instructors say to wear cotton—it singes instead
                          of melts when we stand too close to the kilns. I prefer
                          polyester. I like my leisure pursuits dangerous—
                          a hobby that can sink its teeth into me. I do my best
                          work before it even enters the kiln: cuts of glass jutting,
                          translucent razors, everything spiky until the kiln ruins
                          the toothed edges—melts everything into a benign puddle.

                           My pinstriped-red fingers love the lapidary grinder: half
                          water fountain, half record player that spins albums coated
                          with industrial-grade diamonds. While I work, the grinder
                          flicks glass shards that collect in the pockets of my lungs—
                          just a few tiny steps away from being a side show glass eater.
                          It also files my fingernails—I know I’m finished sanding
                          when they all slope at the same steep angle. The instructors 

                          don’t appreciate my self-destructive tendencies. I think.
                          It’s hard to read their expressions with their singed-off
                          eyebrows.  Their twin uniforms resemble full-body
                          oven mitts. When they opened the kiln for the class,
                          I was disappointed: I hoped the whole room would bend
                          into a Dali painting. The rest of the class smiled—the heating
                          unit reflected orange onto their faces like a campfire.


Blood Sample

                       Like clear water, my pale skin distorts depth.
                       The industry underneath, a subterranean network
                       of wires, seems deceptively close to the surface.
                       Nurse Needles, in latex and holiday-print scrubs,
                       pats and presses, hands me a tennis ball to squeeze.
                       She pinches a rubber-band circumference around
                       each arm but the blue branches still dodge and sink.

                       She resorts to tapping my cooperative hand. Vials
                       finally clink, full, into their metal specimen carrier.
                       Their polished glass shines like a row of lipstick
                       tubes in the same rusty shade. While they filter
                       and sort the sample to reveal my bad habits, purple
                       slowly pools at the excavation site. The leak spreads.
                       Sealed in by skin, there’s nowhere to go.


Car Crash

                     Glass chimes to the street when I open
                     the car door. The seatbelt awarded me
                     a burned red sash: Miss Car Wreck ’07. 

                     Under the streetlight, my hair shines
                     with drizzle and broken glass.  I don’t
                     remember changing into this red dress. 

                     The glossy street greets the cop cars
                     with a flicker of blue and red.
                     I blow into the cop’s cell phone

                     as his incredulous lips move without sound.
                     His flashlight shrieks as loud as ever. My EMT
                     mouths words emphatically, but his eyes

                     droop—weary from dealing with wrecks.
                     The tow-truck driver agrees.
                     (My newly wrinkled car rides a stretcher too!)

                     Then to the hospital—a way I’ve never gone
                     before: a street smeared with ribbons
                     of light that leads straight to the emergency room.



                Violin’s big sister inherited the family resemblance:
                glossy brunette—tiger-eye variance curling
                into a pompadour. Key hole waistline curves,
                but bigger, more to hug under the chin. 

                She also sings, thick tones—
                fat notes drip, weighted, from her strings
                but still light enough to float away.

                She stays out of family politics—
                broods in alto clef alone.
                Not one for hysterics or acrobatics,
                leaves the solos to the show-offs.

                Viola smoothes knifed edges,
                the bottomless grumbles,
                melts the varied family into one silk voice.



                          People disappear first—bones nibbled white
                          by the fish who live there now.

                          Anemones cuddle in the cabins
                          until shipworms finish off the wood
                          and the metal rusts flaky from saltwater.

                          The gold stays forever—it doesn’t sparkle
                          down here in the dark.

                          The ghosts stay too, brooding wavy along the dense floor
                          (too thick down here to swim). They wish
                          they could rise like their wails:

                          those float fast to the surface
                          like balloons.

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