Arlene Weiner is the author of two poetry collections: City Bird (Ragged Sky, 2016) and Escape Velocity (Ragged Sky, 2006), of which Poet Joy Katz wrote, “I want to keep my favorite of these beautifully alert, surprising poems with me as I grow old.” A MacDowell Colony fellow in 2008, Arlene has been a Shakespeare scholar, a cardiology technician, a college instructor, an editor, and a research associate in educational applications of cognitive science. Her poetry has been published in journals including Off the Coast, Pleiades, Poet Lore, and U.S. 1 Worksheets, anthologized, and read by Garrison Keillor on his Writer’s Almanac. She also writes plays. Her play Findings was produced by Pittsburgh Playwrights Company in March 2017.
When they calculate the grease
is running low
and they put you out on a floe
with a purse of dried codfish and an oar
do not by any means row for the shore
paddling to decrease
the black water between you,
or watch in hope that a leopard seal,
attracted to their store, consume them.
Build a small fire, make fishhooks,
raise your one sealskin as a sail.
Fix on the horizon. Keep warm. Move on.
Published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and in Escape Velocity (Ragged Sky Press, 2006).
Dear Sir or Madam:
I seem inadvertently to have signed up
or been signed up for the Death of the Month Club
and the deaths have been coming so frequently
that I haven't had time to say, Stop.
I now have more than enough deaths
to last my lifetime and can give scant attention
even to the important deaths that everyone's talking about,
the deaths long-awaited or overnight sensations,
precocious deaths. In the past
when the rubber tree relinquished its leaves
one by one, or a friend's dog died,
I gave them serious consideration,
but I was young then, warm enough, and had hammock time
for melancholy wisdom. So dear, dear Sir,
merciful Madam, I hope you will agree
to stop my subscription, and if I have accrued
any bonus points, and you allow substitutes,
please send me instead preserves and tropical fruits.
Published in Escape Velocity (Ragged Sky Press, 2006) and Thatchwork, Delaware Valley Poets.
Jupiter has assigned you thirty stones.
If you can lift them, so strain and heft
over your shoulder as to make them men,
the barren world will be populous again.
They hunch, daring me to give birth to them.
Twenty pale faces; for my coup stick
I must lift their scalps.
Hardy bulbs heeled in, needing chill
and warmth; predestinate; you can kill
but never alter the determined flower.
A mass of doughy innocence. Its yeast
requires kneading and heat to be released.
A spark leaps over a gap, and the air changes.
Electrifying. Electrodes prepared by friction.
Here are the hundred keys to the thousand rooms.
Here is the book: A Manual of Keymaking.
Here, finally, fire to burn the keep.
The fire will last as long as the walls to feed it.
Published in U.S. 1 Worksheets.