by Amelia Van Donsel 




A friend tells me this

and that while she pinches a bluish

stream from her nipple (she is breastfeeding, 

which I find unintelligible) for the baby. 

Others have told me that a baby is a good 

thing, but I think a baby is a circle,

aware of its intactness. Are you

warm enough? she asks without looking up. 


Yes, I say, but realize that she means, 

of course, the baby as she

watches him nurse,

almost like a calf 

drinking from a big, docile camel. 

The gaze draws between them

as they flood themselves

with each other, and 

she, my friend, is a mirror. 





From the window, I watch a man leave 

with no umbrella, so his shirt goes filmy 

in the rain. But then his time is not mine. 

His apartment overlooks hurried things 

before the body can take them in. 


You ask me blankly, while washing the greens, 

what did you do when you lived

in the country? When I told you that 

I wrote poems, you said

you strike me as a doctor-type.

No, never a doctor 

giving orders and injections or lifting 

up a child to set her

upon the crinkly paper.

You were like me, yodeling 

in the ash of thought and getting nowhere. 

I’d like to know what kind of woman

I must be so as to be a poet. 




Once, when you ran back for diapers,

I held him budlike above the stroller, 

trying to understand his smallness.

My terrified fish lover, you called him 

(this was May of ‘98), and I remember 

his eyes following your distance,

his soft forehead turning until

I lost who he was. He is the stem of us 

reaching out weepily in the street––

he wants you, only you,

his cries through a ruined tunnel 

wander back to me. 





I love the phlebotomist––

she speaks dark, like a robe. 

As she finds a vein,

I look away and think

of fields in a long gaze 

moving like one face.

My son shares her lyric hunger 


in the mornings when

his teething studs

my fingers with dents. Traitor, 

his eyes almost say. But then 

she’s taken all the blood

she needs for her thin flute. 

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