Poetry

August 7, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Konrad Lembcke photo

 

By

Jules Henderson

 

 

 

The Lady or the Tiger

 

 

outside, allies flash bright feathers

from the field collapsing chimneys

with their big-boy bombs

pressing down firmly on unforgivable

eyes fixed on a raised flag

above shame’s debris

 

inside, a little girl licks honeyed paper

with a hungry tongue

her index finger pressing down gently

on possible

eyes fixed on quivering lips

beneath deceit’s brow

 

empty promises are dead bodies

resting against the rubble of collapsed buildings

in Nanking

in Hiroshima

in Sarajevo

in Syria

 

in the end

only prostitutes and poets

remain standing

left to discover who

amongst ourselves

initiated attack

 

we will move through cocktail parties

spinning stories, asking

was it the lady or the tiger? [1]

until we find ourselves standing before

two closed doors, living our way

to the answer

 

 

 

[1] In Frank Stockton’s short story, “The Lady or the Tiger,” 1882, a barbaric king establishes a harsh form of punishment for criminals. When a young man of the court is caught romancing the king’s daughter, he is sentenced to choose between two doors. Behind one door stands a beautiful lady and behind the other a fierce tiger ready to maul him to death. The story ends on an ambiguous note, as Stockton leaves the reader to guess the young man’s ultimate fate.

 

 

 

 

 

Capture This

 

 

Wild jasmine and gardenia arrest the senses,

and the shores of Haleiwa are crowded with cliff-diving natives.

Rain cascades down walls of molecules that hide themselves in sun rays;

we are heathens but we breathe in their mana, assuming it is ours to claim.

(Still, this is not appropriation)

Sleet grey lava stone whispers prophecies to cherry hibiscus:

Next year at this time the water will be too toxic to drink.

In the sand, our fingers mimic Cezanne’s strokes to capture this fleeting moment—

why is life a canvas only

to those who bow

humbly to the heart?

Pele either creates or destroys; she does not preserve.

We take our cues from her to fashion our days

and dance like sphinx inside plumerias in search of wine.

 

 

 

 

 

Jules Henderson

Jules Henderson is a Writing MFA candidate at the University of San Francisco where she studies under D.A. Powell, Bruce Snider, Brynn Saito, and Rachel Richardson. Her work has appeared at the Paradise Review, Bookends Review, The Social Poet, The Drunken Odyssey, and in Words Fly Away, a collection of poems that address the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

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