Marianne Szlyk is a professor of English and Reading at Montgomery College. She also edits The Song Is... a blog-zine for poetry and prose inspired by music (especially jazz). Her first chapbook, Listening to Electric Cambodia, Looking up at Trees of Heaven, is available online at Kind of a Hurricane Press. Her second chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, is available on Amazon. Her poems have appeared in Scarlet Leaf Review, of/with, bird's thumb, Cactifur, Mad Swirl, Setu, Solidago, Red Bird Chapbook's Weekly Read, and Resurrection of a Sunflower, an anthology of work responding to Vincent Van Gogh's art. Poems are upcoming in Loch Raven Review. Her full-length book, On the Other Side of the Window, is now available from Pski's Porch. She invites you to stop by her blog-zine and perhaps even submit some poems: http://thesongis.blogspot.com
Waiting for Silence
The balding man, the rock and roll recluse
cradling his coffee-stained cup,
glares at the street far from downtown.
During the day, no one can see in.
At night, no one looks up.
Salsa from muscle cars rattles the windows.
Girls in candy-colored satin strut for those
men, their trumpets, not him. His daughter watches las
hermositas splash through the strings and voices,
through the Spanish she speaks with friends.
His wife and children bring him
coffee, cigarettes, chocolate, papers,
but also the jazz he does not want.
He refuses guitar strings and a new radio.
The old ones, now broken, will do.
The telephone has stopped ringing
for him. On the street below
in the shuttered restaurant’s doorway,
his older son plays trumpet. Coins, sometimes
cash, falls in his white bucket because he plays
Latin jazz, songs his father hates,
as if the past twenty years had never been.
When I Dreamed of Living Alone
On the other side
of a stained-glass window,
dust would dance in the parlor.
Ceiling fans stirred the air.
A tepid lemonade, ice long melted,
would occupy an empty bookcase.
It wouldn’t matter that I lived
alone in only one room.
I would sit on a love seat,
reading Bertrand Russell’s
history of philosophy.
I pictured myself on Sundays
sitting in the backyard, reading
beneath a canopy of maple trees.
It wouldn’t matter that
the leaves were turning
or that the cold
trickled in like water,
lapping at my bare feet.
In reality, I remember
standing at the bus stop,
steeling myself to return
home, realizing that
I had barely read a paragraph.
Instead, I read the buildings
along the bus route,
imagining my life in them,
the rowhouses near work,
the apartments over the cinema,
the three-deckers in Brighton.
It wouldn’t matter that
in all of these places
I lived alone.
One year I lived in an apartment
with a balcony that I sat on
only once. My husband and I
preferred to sprawl on the couch,
inside, out of the glare.
From there we could see
our stained-glass pane
that we had hung outside.
Its red and blue birds
on their way south.
Fleeing a winter
that would never come,
they kept us company
like migrating birds,
After Do Ho Suh’s Almost Home
The artist envisions home as an empty space
with transparent, bluebird-colored walls;
elaborate, minutely carved doorknobs
with handles that will come off
given too much pressure;
of course, light switches.
I think of home as cluttered,
a moment in time, with a certain
configuration of furniture, pictures,
and people. My home is
my husband, my cats,
the kitchen I stand in,
the chair I sit in,
the couch piled high with papers,
the unmade bed.
But our first and last glimpse
of most of our homes
is of an empty space
with only doorknobs and light-
Eventually you fill this space;
beneath it the emptiness