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Jean Howard


A Mountain of Melancholy by Aleksandr Glukhov

When Shirley says
Widow, twice
Because the check-in
Girl at outpatient surgery
Did not hear her the first
Time, she hurls the word
Out and it ricochets
On each wall
So the whole room feels
The hard thing
That it is
The burning, huge thing
All rolled into one word
We all are ducking
To avoid

As if the film
Of it is wound up tight
In a sealed plastic cylinder
Lid pressed onto
That which light must not
If released, would shoot
Rays; crackling, slashing
Rays that would sear through

And all nerves
Would feel the brown arm
Of him pulling
Her out of childhood
To be his bride
The round universe
Of lips, newborns suckling
On nipples
The halo Afro

That shifted as he
Swept wet mortar across

The radiant halo
Of chemo crowning
His naked skull with its kiss
And then the word.

When Shirley
Says widow, twice
She hurls it out there
Not caring who can hear.
My heart shrinks
To not be hit.
But Shirley just
Sits there.
Owning it.


About the writer:
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, performance poet Jean Howard resided in Chicago from 1979 to 1999. She has since returned to Salt Lake City. A participant in the original development of the nationally acclaimed “Poetry Slam” at the Green Mill, she has been awarded two grants for the publication of her book, Dancing in Your Mother’s Skin (Tia Chucha Press), a collaborative work with photographer Alice Hargrave. She organized the annual National Poetry Video Festival for seven years with her own award-winning video poems airing on PBS, cable TV, and festivals around the nation.

Image: A Mountain of Melancholy by Aleksandr Glukhov (1974- contemporary). Gouache on paper. 31 x 43 inches. 1991-1992. By free license.

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