Martha Greenwald

Sidebar: Slimming Secrets of the Stars!

Jettison your fish oil, statins, & pomegranates—
Learn, instead, from Alula Borealis, whose results
Are typ­i­cal. Finding the stel­lar cure for gluttony

Ludicrous, she rebelled & sought sea salt, milled
By dis­tant cousins, then tempt­ed her constellation
With cakes. All that sug­ar, all that Madagascar vanilla,

Embittered with brine. She grew old­er, more luminous.
Gazing up, you saw her opa­line coro­na halo the trees
Where those she’d lost had fall­en. Study her example:

When every­one who loves you leaves, no nourishment
Remains—even fruit & tubers catch in your throat,
A chok­ing com­post. Learn to purge, you’re saved.

Then you may endorse shakes & tread­mills, binge
On sun­light, gorge on dusk—expand, dimin­ish, darken.

Pocket Call

Shaken trans­mis­sion from pilled black cotton,
screech of thigh on fab­ric on fab­ric on thigh—
Where are you going? And why so quick?
Goodbyebyebyebyegoodbye—flatulent grumbles,
voic­es stolen by a pass­ing pickup’s subwoofer.

In your small car, win­ter returns, eddies iced
with breath. Our dead par­ents bick­er & wheeze
on the radio, then dis­pute news of ousted

dic­ta­tors: for­ti­fied bor­ders ampli­fy memories
they warn (& we are pre­car­i­ous listeners).
Gears shift, a mor­tar round of keys & coins—
This is how it will be when you’re gone, if you
dial me reck­less­ly, anoth­er prank of the afterlife.

Off Dwight Road

One deer, jew-eyed, old, stares from a neighbor’s yard,
chew­ing lawn. All day he’s stood to mon­i­tor our work

until the mini­vans, stuffed, extrud­ing mold, crouch
in the dri­ve­way, lowrid­ers bound for a night­mare rally—

Skip the tricked out rides—we’ve packed a half-century
of sax­o­phones, Lionels, madras ties. Find the ‘39

World’s Fair ring, greened sou­venir to turn my thumb
gan­grenous. 1000 feet away, the Parkway thrums, frantic

with hol­i­day traf­fic. So much like my father, long-faced,
anx­ious, the deer wor­ries that his cronies, bored back

at Exit 114, will get brazen, dart into an express lane,
enthralled by chrome ignit­ed in November dusk.

Who stole father’s sense of irony—the Hungarian
who watched him cat­a­pult across the hood, lodge

in the wind­shield, then fall, smashed on macadam?
Does the deer look to me because he’s my father?

Identity lit­er­al; don’t dare ques­tion this appearance.
Envy the doe, who ris­es from these woods on lovely

dancer’s legs. Together they chaw acid yel­low leaves,
joke a bit. In the mid­dle of New Jersey, the hunters

& preda­tors have gone, so herds seek clearings,
fields, thick­ets to rest in, to rest upon. The deer claims

minor trees behind fore­closed cul-de-sac chateaus.
We watch him limp & scuf­fle toward the curb.

Listen,” he says, “my four legs are killing me;
Jews were not meant to walk on cloven hooves.”


Martha Greenwald’s col­lec­tion of poems, Other Prohibited Items, was the win­ner of the 2010 Mississippi Review Poetry Series.   Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Slate, Poetry, Best New Poets, The Sycamore Review, Shenandoah, and many oth­er jour­nals.   She has held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford and been award­ed schol­ar­ships from both the Breadloaf and Sewanee Writers Conferences. Greenwald has also held an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. Works in progress include Shivah Bullies, a mem­oir, and Well, Bless His Heart, a col­lec­tion of short fic­tion. She has taught in the English Department at the University of Louisville since 1999.