Catherine Owen


The room hurts with its ugliness: scar
of carpet, particle board walls, desks
gnashing with schedules.

Two weeks a year they hire sweepers
to work the Ex—eight dollars an hour
for the popcorn kernels, smoke butts,

the odd puker by the Tilt-a-Whirl.
One boy waits for his interview
sporting the sharpest suit, wrists

in their innocence poking out
from bleached cuffs, shoes
glossy as a funeral.

Her feet below the change room door
twist & pivot with indecision, like autumn
the mound of dreamed-of clothing
discarding itself.

Everything she carried in shiny, a gasp
of fabric, destined, but just as fast
cast off. You watch her agony, the
inequalities of vision, her feet tensing

as she tries on yet another hope, heels
plastered with the grim mouths of Bandaids.


The matador of shadows
Within the arena of trees, the grasses
hold their breath, though some,
as always,
taunt him, the vetch is the worst
(those tough guys, he'd like to see them get in the ring!)

The trick is that there is none.

If you think you can hone a technique
that will get your shadow every time, well,
that's your first and most irreparable mistake.

Your second is seeing the shadow
as your enemy.

How long does he spend with these shadows
in their stalls, listening to their bellows, their
snufflings, rubbing down each dark hide!

It is much harder to kill what one loves,
but there is more justice in it.

The flowers who cast themselves at his feet
know this, how they adore his difficult quest:

the slow stampede of the shadow,
his cape's majestic parry,
him whirling in his eternal
suit of light.