Moira Egan


How strange it is to wake beside you, love,
who've only slept a few nights in my bed.
You comment on the coo of mourning doves,
those sounds I woke to wanting you instead,
the nights I slept alone, your books in bed
beside me and not you.  I never cried
(I think that's true, of all the things I've said).
We lie together, wrapped within a lie.

The morning light pours in, reminds us of
the other places where we've slept.  Instead
we will the slowing of the shadow of
the sundial, of your hands behind my head.
We will make time stand still, the poet said
that that was possible.  I know you've tried
to master fate, the snipping of her thread.
We lie together, wrapped within a lie.

That cord's been cut.  I know it hurts, but love,
the wound will heal, the throbbing will go dead
in time.  The phantom limb, the empty glove
will quit your dreams.  The spider in her web
repeats that pattern, awful flow and ebb
of weaving strands to trap a simple fly.
You've left your web of years, now in my bed
let's lie together, wrapped within our lie.


inertia: body resting and in motion.
Who knew that after all those years of flight,
eluding Love and Muse, and crossing oceans,
that ruby-slipper trick would bring me right
back where I need to be.  So fond of motion,
I'll try to love this still and starless night,
the black hole into which I thought emotions
had disappeared like diamonds absent light.

You steal my pulse like thunder, or a bass.
(That panther in her cage is wild to hold
although she paces mildly, as if tamed.)
And in your parenthetical embrace,
the marks your fingers leave, I have recalled
the urge, liturgical, to chant your name.


Lonely figure
curled, a comma,
she sits and knits,
early morning
Norn or goddess
in the hallway.
Tiles glow, sunrise
and gold.  One day
she said she lost
her city, dis-
she asked me which
corner was east.

She says a scarf
is the only
thing she knows how
to make, it's straight
and has no join
or corners.  Seams
mystify her. 

Every morning
she waits for me.
I have the key
to let her in
to my classroom.
I am older
than her mother,
she informs me
and this morning
she seems to want
to cry. 

    (so what makes it different, anyway?)

Sometimes I get really nervous but this time
I know I'm going to be so confident.
My graduation's coming up next week
and I just bought a Venus Divine.
I know I'm going to have the smoothest legs
of all the girls at prom.  Oh my God,
I'm going to be so confident and beautiful.

It's hard to hear this gloopy Clueless voice
while driving home the week one of my girls,
one of my favorites, though I shouldn't say,
took razor to her arm and cut herself.
The day before, I'd seen her in the hall,
drooping with such gloom even her guitar
seemed heavy for her.  I just said, Hey,
are you okay?

Compare our newest model to the old:
breakthrough designs combine to redefine
the shaving experience for women.
With three intensive moisture strips and com-
fort-coated blades, and NEW! an Enhanced grip.

Back at school, she wore an old white sock
to cover what she'd done.  She'd lettered on it,
My student, voted "Most Individual."
For weeks I watched her scratching at the scars.

Of course, New Venus has the same features you love.
Reveal the goddess in you through your smooth,
your divinely smoothest skin.
Unwrap the bandages,
Athena, Kali, Inanna.
Reveal the goddess in you. 


I bite my tongue.  I've seen what can go wrong
when ugly words come dripping off the tongue
as poisonous as snakes and lizards from 
the fairy tale.  It's better to go dumb,
to swallow what I want to say. That song

--Dad's calling, 3 a.m.--of all that's wrong
with me: I'm stupid, useless, fat, and going
nowhere fast, just like my mother.  Um--
I bite my tongue.

I know he's drunk and doesn't mean the things
he says to me.  So now when things go wrong
between me and my lover, I go numb.
Because I've been injected with words' venom
and still remain affected by the sting,
I bite my tongue.

Moira Egan
Moira Egan's first book of poems, Cleave (WWPH, 2004), was nominated for the National Book Award and was a finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Award. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, Notre Dame Review, Poetry, Potomac Review, Prairie Schooner, Redivider, 32 Poems, and West Branch, among many others.  In Italy, a selection of her poems will appear in translation in Nuovi Argomenti and as a collection in a new series of American poets.  Her work is featured in the anthologies Kindled Terraces: American Poets in Greece; Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics; Sex & Chocolate; and Discovering Genre: Poetry. Her work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Two of her Bar Napkin Sonnets won First Place in the Baltimore City Paper Poetry Contest (2005).  She has been a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a VCCA International Fellow at the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Malta. Egan lives in Baltimore, edits individual poetry manuscripts, and teaches workshops at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD. 



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