SOFT THINGS
by Mary MacGowan  Soft Things It comes to her on soft things.
Boiled noodles. Fresh bread.
Cinnabons and strudel.With each chew comes a shrillness
– A440 – heard in her jaw bone
[sopranino-crickets-porch-
swing-squeaking-headache].Stillness is rare so she’s spared
a constant high ||: a  a  a  a :||  She’s
safe in cars, at malls. She’s safe
eating granola for its crunch. Potato
chips. In this noisy world she forgets

that A lives there in her mouth
‘til hunger strikes late night
in a small and plain room.
It screeches high A’s on frosted cake,
her mouth opening and closing
around the ache of taking in.   By the Time We Couldn’t See the Mona Lisa The mime floats up
on a helium balloon
then he’s stuck in jail
until he stops fighting
and lies floor flat.A glowing Christmas tree
stands on our frozen lake,
lights plugged in at the house.It melts, the tree sinks
I’m electrocuted
my house burns down
my children inheritscorched land. There are
rules. Every time you call out
Marco, you must blindly follow the
Polos, and catch one to win.If you could just
touch an arm, a leg
or their hair,
water streaming down.Our marriage
was already over
by the time we
couldn’t see
the Mona Lisa.Someone always
blocked our view –
resistance
if we pushed
forward,
anger
if we asked for help.Someone in the audience
calls out
A man with his hair on fire!
The mime
sloshes
pretend buckets of water
gasps for breath.We carry on skyless.
An unmade open
window, the
futile
brushing of love
into untamed curls.   You Are a Child, Now a.Mayhem. Friends
running around a yard.
When you tag one,
they must freeze –
a leg raised, mouth open,
arms reaching out.
You must continue tagging 
until all are frozen
except for one, who will 
suddenly notice that
everyone else is a statue. b.They’re cars, parked
across a yard
ready to step on the gas
when you turn away
yelling
Green light!
But you are to stop them
so you must surprise them
by turning
suddenly back around
yelling, Red light!
Those you see in motion
are sent back.
You continue thus
sending some back,
allowing some
to stay as they advance
forward that way. c.You’re an adult.
A spell upon
two girls makes
them mute.  Only
saying the word ginger
will release them.
You’ve been given the job
of listening for silence.
Reading the paper, you forget…
How they stamp their
feet at you, eager, snorting.           d. Mayhem.  Friends running
all over a yard.
When you tag one,
they must freeze –
a leg raised, mouth
open, arms reaching out.
You must continue tagging
until all are frozen
except for one, who will
suddenly notice that
everyone else is a statue. e. Your friends
in a line, far away.
You tell them what steps
they may take –
baby, giant, ballerina.
They ask you
Mother May I?

You choose steps
and how many
but if they’re naughty
you can send them back
Ten umbrella steps!
They do their best to obey
but you are a strict Mother:
No! Not good enough!
Go back!
In this way, some move
forward, some do not,
but all seek your favor.At the last, a favorite child
will reach out and touch you.
This is how you know
your time is over.
You run to stand on the line.
You are a child, now,
eager to touch a new Mother.   Don’t Let GoIt’s a belt swing that loops down –
the boy asks his grandma
to swing him. She stands behind
the boy, helps him up and onto
the seat. He’s new to swinging,
so she squeezes his hands
which hold the swing chain
and says, Don’t let go. Shesqueezes them again, each one,
she makes it important. Up you
go! she says, giving a grandma-
gentle push on his little back.
To and fro he goes, his
red sneakers dangling.
Keep holding on, she reminds
him, you’re doing a good job.   A Land With No S The Chinese write in complete planets.Characters.     S-free.
If I were Chinese with no S
could I still lisp?Of course they make the sound.
A whisper       sliced open
insistent from the throat.
A snake.Tongue, teeth, lips:
all untouched,
an empty river rushing.English teachers give it
for Satisfactory (S).     It was 1954 when
we dug holes to China.
American children climbing out
upside down
waving (W).
Chinese children watching
horrified (H).     As if
it doesn’t break out hearts
every time we say S
and know
it can’t be said.   (untitled)In the 60s, motels
had vibrating beds.
We went nuts over them.
25¢ to go. We begged dad
for quarters for the
carnival-style mechanism
behind the beds.Tink and one dropped in.
We laid down hootin’
and hollering. There were
always 2 beds, shaking and
trembling at our command.    

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