Four Poems
    Toni Mirosevich

The Procession

In the morning, in a line, one after the other; the Tongan boys
with backpacks, then the two toddlers — a boy, a girl — with their mother,
heavy-set, laboring past the house, the moment to catch her breath

at our fence post, the continuation, the march, next the reggae son
who forfeited school, the boom box, Rastaman vibration, the smile,
the nod our way, the I will do you no harm, the Go ahead and blast

your music when you walk by our house if you will do us no harm,
the fathers at the Laundromat folding sarongs, the men who dress
in skirts and are not ridiculed, if families were all like this, if this

were the model, but we are not like this, the two dykes who live
in the corner house, the Irish boys who walk by next, who follow,
one after another, on their march to school (or is it to the sea

to collect salt?) they look like men in dhotis, with their blowsy pants
that resemble sarongs, these kids who just yesterday wrote bitch
on our fence, tell me, what would Gandhi do, would he follow

the march, the procession, all day long, of the Irish, the Vietnamese,
the Jamaicans, the Russians, the Filipinos, the mixed blood, who
walk by our house, or would he join us here, behind the window,

the queers, if only there were no separation, if only we could
bring up the rear, tomorrow I will stop the dogs barking when
you pass, will clean off the fence, will do you no harm, if only

we can break bread together, if only the twain shall meet.

See Saw

Little boxes, on the hillside, little
boxes made of . . .

—Malvina Reynolds

The man with the crazy wife has a set of power tools. Every Saturday
he carries them out to the driveway: the drills and drill bits, the skill saws,
the hacksaws. He cuts into the two by fours like a magician cutting a woman
in two. He’s partial to particleboard. His buddies think he’s pussy whipped.
They say that she makes him walk the plank.

They live in a house called a saltbox. Inside she keeps cats. The rooms
are littered with litter boxes, pet carriers. Who will carry me? she cries
when she comes out at night to feed the skunks on the hill. “They’re my
burglar alarm,” I once heard her say. “She’s been through a lot,” whispers
a neighbor. “You should hear her tale.”

Outside he makes containers; a shed for the trash bins, floor to ceiling closets, wooden
file cabinets. How big a box to contain madness? When he leaves
in the morning she curses his name. I saw what you did last night, you f***,
she screams as he speeds away on his motorbike. He waves with one hand,
shouts back, Abracadabra.

He recycles at odd hours, when no one is looking. Bottles, newspapers.
Cardboard boxes flattened and bundled. My lover saws wood and keeps me
up at night. The cats all sing when the moon is full, when the nightlight is on.
A container ship sails by carrying untold bounty. I heard the delivery truck
this morning. There’s a new load of wood in the driveway.


This year the child is a princess. Last year a witch. Once a bumblebee.
When she knocks on the door we say yes, we’ll judge the pumpkins,
our yearly duty, and walk back with her leading the way, around
the fence that separates our houses. Five pumpkins are in a line up
on the lawn. Four bear the markings of an adult’s hand. One is
the child’s. Candles flicker in each like nightlights shorting out.

The adults form a semi-circle. The child’s parents, another neighbor,
one grandparent. Everyone is lit. The neighbor, who owns a Monster
truck, staggers forward, bows before the court. The mother and father
stare at the stars. The grandmother wears a clown suit; red pom pom
buttons, a rainbow fright wig. “Just call me Drunko,” she says and
raises her can of beer. “Hi Drunko,” we reply.

We pace back and forth, hold our thumbs up as if viewing paintings
in a gallery, make judge-like comments. “Innovative concept,” we say
about one. “A touch of abstract modernism,” about another. “Scary!”
about the next. We confer in hushed conference. The parents come in
second and third, respectively. Drunko receives an honorable mention.
The neighbor doesn’t place. As always we choose the child’s to win.

The princess gasps, drops her wand. She clutches her hands to her chest,
cries out, “Oh…my…God.” She turns champion, turns beauty queen.
In this crumbling castle, with the King on his second case of Bud and
the Queen falling into the street, with the stars fading and the monster
on a tear, the jack-o-lanterns flicker in unison. Everyone is lit. Drunko
stumbles over, gives us a six-pack to take home; our honorarium.


Later that evening three kids come to the door. Two boys
and a girl. None wear costumes. Before I give them any candy
they have to tell me who they are. I’m a queen, says the little girl
in the torn sweatshirt. I’m Batman, says one boy without wings.
I’m Dirtman says the other and I can see, by the streaks of grime
on his face, that he will be the one voted most likely to succeed.

Toni Mirosevich is the author of The Rooms We Make Our Own (Firebrand Books) and along with Charlotte Muse and Edward Smallfield is co-author of Trio (Specter Press). Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Kenyon Review, The Progressive, Best American Travel Writing: 2002, Best of Web del Sol, and Crowd, among other literary journals. Literary awards include the Astraea Foundation Emerging Lesbian Writer in Fiction Award. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. New work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Bellevue Literary Review, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, First Intensity, LUNA, Western Humanities Review, and Hunger Mountain.

“Honorarium” first appeared in Blue Mesa Review, 14 (2002); “See Saw” first appeared in Crowd (Volume 2, Issue 1, Summer 2002). “The Procession” appeared in Against Certainty. the first Poets for Peace Chapbook (Chapiteau, 2003).


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