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Jennifer Martelli

All Things are Born to Change Their Shapes

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–Ovid, The Metamorphoses

My sterling forks lie in blue velvet molds
in the third drawer down in the hutch.
Each fork was a woman once, punished or saved: all metal, straight up
at the sight of the god who turned her: The oyster fork was proud, the beetroot nearly
raped ( kept her maidenhead) and the dinner forks
lying one on top of the other, settled for mediocrity.   Many were whores.

I can hear them, vibrating at night, a high orgasmic C of fever and come.

I keep them apart from the dowsing fork and tuning fork and the big fork
that can heft a roast: those are split in two, right up to the tip
the way I’d split a dandelion stem for its noxious milk.
The many-tined ones call them cunts.
They lie pell-mell in a lower drawer, thrown in and jammed: they thirst
and yearn to lead a man to water, to play him a song or to feed him.

But not one of these forks can move now. They have neither arms nor mouths.

Psychic Party Under the Bottle Tree

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Iago starves in a black magnum hanging from a maple branch
over my patio. I am in a green Heineken bottle, folded up
over 30 years ago by my friend who didn’t want me

to marry another. I hang just above him.
A cobalt blue spring water bottle from an artesian well
in France, the bottle so beautiful we called it Mother Mary,

holds an old school chum. There is a sparrow
who won’t go near the stale bread heels on the back porch railing.
Its whole body darts like the head of a snake. It should starve

before it comes close. Sometimes the birds will peck
at the bottles hanging from the tree, hoping for suet.
Their beaks make a ting ting sound that keeps us up

all through the day and at night. There’s a pretty girl stuffed
in an orange glass snifter globe hanging from a plastic
fishnet. She sits on a melted candle and when she cries,

her hiccups sound like glass clinking. I’m sorry, she says.
In the summer, we eat ice cream out of cups with flat wood
spoons. I lick the sweet chocolate and vanilla swirl so hard

I get splinters in my tongue. When we were young,
we sterilized safety pins with small flames and pierced
our numbed earlobes. The bottles dangle, too, delicious.

Tiny lights nailed onto the fence illuminate the whole yard.
The birds peck at the wires, thinking they’re worms. Seeds twirl & hover
down from the maple. A psychic holds a pendulum crystal

on a string, lets it hang over the flagstones. Circles mean yes,
back and forth, no. Will we leave the bottle tree? Yes.
Will we leave the bottle tree soon? No. Will we sleep?

Will we sleep ever at all? Without nightmare or dreams?
Not poppy, nor mandragora/Shall ever medicine thee
to that sweet sleep.


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A bumble bee humps the bloomed clover where I expect a young man
to emerge from the mouth of the woods with a backpack full of songs.

He is looking over his shoulder for the slim-ankled love, the copper snake-
haired ghost, who’s gone for good to the steeplebush. She put a drop

of warm honey on her tongue then took him in her mouth. How can he
look at anything else now? Edna St. Vincent Millay had seventeen men

seventeen men in one month, some by the arborvitae by the gate.
When the bees leave, sated, and the warm lake breeze stops, the black mad flies

come down, one fractured idea: they beg for attention, buzz
in hair in ears at the neck.
He won’t even swat at them--they cloud his head
until he’s up and gone. All day I’ve smelled almonds and roasted coffee beans

as the humidity tumbles down the hill from St. Vincent’s stairwell
where (wine bottle and goblet safe at the top step) she broke

her neck her heart her love. Trees turn oaken red
early in Austerlitz. No one even heard her fall.

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