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Nancy Allinson

Nancy AllinsonThe Brains

in the clinic with the red door
next to Chambers Funeral Home
are waiting for the doctor
to fluff them up
as if they are feather pillows,
to calm them down
as if they are babies who need bottles.

These brains sit, rock and drool,
these brains suck on cigarette sticks
as if they are lollipops,
these brains nod off and wake up
with the jolt of a cramped neck.
These brains shake with palsy
have faces that are more like masks,
as if the happy clown face has dripped off
and the face of the other clown appears.

These brains used to talk to each other,
now they wait for the good doctor
who has two glass jars,
one with hard candies,
the other with syringes,
and stacks of Medicare forms on his desk.

Not all the brains get depressed,
not all of them take drugs by needle,
not all are here at the clinic
with the red door next to Chambers Funeral Home.

The Potomac Review, Fall 2003

Ghazal for Mother

You are preparing me for our final visit.
You wait for me to speak when I come to visit.

Today you tell me it hurts when you swallow.
You say you are not ready to die when I come to visit.

We whisper prayers together in broad daylight.
Your memories of the words come to visit.

Last night I tossed and turned on my old mattress.
Dreams of buying a new bed came to visit.

Nancy, you are no longer a child.
Do not blame an old bed when fear comes to visit.


There's a spindle moon tonight
shuttered from view.
I enter your room

find you sleeping.
I lean over your bed
rub your warm shoulder,
watch you open your eyes.

There's a slip of a moon tonight,
like the silver wave brushing your forehead.

I pick a few strands
off the dark sleeve of your gown,
so easy to flick it away.

Your youth is in the photo
on the night table:
thick auburn hair
all swept up in a chignon,
your face is full.

Now your hair seems to wane,
I can see the curve of your skull
when I look close.

At your asking,
I turn the handle at the foot of the bed,
so icy in my hands--
I roll you up so we can sit together.

We are both safe now.
The spindle moon is still far away.
I don't even turn on the light.

Soft Landing on Eros

"The NEAR spacecraft made the first landing on an asteroid, some 196 million
miles from earth." The Washington Post, February 13, 2001

If I could make myself light
enough, let's say, half an ounce,
if I were brave enough,
to touch the sunlit side
of your potato face,
there's an 85% chance
I'd get it right.
Just settle in gently
on your pockmarked forehead
at the speed of two miles per hour.
For one who likes to move fast,
I could easily end up as a flattened
bottle cap,
or worse yet,
find myself buried deep
in your ground.
If I could only risk that 15%,
I'd be able to see into your
depths and barriers,
go beyond the rubble
that most take for granted
as you.
I could see your gamma rays,
maybe feel your electricity,
get a sense for how warm
you are, or, how cold.
Maybe, I'd get to probe
beneath the many shadows
to find your heart.
What I fear is seeing your face--
not the one I've seen in photos.
I could decide to return,
roam the earth I know.
What I fear more than crashing,
is not letting go of the orbit
where I've been comfortable
for a whole year now.

Castello di Montefugoni at Night

Tuscany, October 1998

I've gotten as far as the stone lion.
It's dark already.
If I talk to myself
I'm not alone:
you can find your way,
just walk back up the hill,
and up the stairs.
I'm on the terrace now,
but wait, wait,
I'm lured down
down into a grotto,
walls dripping
rotting plaster,
mirrors hang dark on the walls,
I can't even see myself.
Two stone frogs stand guard.
There's a woman,
no, just a statue,
she's smiling, looks up,
lost in some secret pleasure,
holds a child's hand,
let's go of another.
Clad in rags, breasts free,
she can't leave.
A man below her holds a club.
I stand on a Star of David
broken points that lead nowhere.

I want to find my room,
I'm so tired,
sit down and close my eyes,
tell myself over and over,
all you have to do is walk up the stairs
to the Italian garden,
up the stairs
to the Italian garden,

I can't stop walking,
corners filled with broken pieces,
terra cotta hidden in cellars below,
never finding my own room.
I walk farther out into the orchards,
meet cypress trees, their stiffened bodies
tall, rising in the dark.

Nancy Allinson is president of Federal Poets and one of the 2002 Winners of the "Bethesda 8 Trolley" Poetry Benches Competion. Her poems have appeared in Minimus, Potomac Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. She has a Masters of Arts in Education and Human Development from GWU and works in the area of human resources development at the Environmental Protection Agency.