Helen Klein Ross

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

REQUEST FOR ASYLUM

 

A German company has introduced a line of stuffed animals that suffer from psychiatric disorders.  —Time Magazine

 

We seek simple lodging.

Would you have us?

 

We will sit peaceably

in our beautiful wounds.

 

Do not be afraid

to take us into your bed.

 

We mean you no harm.

We are leopards clawing

 

only at our own terrible spots,

lions gone slack with a cow’s

 

self-abnegation. We are decorative

additions to any room. Wolves

 

identifying as sheep

sport handsome woolens.

 

Hyenas, elective mutes,

come in ten screaming colors.

 

We arrive with histories and plans

for treatment. How easing

 

the soft shell of the agoraphobic

turtle. We see that you need us.

 

Our eyes, those blind marbles,

fathom what you do at night

 

to yourself, flailing against

the obliterating down.

 

 

(originally published in Salmagundi)

 

 

 

THE DUNKEL RESTAURANT, BERLIN

 

Come, traveler. Leave

your coat here in the bright

 

outer room. Do not be afraid.

Your companions are blind

 

waiters. They are kind

and you can trust them.

 

They will explain the placing

of objects: spoons at twelve o’clock,

 

forks at six. Knives? Nothing

needs to be cut. Taste the sadness

 

of April in our spring meadow

soup, the sweet acquiescence

 

of fish without bones. Drink in

black air tender and smoky

 

with meat. In darkness,

the simplest conversation

 

magnifies in importance.

The advance of our waiters

 

will teach you the character

of the ground. Do not attempt to move

 

through the dark on your own.

No smoking. One lit cigarette

 

will illuminate a room. Children:

we advise against them. The highlight

 

of the evening will be a surprise.

 

 

from an advertisement

 

 

(originally published in Salmagundi)

 

 

 

PARROTFISH

 

Like you, I was born. Drab,

gray, female, the first

 

of nine hundred children.

Relatives abound. I do my best

 

to avoid them. I do not play castanets

nor attend hotel conventions. We all

 

harbor the notion that we are unique.

I sleep alone wrapped in a fine, wet cloak

 

that issues from my head, made fresh

every night, like dreams. How asleep

 

I was until my mate shimmied

through coral, flashing his bright

 

turquoise tail and fin. We built a nest

in a cave and furnished it with a choice

 

piece of driftwood. I put down my eggs.

Some eggs were bad and we had to

 

eat them. When our young left,

my mate left, too. I became male

 

myself. Now I am large. I am

colorful. I am finally noticed.

 

 

(originally published in Mid-American Review)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

BIO

 

Helen Klein Ross is the creator and editor of The Traveler’s Vade Mecum, an anthology of new poems prompted by old telegrams, published in October 2016 by Red Hen Press. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.

 

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