Helen Klein Ross









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)






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)






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)













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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