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for the 21st century

WINTER 2022-23

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Dorothy Friedman August


I keep wanting my life to be something specific,
like a chair or a table. Then I can belong to a dinette
or a kitchen set. We’d be a family of furniture,
mahoganies and blondes. We’d be a community
of French provincials or Early Americans.

The father would be a woodcutter and chop down
the elms and maples. He’d make children of all sizes.
An ottoman and a high back chair. Chairs you can
sit in, and chairs meant just to be looked at.

The sofa would be a reliable son. Once it was set down
it would take six strong men to move it. The piano
he’d make a little off tune, a daughter I think, with a few
numbed out keys. She’d go off humming to herself
strange little tunes, and no one would notice. It would
all happen inside the keyboard.

The mother would be an old-fashioned fireplace,
and the woodcutter would come in from the cold night air
and stretch out beside her. The mother would be set
in her ways like a stove, and keep all her children warm.

There would be cedar chests in the family, and I’d keep
all my dolls inside, the bride and the gypsy, and take them
out to play after all the tables and chairs went to bed.
My family is very large you see. We sleep in shifts.

The wheat thrasher sits silently. It is a steady family member
with its iron wheel. The dishwasher goes vrum vrum to itself
and then it goes to sleep. Each piece of furniture takes its turn.
We watch over the sleeping ones. And no one is ever left alone.

DOROTHY FRIEDMAN AUGUST  is a widely published award winning poet who has won two New York Foundation of the Arts fellowships and published three books of poetry. She founded WHITE RABBIT, a compilation magazine in New York City.