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Jan Bottiglieri


DMV of a Thousand Blossoms 

For Frank Gaspar


Frank, I want to tell you: 
when the Hawks 
are in the Stanley Cup Finals 
the young men wearing replica jerseys 
with their baggy shorts 
make my heart catch. It's an outfit
my dead brother perfected, 
it was practically all he wore. Here 
at the DMV there's too much light, 
loud as a train station. I've brought
coffee and your book, which I keep
for these emergencies.

Now my brother appears 
in these other men's bodies
to renew his license, pay for some violation
or another.  It's how loving this place 
comes, slowly, then with great surprise,
you write. Camera Lady says she is ready 
for me to take my place against the wall.

When is your birthday? she asks,
and I see: all of us in this place 
born so close together, isn't that why 
we're here?  Today, I say to the lady,
to my brother, to the borrowed 
bodies at the DMV; to you, 
Frank, to the book of poems 
then the quick flash of light.


Marlena was a mermaid

when she was a girl. Well, half-mermaid: 
beguiling as her mermaid mother, 
irises green and milky as beachglass,
ears curling like pink snails.

Now, she is a dental hygienist. 
Molars and incisors form tiny reefs 
for her instruments to swim around 
like gobies: imagine 
opening the mouth of a bear 
and seeing a little dollhouse.
This is what it is like for her.
Sometimes when the children lay back
on the blue wave of the chair,
the tender kelp of their tongues
brings a homesickness almost like joy. 
Marlena can't help but lick 
her own tears when they come.

She is tired of being always 
attached to some surface
like an appliance, her hair choking
on its own brown weight. 

She thinks Mr. Eliot's poem must be 
the saddest and most beautiful 
in our oxygen language: a man 
hears Marlena singing with her sisters 
in their red summer wreaths and, 
hearing their music, despairs. 
Each time she reads this poem, 
Marlena's heart tears a little:  
Of course we sing for you!
she cries. At least the poem 
ends well. Marlena bends 
above a coral-edged mouth 
and says open, please.




Jan Bottiglieri holds an MFA from Pacific University and is an editor with the poetry annual RHINO. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies including Diagram, Court Green, Willow Springs, and Rattle. Her chapbook Where Gravity Pools the Sugar was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013; her full-length book, Alloy, is due out in July 2015 from Mayapple Press. Jan lives and writes in Schaumburg, Illinois, where visitors will enjoy plenty of free parking.


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