This is not about the kitchen table

The kitchen table never touches the floor,
hangs from the wall like a shelf.

The kitchen table where we ate so many dinners,
its three sides and the three of us.

The kitchen table where we read the small script
of our small drama.

The kitchen where my mother cooks and cooks,
and I am nine, standing in the doorway

with my friend Julie,
my cousin, at the table, changed in these two ways:

her handsome nose now bobbed to a nubbin
her delicious rough-bark name sanded to a smooth plank.

I introduce her by the wrong name,
the kitchen table a witness, holds my humiliation like a stain.

© j.i. kleinberg



if you mean to discuss loss
do not save end for last
nor begin with red
which will stain all that follows
feather and scale
horn and hoof
tender your attentions
on anger and apathy
the danger of greed
agile rapists in Eve’s garden
tusk and shell
tooth and fin
the end not cliff but cascade
drop upon drop of inattention
the rat in rationalize
chewing at laziness, eyes red
flight and slither
burrow and plod
yes even here past the red
signal light, pull on the brake
the rhino already
has two feet on the rail.

© j.i. kleinberg


NINE - extrapolate the splotches

The dog rolls over,
her belly a map of the world —
islands and continents
freckled on a pink sea.
Iceland soft and smooth
with fine blond hairs.
Polynesia. Sri Lanka.
On the inner flank
of her hind leg the Galapagos,
where blue-footed boobies
splatter the rocky headlands
with their Jackson Pollock
signature, startling still,
though he’s been gone
for 60 years now, never
aging, always 44 and bursting
with paint — only my hands
left to measure the turnings,
a splash of spots random
as cooking grease
and even now I hope
to learn the hidden answers
if I can find the right sequence
to connect the dots.

© j.i. kleinberg


From the Pacific Ocean the land sprawled eastward
wide and flat, crossed by dry stream beds
and arroyos carved by twice-a-century rainstorms
— gullies roughened with dust-coated weedy scrub
that sheltered small brown lizards.
The hills heaved from that unpromising plain
oily green, sage-scented, parched by fickle seasons
that promised relief and delivered none.
We settled there, bewitched by the sky
and the thundering shore, by perfumed
orange groves felled as neighborhoods
bullied their way into bouquet branches,
all shoulders and boot prints, unforgiving.
Once it snowed, and occasionally the ground
would rupture in displeasure as we clung
uselessly to doorframes, the doors bruising
our hips in their undulant dance. We wrote
letters to pen pals in places we had not yet invaded
and saw how astronomers envisioned space travel
in the little book we bought at the observatory
after sitting under the dome of the starstruck sky.
We could pretend the everpresent shushing rumble
of cars was really the sea and even if the seashells
and the pelicans vanished from the water’s edge
we would not blame our hunger, our eagerness
to erase the landscape’s flaws and our own,
to be made perfect, to be discovered
at the luncheon counter of desire.

© j.i. kleinberg


At the top of the fence
across the meadow
a curl of wire lies crushed
beneath the alder spilled
from its stand in November
and still unrepaired come May
though the bear cubs ascend
the slender ramp in furry romp
watched by the huffing sow
attending grass and sedge,
hunger pressed tight to her ribs
where spring carved
a twin-cub hollow
fierce as a melting glacier,
the promise of summer berries
and purloined apples in her milk
as she splays her black bulk
against the old cottonwood
to invite the cubs down
from their frolic, away from wire,
away from un-neighborly fences,
from the noise and wounds they contain.

© j.i. kleinberg