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Poems by Melissa Montimurro

THE NUNS ACROSS THE STREET ARE BATHING |
KENTUCKY COFFEETREE

Melissa Montimurro lives in Layton with her husband and four sons. The testosterone level in her house, she jokes, leaves her little time for sending out her poetry for publication. She holds a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Fairleigh Dickinson University. This devoted mother has read with Skylands Writers & Artists Association at Centenary College and Sussex County Community College, and in the coming season she will help to host and arrange a series of open readings on the campus in Newton. She is particualrly astute and deligent in writing upbeat critiques for her fellow workshop members. In 2000 she won the SWAA Joe Salerno Poetry Contest judged by B.J. Ward with her poem "Washing Away the Dead."

THE NUNS ACROSS THE STREET ARE BATHING

 

Imagine how they enter evening:

Sister Jean making tea to bring upstairs.

Then one by one,

they let their

black skirts drop,

skins revealed

in the convent lamplight.

 

The young ones,

Sisters Rose, Elizabeth, and Ann

have skin fine as custard.

They're all float and bob in the bath,

apple-breasts,

and bellies flat as plates.

 

They brush each other's hair;

pearls of bathwater flash from them

when they laugh.

They powder their waists and thighs

as if dressing for dates.

 

As if they'll dance like us,

all muscles and toes and bones.

 

The old nuns are quieter,

with skins of teabags and scuppernongs.

Sisters Jean and Margaret and William Eileen

brush their own dove-colored hair.

 

Evenings,

do the sisters let their habits lie

where they've dropped them--

in the convent light,

dark blossoms

on the floors?

KENTUCKY COFFEETREE

 

So for the last time Henry,

the "crazy" boy from the "crazy" house

would follow me up the sidewalk

waving a cane or a bb gun,

and his voice would trail off

like a dog barking weakly in the distance

or the horn of a train tapering to a whine

in the waiting air.

And I escaped maiming and mutilation

one last time,

my sneakers caught in the pocked cement

in front of our apartments.

 

Later, after JJ and Theresa and I

finished flying on our bikes

beneath the Kentucky coffeetree,

swatting its brown beans that dangle like trout,

always thinking how odd a tree like this grows

in a Bergen County parking lot,

 

there was the black scream of rubber

that split the Third Street summer.

There was Henry's mother, her black hair tossed

like a nest, her half-painted mouth shaped

in the horrible roundness of no.

 

There was the driver, the mothers in aprons

burst onto stoops.

Mike the Midget, Tough Brannigan, and the Dragon Lady, too.

They were all there in July's radiance unpinned

at crazy Henry's broken body,

the long thin pods of his fingers

empty.

 

Copyright © 1999 by Melissa Montimurro. All rights reserved.

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