ARLENE ANG


Arlene Ang lives in Venice, Italy where she edits the Italian pages of
Niederngasse. Her poetry has recently been published in Mississippi
Review Online
, The Pedestal Magazine, Cordite, Poetry Midwest and
Offcourse Literary Journal. Three of her poems have been nominated
for the 2006 Pushcart Prize anthology.






Inside the Minute Hand of Dali's Watch

The hairpin on the floor has rusted in less
than a week. I'm watching the harlequin

across the street undress, wear the orange
lipstick someone in the bus picked from

my snakeskin shoulder bag. I used to tell
colleagues it was Chanel. That's how lies

make me regret everything afterwards:
his lips on my spaghetti strap, broken

glasses by the fire, fractured light in
my eyes. For a moment, I thought the hired

maid next door had forgiven me for wearing
her uniform. Some days I go from questions

about his health to discussing the numbers
I erroneously multiplied in the third grade.

It's false to be coherent when there's
a deadline tightening around my neck

and my father insists on knowing how
to use a comb every thirteen minutes.

Despite the tv snow in the living room,
I keep hearing a charter plane crash.






The crumbs leave

an outline on the tablecloth:
a Picasso nude with wine stains

for lips. Routines, when broken,
are abstract, vaguely recalled

if not for an upturned nose or
the beauty mark on a nurse's cheek.

It's easy to get lost
in geometric details: the line

between black and white tiles,
the curve of umbilical cord

around a newborn's neck,
the surface of passing gurneys.

Calculations are often wrong;
births occur when least expected.

An artist projects the finished work
on canvas before picking up his brush.

Animal instinct can drive a wasp
to lay eggs in the pages of a book.

Is there an element of surprise
that Pablo is Spanish for blue?






The ventriloquist

soaks his dentures nightly in a plastic
cup. He says it's his way of protecting

the secret to his success. The nurses
often lose count of his pulse, their eyes

drawn to his synthetic pink gums, algae
trapped between the teeth. Often he forgets

to change the water. His ex-wife sends
chocolates regularly; the crumpled foil

wrapper makes everyone suspect arsenic.
He eagerly calls an upset stomach love,

and the judge to lift the restraining
order. In the ward, he likes to talk

to imaginary animals, pills held between
an orderly's trimmed nails, the wall clock

in the activity room. The head directress
assures his family by phone that he is

never coming out, and the marionettes
buried under the porch are not included

in psychology books as symptoms of madness.
When no one is watching she opens his

mouth with forceps, listens. From deep
inside his throat she can hear voices.






Empty boxes

and a dead canary: do you think it's still
luck? Two men with identical tattoos are

heaving the piano up the stairs. A pot of
unflowering euphorbia blocks their path.

You've never learnt how to misplace
your things correctly. These days even

a moustrap has its political aspect.
Flies enter through the open window,

congregate on the overripe peaches by
the sink. Yesterday a priest came with

your mother to bless the penthouse.
He said Beelzebub was a black sheep whose

deep Freudian fetish for nailcutters
misled harpists. He was wearing dark

clothes himself, had false teeth that he
pushed in and out with his tongue

as he spoke. You are always relieved
after everyone has gone, and stop

chain-smoking. It is never too late
to change ashtrays. In boarding school,

they teach you early that cigarette ash
and holy water should not mix on tiles.



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