Friday, March 24, 2017


Five Poems by Martha Deed

Deadly Spin

Stopped in my tracks
I am dizzy
no snow
(a lie)
my tracks not in snow
(the truth)
rats in the subway
metaphoric rats on the loose
I look
from fumes
the snowblower?
the lawnmower?
left running too close
to my office door?
Not this time.
This time it is commentators
replacing facts with ideological
smoke unfit for breathers
of any age.

Nine crows fly crookedly
across the sky
hills dip and turn
beneath their wings
landmarks at unfamiliar angles
cloak roadkill with snow

The Rain

she sets out for adventure of the most esoteric kind
end around the chestnut tree inside a yellow taxicab
rained upon ‒ hence wet with rain
exotic ‒ yet fragmented ‒ as it were ‒
a little dry between the wet
not damp, nor neither wholly dry nor wholly wet
expanding puddles in the rain

and not yet end of Fall
nor Winter yet when it would
do to complain about the freezing

rain that cools the brain beyond all thought
except to go inside (which we would all agree)
is no thought at all but a poet's
life of insignificance
if all there is to do
is to complain about the rain

Life After Death

His ledger of plantings and visits and meetings and deaths
the desk he built to put it in
the labeled photographs
the Tufted Titmouse that was my Mother's bird
the poems and diaries
the compiled list of Rockland County birds
observed since 1835
letters from Civil War battlefields
and hospitals and prison camps
not emails left on defunct servers
nor computer files on "cannot read" OSs
not telephone messages even if recorded
if on outdated devices
letters delivered several times a day
Pony Express conversations
scrapbooks for postcards written home
log of sailing trip that ended in a nor'easter
marriage licenses and immigration papers
with notes attached as to who they were
and why they journeyed to this continent
under sail and a journal of a baby's life
in French followed ten years later
by a mysterious death in a Louisiana
institution for the dipsomaniac and insane
the census report marked "inmate"
the shade alive inside its riddle

Doing Business

As a rule, the man who carries his office in his hat is not a satisfactory person with whom to have dealings in such immaterial things as stocks and bonds.
‒Edward Crapsey.  The Nether Side of New York.  The Galaxy Magazine.  April 1871

Before I decide if I will do business with you I want to know
How big is your hat?
What color is it and of what style and vintage?
Who belongs to this hat?
Does he have a name?
Or, is it a woman's hat despite the "his" of your text?
Does the hat belong to a big-headed man or to a pin-headed man?
How much room does his brain take up in this hat?
Has he obtained the licenses and associations of his trade?
Is he dyspeptic?
Is it the hat of a president or a madman or a saint?

And you who have made this rule
Do you own stock?
And who pays you?
Are you backing some new technology?
For instance, do you speak of someone
carrying his business naked in his hat?
Or is his business contained upon some techie gadget
small enough to be carried in a hat
hence more reliable than a rabbit?

Harder to decide whom to do business with these days
than to jump bareback over 3-foot high hurdles
on a 4-foot high horse

The Chicken Yard

as with all animals, its the weakest that get picked your case each time the weakest is removed then the next weakest gets attacked

There is something going around these days
contagious, I think
the sun went away eight days ago
dull beauty outside my window
reveals little


This was her window
the deer flowed through her view
left to right ‒ 4 or 8 or 12 or 20
in a line‒ right to left

she had SSI

the sickness melted her bones
dissolved her organs
it hurt

no one thought
it could happen

she said
I think we don't know
what we don't know

she said
the labs and tests
may not show
what is happening
to me

she said
I need an autopsy
so someone will know

she said
I wanted to warn people who knew me before
I have changed a lot physically ‒
and will be using a power wheelchair . . .
I am not officially embarrassed (or proud) to be disabled
but I'd still prefer to have old acquaintances greet me
“Hello, glad to see you” ‒ rather than ‒
“Omigod, what happened to you”

six weeks later
she was dead
on SSI


They sat around a table
It was break time
They were middle-aged or elderly
and each one there possessed
a physical challenge that brought them to that table

“They take twice as long to do a job
If you pay them by the hour
You will pay them more than an able-
bodied person who would do a better job

and they probably have SSI as well”

“Probably it doesn't matter they are paid only pennies
at the charity for their work.  The agency sends a bus for them.
It must do them good to get away from home.
The pay doesn't matter.

They probably have SSI as well”

“One of them told me he sees four movies a week
I see one movie in an entire year
And he texts on his cellphone all the time
He has more money than I have

And he probably gets SSI as well”

They sat at the round table
passing seedless grapes and biscotti
drinking tea.  The most bitter among them
had earned a living treating broken bodies

Wrapped in some invisible cloak of superiority
from some invisible star or moon or plant
what blessing did they celebrate?

That they could see?
Or hear?
Or move?

No ‒ not think.


Martha Deed's collections include We Should Have Seen This Coming (locofo, Moria, 2017) and her selected works, Climate Change (Foothills Publishing, 2014). Her other full-length works include The Last Collaboration (Furtherfield, 2012), editing her daughter, Millie Niss's, selected poetry, City Bird (BlazeVox, 2010), and Intersections: a 20-day journal of the unexpected (Museum of the Essential and Beyond That, 2006).  Chapbooks include The Water Bill (Benevolent Bird, 2014), The Lost Shoe (Naissance, 2010), This is Visual Poetry (chapbookpublisher, 2010),  65 X 65 (Peter Ganick's small chapbook project, 2006), #9 (Furniture Press, 2004).  Her work has been included in a dozen anthologies published by Foothills Publishing, Iowa, Mayapple, Xexoxial, Red Hen and others, and hundreds of her poems have appeared in online and print journals including Truck, New Verse News, On Barcelona, poemeleon, qarrtsiluni, CLWN WR, Shampoo, Milk, and others.  Collaborations with Millie Niss include poetry videos and web installations in Iowa on the Web and other online and gallery exhibits.

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