The Boiler

Jenny Molberg

PHOSPHENE

There is a way to see the other world.
My father quarters the red potatoes,
strips the husks from the corn
like little dresses, extracting
the shrimp from their shells
while I, on my back
in the sun, press my finger
against my eye because when I do
globes appear over and over.
Some are red; some are long-dead stars.
When a slit of sunlight
rushes in, I shut tightly the doors,
and close my ears to stop
the paddle of waves or somewhere
a gull, wrenching open a clam, the squeak
of a crab’s machine-like legs. And after
the shrimp shells, my father plucks the legs
in fingerfulls. He pushes my mother
gently with the blunt
of his hand on the small
of her back from the kitchen.
I orbit the low red sun, keep
pressing and pressing. My father
stirs each ingredient into the pot
by a timer. By now, I know
his knife is running along their backs.
Or, he is washing the veins down the sink. Or,
look, look at the sun on the bay. It’s in flames.

MIRROR

The little girl spoons
the peas into the milk.
(How is it that those hands are mine?)
My mother’s long hands,
reaching to pull the plates away.
My father’s voice from under a door,
the balcony impatiens
that wither, fall, pucker, bloom,
today’s sun that flirts,
the bee as it curves its abdomen over
a weed flower, the dog as it sniffs at the bee,
the dog in midair, the bee in its teeth,
the stinger’s depression on tongue,
the flinch, the paw, the cower.
Hold a mirror up to clouds: you’ll see.
The way our lives pass as storms.
The way I am young and old at once.
The way, when we remember,
we take out the memory, change it
before it returns to the cagy coves of the brain.
Seaweed in current as it wafts and sways,
knowing nothing of itself,
or the sea, or the moon as it pulls the sea,
or the fish that rubs with silvery scales,
like a cat would, against it.
I am all of this, and none.
By this, I mean God.

OUR LADY OF THE RIO GRANDE

after the installation pieces by Dan Flavin, military barracks,
Fort D.A. Russell, Marfa, TX

for my sister

I let you walk ahead:
blued silhouette, little
sister, luz de día in desert,
dazzling, dressed in what you’ve yet
to live. Bulbs buzz
in the barracks. Standing before
incendiary hallways
we are parallel in panels
of electrified glass, rarefied neon:
mock mirage in this,
the West Texas we knew, noble
gas, glow lamp, plasma, you
on one side of the light and I
on the other. This is how
we see ourselves,
swelling out like hours.
Us, Texas, the hills
bulbous as fractured skulls
dusted and surging, sanded smooth.
You, stepping back from the light;
I, stepping towards, backlit by blue.
You, humming violent, violet—
now yellowed, not yellow of aging
but yellow of new light, or also
yellow of our aging together. You,
little echo of me; me, looking on
now green, now blue, now violet, now pink.
Little sister of light and dark.
Little wasteland beacon.
Little saint of glowing hope, scintillating
in tumbleweed wind.
What lies ahead of you. What lies
behind me pulsing fluorescent
in the red canyon between us.

________________________________

Jenny Molberg won the 2014 Berkshire Prize for her debut collection of poems, Marvels of the Invisible (forthcoming, Tupelo Press). Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Copper Nickel, Third Coast, The New Guard, The Rattling Wall, Mississippi Review and other journals. She has been nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize, and was featured in Best New Poets 2014. Currently, she teaches at the University of North Texas and serves as Production Editor for American Literary Review