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Ann McGovern (email, website)


Even Fish Feel Pain

Parcel out your mercies.

Keep the lobster pot dry.


Shed tears for white mice, blue

Foxes, and whales.


Add tufted streaks of red and orange your grandparents saw

On the wing.


No more.

The shoals and continental shelf


Keep quiet.

And the melting ice cap.


Only little children torment

By innocence. Tails pulled. Wing torn.



The Yellow Leaf


There is always one leaf clinging to a branch.

There is always another bus,

Always a spider diligent with its web. 

There’s a mailbox and always a fly. 



But sometimes there is

Also the wind

That blows the leaf off the branch.

The bus has no empty seats.


The spider’s web is bare

And there’s no letter in the mailbox.

But there’s always that fly.

How to wrap this up?



Have the branch of the tree with one leaf clinging to it

Overhang the road

And brush the mirror of the bus

As it passes, with no empty seats.


A spider that no one sees,

Sees no fly.

A mile away, a fly lands

On the empty mailbox.



Meanwhile, spinning yellow,

The leaf pirouettes

In the wind.




Every seat on the train was taken

Except for the one next to me.

Was it because I took my shoes off

Or the fact that I put all my mess

On the empty seat – water bottle, sandwich--

Tuna, I think. A book I didn’t like.


Behind me, a young woman,

Coughing and sneezing,

Do germs move north or south


And where am I?

Today you phoned and accused

Me of not calling you.


I don’t care.

Your Sunday football games bore me.

Your purpose in life bores me.


So does your every day eggs-over-easy.

So what if I go to bed with you.

Only because I did once - nine years ago.


You were different then and liked opera.

Now your big belly jams into mine.

It’s no fun, even with my legs up.




Woolworth’s 5 & and 10 on the corner

of Broadway and 79th Street,


now a discount clothing store

with a bowling alley upstairs.


I was eleven years old  and didn’t have a dime

to buy a Mars Bar.


Just wandering around

killing time


so I wouldn’t have to go home

and face her.


Usually I went to the library but

I had books overdue and I was ashamed.


I’ll blurt it out, my crime--

An open bag of potato chips on the counter,


two or three loose just lying there.

I wasn’t even hungry.


So I took one

then another.


Then a third.

I swear just three


salty, soggy potato chips

worth about 1/50th of a penny


haunts me for my lengthy,

little, law-abiding life.




My mother was an only child until I was ten.

Until the doorbell rang and there he stood.

A giant of a man, grinning

Till Mother slammed the door shut in his face.


She didn’t want to tell me who he was but I

Played hysterical and began to tear my clothes.

“I’ll tell you this and no more,” she said. “That man is my brother Alex.

He lives in a loony bin where he belongs. He’s a skitso.


Often I wondered how big was my uncle’s loony bin

And was I one, too, a skitso? Was it something about

Being Jewish?

Mother turned into silence.


Mother, all I ever wanted was for you

To pull me on my sled

Up the hill in Central Park

Over and over


Even in the springtime.