Poems in Circulation

Steeple Chase Dolly, She’s Gone

Before she left us,
she forgot everything.

She says a crazy man tickles her
but nothing bad, in the room
the white coats are friendly.

We want lies, like
She made the best of everything.

Her dark heart broke to bits:

It started four hungry sisters,
a mother, stooped but proud, played favorites.
She wasn’t it.

Her crying mouth so toothy-wide,
her father called her Steeplechase
after the sinister grin
pasted on the roller coaster poster clown
at Luna Park, Coney Island.

She put herself together with a man,
a roof, some upstairs rooms and children.

Her man drove taxis on long streets.
A few laughs in bed. And then he died.

The best she could, she cooked beans,
complained to mean teachers,
loved her skinny kids.

Skinny kids
and outgrew her.

She recognized
their names.

She drank sweetened coffee, bit the paint off nails,
filled her rooms with vacant people she called friends.

At the end, she believes she is one of her dead sisters


A Simple Afternoon

I was supposed to protect you.
Mama left us with Daddy
in the innocent front room.

There was the friendly chair
the dining table and the swinging door
the sun through the window the TV on
your toy train running round & round its track.

I was supposed to protect you.
I had the sister’s older eyes
the sassy mouth
the knotted fist with school-yard bullies
the wiser foot on short cuts home.

Such a storm took Daddy’s brain
such a whirlwind of his arms toppled table
chair and train I was thrown
and the door door door blown.

I was supposed to protect you.
Not meant for kids to see that unhinged door
Daddy’s finger sliced and soaring in air
and the TV drone.

Before our four forbidden eyes
the rush of blood, blood, blood.



Eleven years now, you call me daily in New York
from your computer in Mexico City,
a place where you feel special, diferente,
one of the few American scientists doing sleep research.

It was our mother’s wish that we keep close.

Your wife expects a second baby;
Jacobo, your first, now three years old,
romps through the house, you tell me, in a shirt and bow tie
singing, “The baby is coming, the baby is coming,”
and taking bows.

You know I have no children of my own, so you say,
“I want Jacobo to know you fully.”
You teach him I am Tia, and say you’re sad
we live far apart.

“Stay with us more often,” you say,
“Our place is small, but sleep over anyway.”

I visit and gaze at Jacobo puffing up his cheeks
in the morning with omelette and cheerios,
and I dance in the kitchen to make him laugh.

I doze on your living room couch.

When Santiago is born, I visit again in your city,
learn Spanish and search for a small apartment by the Zocalo
to be near you and your family in my retirement, jubilacion.

I break the news, expect your Wow!
But you shrug and say, “It’s a big city. Room for both of us.”
I’m silenced.

I remember how carefully in New York
you positioned your photograph on mother’s bureau
in front of mine.

Copyright © 2017 Sharon Leder