4 Pieces by Lyn Coffin
Sister Mary Algebra
Sister Mary Algebra is trimming
integers. The buzz of Zeroes comes skimming
across the bobbing sea of students who know,
and dive bombs us, prisoners of the final row,
outfielders captive within the sweating walls
of a prison where one backward glance stalls
the ticking horse, and chalky soil turns the seeds
of numbers to squadrons of rosary beads.
Beyond our lidded window, the hot day
wanders from bench to bench like a long-haired stray,
sticking its nose in filth and dog-eared glories,
panting like the nuns in our washroom stories
of sex. After lunch, we head for Phys. Ed, last
niche in St. Jude's side, where coaches aghast
at our losses describe with cracking lips
trajectories, while uncoiling paper clips.
Finally, they let us loose on fields where God's love
is the smack of bat on ball, and ball on glove;
the music of the spheres mounts in the score--
and we are the players the numbers are for.
Me and Me
I ran full tilt around the corner and
Bumped into myself from behind (How could
I know? The moon's darker half is nearer
Than the nape of my own neck.) I sent myself
Flying-- Christmas packages sprayed
From both arms like water from a summer
Hydrant. Seen from above, spread face down on
The gray pavement, I resembled nothing--
Certainly nothing like a star or starfish--
I turned my attention to what appealed:
The assorted boxes, brightly wrapped and gaily
Tied. Inside the smallest, I found a compact
Nestled under wave on wave of tissue
Like a golden clam which opened under pressure
And revealed me to myself-- doubly rendered
By a cracked mirror... The proper knife
Was in my hand, investing my crabbed fingers
With a lamprey's elusive shine. Using
The mirror as Achilles would, I advanced
On myself, still face down on the cement.
Looking only in the glass, I put knife to
Flesh as pen to paper, drawing a fine line
From shoulder blade to shoulder blade and then
Another down the spine. A thin cross of blood
Sprang into view and I relaxed, knowing
Police would soon be dancing blue attendance.
Reading by the Brass Lamp
Reading dog-eared thrillers on my narrow, straight,
Unmade bed, I'm snailed up. I don't see how I'll
Survive. I heap my pills on a fluted plate
Saved from childhood. It had a blue fawn and doe
Enameled on it, but they wore away
Long ago. I snub my cigarette in a
Lacquered dish my ex-husband bought. Our so-called
Honeymoon. We stayed in Madrid a whole week.
I loathe all bullfights. I read by the old-style
Brass lamp I got at a garage sale-- Hauled
Back home, it blew a fuse. I worked all one night
And fixed it partly-- It only works on low.
Reading, I learn the girl was killed by a Greek
Dissident who loved her. I turn out the light.
This island's miles from amenities. Its one
Harbor's got rocks. There's an active volcano
Or two. Its basic, ash-slaked soil is not
Much good for cultivation. Tigers, bears
And wolves compete for food, for human
Sustenance. When it's not snowing, it's hot.
Cyclones swarm the fields every month or so,
And hurricanes are common. Yet many men
Risk much to come here, call this their sacred ground,
Live on its edges... Somewhere here, somewhere
Inland, is the spring De Leon never found.
Lyn Coffin who lives in Michigan, serves as an editor
at Michigan Quarterly Review. She also writes fiction
(one of her stories was collected in Best American Short
Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates) and she describes
herself as "a fairly active playwright." Last year she
entered her first poetry slam, and won.