you are in the diode archives winter 2010



Poem With/out a Face
     (after the photo “Marine Wedding” by Nina Berman)

Somewhere cadets are fed up
with polishing their shoes. 
Not here.  They eat chicken
in their special mess hall
and do chin-ups outside
my office window.  Are they
ever deployed?  The boy
without a face marries
his high school sweetheart
in Illinois.  On their wedding day
the photographer was not
saddened by the resolve
in her face, or his lack of
ears, nose, chin.  There is no
work for him because he has
no hands, so his bride
is a barkeep, serves Bud Dry
in plastic cups at a place
for locals.  The cadets here
cadence call on the quad,
shimmy on their elbows
towards the Dean’s trailer
as if they’re receiving
incoming fire, but they’re not,
and the photographer knows
we can read her photo
of the newlyweds any way
we want.  Desire is serendipity,
is pity, is blind, is danger, is not
obligation, is poking the most
alien thing with a stick to see
if it stirs and clings, the way
a literary agent I slept with
one August after we got high
on a Brooklyn rooftop admitted,
when I woke up tucked
into hospital-corner sheets,
that he had attended a Military
Institute and could assemble
a rifle in less than thirty seconds
without light, which is to say
that unlike the bus security guard
I slept with in Israel who kept
his gun under the mattress and
told me nothing about anything
except for one childhood story
about a river in South Africa
that I remember exactly what
both of their faces felt like
under my fingertips in the
dark or maybe I don’t.


Small, Generic Night Towns

we stumbled all the way to your place—
sultry footpath of August
(snapped heels          busted straps)

—past the gas station that sold
underage cigarettes because
someone’s mother didn’t care


after last call, the air
couldn’t hold any more lust we were
dizzy with the opposite of remorse and pretending
to converse           (let’s

cross the threshold               to forgetfulness)

            (these keys are hard to push)


            swollen door; holding
            pattern; night like a terrarium;

your neighbor with a pair of dice tattooed on his arm out combing the block for his cat named Chance who had vanished, have we seen him, he asks

            among the spent fire-cracker
            casings?  in the cluster of moths
            trailing yellow light?

            it doesn’t seem like an accident
            that summer is always gin-soaked
            and static with

hush-hush wishes and 
furtive sadness of

night growing  
larger than us

holding its breath
for things gone
missing; holding
its breath for
too long  


Erika Meitner is the author of Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore (Anhinga Press, 2003), as well as the forthcoming collections Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls (Anhinga, 2011) and Ideal Cities (Harper Perennial, 2010), which was selected as a 2009 National Poetry Series winner.  Her poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in places including The American Poetry Review, Anti-, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New Republic, Subtropics, and The Journal.  She is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she teaches in the MFA program.