diode v9n1



Pantoum of the Empty House

Her body is an empty house
she tends to, makes the daily rounds
straightens lampshades, wipes counters down.
Wiring runs loose behind the walls.

She tends to make the daily rounds
dismayed by the secret disarray.
As wiring runs loose behind the walls,
they say, My, don’t you look nice today.

Dismayed by the secret: disarray
of choked closets and wayward drawers
(My, don’t you look nice today)
she throws all open, empties all

those choked closets and wayward drawers—
so many things misplaced or lost—
She throws all open, empty all,
and this is the most gruesome phase:

So many things misplaced or lost,
she opens her mouth, starts swallowing keys
and this is the most gruesome phase
to those who once were welcomed in.

She opens her mouth, starts swallowing keys
straightens lampshades, wipes counters down.
To those who once were welcomed in,
her body is an empty house.


Who I Am Not

I am definitely not my mother
I think. Who worries a thing to shreds,
leaves the mangled remnants on the kitchen floor
only to wander through hours later and wonder
who made the mess.
I am not, completely, confident.
Who needs self-analysis? I lived a good year
my only mirror the metal cover on the
toilet paper roll.
I am not at all times the faithful friend,
the dutiful daughter, or a person of integrity
if integrity means doing the right thing even
when no one’s around.
(If I am not righteous, am I then—QED—
wicked?) (Should I feel guilty?)
(I am not Catholic.)

Although one day I practiced, wore her
shoes, her shirt, placed three cubes of ice
in a glass of white wine (her habit),
I cannot be my grandmother. How I long
to let go of This Or That,
make room for Both, put a period after
I love you—
but I am not she.

You once asked me in the dead of night
who I would choose to become, to know
their thoughts and soul. My mind
balked at being asked to surrender
to another’s space. How could
one in conscience cohabitate
with a foreign will? You see,
don’t you, the problem? That I am
not illogical? Yet ask
me again: your magical thinking
in its simplicity makes me
wonder that I disagree.


Bless this pain

And keep it, progeny of care.
May you attend to its cries. With gentle hands
May you nurse it from your breast.
May it grown daily strong, and when it goes
Out from you, may you both
Send it freely and welcome its return.
When it visits you with fresh faces,
May you see in them your own reflection
And give thanks
That after tonight’s course of keening,
And soothing, and weeping to emptiness
You were full again in the morning.  


Jordan Shuler studied poetry and creative writing at Northwestern University.  After graduating, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador.  She currently works in special education at a charter school in Atlanta, her hometown.