Three Poems by Elizabeth Whittlesey

Miss Muggins Goes to See a Romantic Comedy

How did she find herself now
suddenly nominated president of

The Association To Make ‘I Love You’
Only a Terrible Campaign Against Loneliness?

She had learned to smuggle in
more tricks up her sleeve than a sunset.

And she knew most of the soundtracks:
sodas slurped empty before the start,

gum-stuck shoes during, and the sad
scattered popcorn mashing

into swirling fuchsia carpets after.
Still, she felt a poignant rejuvenation

from the happy endings’
blond insinuations

that maybe one should begin
limiting one’s ice cream intake
.

A singular conservation effort,
to use only recycled phrases, feelings.

Layering men in winter
was usually the best bet,

but could get cumbersome,
with loyal friend Conscience always arriving

late, banging people’s knees, interrupting
everyone’s favorite part: the previews.

 

Miss Muggins Goes to a Nightclub

How to relume,
someone was chanting

in what haberdashery
delight. Succor, maybe, one could

suck from the seething
black and bedecked topiary—

Indeed could bounce the night-
hoppers— frolic, festoon, and feet!

Unlimited greyhounds all night
along velvet jacinth couches;

cosmopolitans effusive over
triangular glass edges

onto chalcedony floors.
Then pressed into her palm

Here is the token for what ails you,
the key to your exit inside here.

But what kind of wizard was this,
she wondered, of the one up front shaking

corrugated spells through the air?
Tinnitus treats and whoosh of smoke

faintly tasting of baby powder. Sudden fog
and she is suddenly alone, completely

surrounded— then ah soon returned
to her face sweet light-freckles from

the sequined globe’s devoted turning.
How lambent! How adored! You are home

for me tonight, someone was whispering.
It was like the love of a thousand mothers,

rubbing the smell and ache of rust off
and shaking it into the sea . . .

(Then empty out into
the daylight death, fatigue.)

 

Miss Muggins Tricks or Treats

Two weeks past Halloween, she runs
down the path to Frank’s Market,

Batman cape still affixed to her neck,
trailing its black flag

like hope behind her.
“Fall is too poetic,” she says, watching

the leaves swirl-scrape their tiny tornadoes
along the sidewalks, the iron barges

moving grimly, earnestly across
the slate water. “I know it’s a pathetic

fallacy, but even the river
seems to be preparing itself

for the soon-to-be-discontinued
coursings along its surface.”

No one around seems in the mood
to be heroically rescued,

so she surveys her pillowcase of
Donations Received Thus Far:

one half-drunk, Pumpkin Spice Latte;
one refrigerator door handle;

one tangle of hair meant for nest-caulking
dropped from the kind bird’s beak.

Later, when the market disappoints
her hopes for a hot empanada,

she settles on some processed cheese
and frozen financiers for later.

“Oh,” she says, at the register,
“and give me some of those

trashy, red, immediate
I-don’t-know-why-Swedish Fish” (marveling):

Just look how easily today
a thing moves me if I need it to.

 
 
Elizabeth Whittlesey’s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Western Humanities Review, POOL: A Journal of Poetry, JERRY, Explosion Proof, Phantom Limb, and Noncanon Press. Elizabeth grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and lives in Manhattan.