Two Poems by Tina Cane


If it isn’t a mother peeling an orange for her son      if it isn’t a soldier hiding from choppers
heart of bamboo      it is one’s own father living in a tree house in his own mother’s yard
unable to shed the ghosts      it is his white uniform hung on the door of a pink tiled bathroom
for a final shave      or the photo of a bride in a mini dress kept in a flowered suitcase by the door
it is a fear of fire      memories filigreed like lace or birds scattered like buckshot from the tops of towers
and if not birds then it is people pixelated to grains of sand     as if information      or children linking arms
across a corridor to make a finish line      and if not them then one’s own children climbing a shady tree
suspended in the lens of their own mother’s eye    if not a rush to perceive oneself     Can I see? Can I see?
it is a rush to hold hands through the fire     the birds and the children     it is a push to shed ghosts

if it isn’t sacred space of school bus     it is ninja lunchbox and secret coat closet     an invincible way home
if it isn’t never being crouched beneath a desk     it is the right to say anything unmolested     it is empire
and oysters in the bay     a seagate spanning the entire state     it is restoration or a watermark above
the sideboard that is not indelible     it is unassailable sky indivisible sea     if not right action then
it is right speech     or inviolate fatigue possessing every frozen delicacy     in the Stop & Shop at midnight
and trees shading trees on solitary streets     it is smoking in one’s car which is the opposite of breathing
it is wanting to do both all the same     and if not that     then it is having indelicate thoughts beneath the delicate
leaves of trees     shades of one’s own breathing




Call it mezzo     this middle place where I do not sleep     rather take shape
of what a   Milanese matriarch sheathed in cashmere     language won’t protect me
from the pursuit of profit     or the butcher’s embrace
                                                                                                  if not love
what am I     a shape eating sandwiches alone in a motel     if not love then what
a handbag     I could stand here all night in the supermarket     staring
at the weekly special     wondering from what cloth I was cut     the sky the sea

the shape of me resisting profit     the butcher’s embrace     soft but at a price
here in this middle place     call it what you will language
won’t protect me from the shape I take     from what I hold alone



Tina Cane was born in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC in 1969 and grew up in the city’s East and West Village. She attended the University of Vermont, the Sorbonne and completed her master’s degree in French Literature at the Université de Paris IV-Nanterre. She is the founder and director of Writers-in-the-Schools, RI. Over the past twenty years, she has taught French, English and Creative Writing in public and private schools throughout New York City and Rhode Island. Tina’s poems and translations have appeared in numerous journals including Hanging Loose, Spinning Jenny, The Literary Review, Barrow Street and Salt Hill Journal. Her work, The Fifth Thought, was published by Other Painters Press in 2008. In addition to working as a teaching poet in her program, Tina is an instructor with the writing community Frequency Providence. She lives just outside of the capital city with her husband and their three children.