Three Poems by Rebecca Clever

You cleaned your nails with a butcher knife,

waiting for your wife—
my mother—
late again, to be ready.

I watched you
angle the long blade
so its sharp tip could pick away
the week’s oil & engine grime,

model glue & sawdust melded,
while you sang or hummed
or maybe whistled Mathis,
Chances Are.

You never broke the skin,
never missed a note.
Pitch-perfect
meticulous technician,

I loved you like the sun hates
darkness, and in its blazing
burns most brutal.


To Jack, the Unlovable

I want to say I’m sorry
for your overbite, chronic runny
nose, hand-me-down trousers
your dad gave you—cuffs stapled
to worn knees
for the love
note gone unanswered. But I stood
a foot above your stunted
shoulders in 8th grade, could smell
your unwashed hair
when I passed you
as we all did in the hall
of awkward ways. Butt
of jokes, class scapegoat when
we wouldn’t own up
to our own
failures—I gagged to picture kissing
you, even holding hands. So, quietly
I cast the crumpled page
you printed on
Go with me.
It can be our secret
, in a dumpster
off school grounds, trembled
that the likes of you would choose
me
you, who wrote my name
with yours on book covers
your fresh cut strawberry-
shaped crush. The heart sliced
open.


At Tom Ayoob, Inc., Est. 1961

I USED UP ALL MY SICK DAYS SO I CALLED IN DEAD

reads the sticker on Jim’s makeshift office where he does the bookkeeping

tracks weekly inventory from the Carolinas Georgia Mexico

carrying on a family tradition since the hippie days of moving

wholesale vegetables and fruits through Pittsburgh’s Strip

confesses “Some nights I don’t sleep” in authentic Yinzer

“Dealin’ perishables is like gamblin’, but we try to survive, scale dahn

sell potatahs, onions, peppers, cabbage when it gets cold.”

In a blink he halves a watermelon with his pocket knife

offers generosity ripened to our mouths.


Profile: Rebecca Clever

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