Miss Congeniality

Maxine Chernoff
Even as an embryo, she made room for "the other guy." Slick and 
bloody, she emerged quietly: Why spoil the doctor's best moment? 
When Dad ran over her tricycle, she smiled, and when Mom drowned 
her kittens, she curtsied, a Swiss statuette. Her teachers liked the way 
she sat at her desk, composed as yesterday's news. In high school she 
decorated her locker with heart-shaped doilies and only went so far, a 
cartoon kiss at the door. She read the classics, The Glamorous Dolly 
Madison, and dreamed of marrying the boy in the choir whose voice 
never changed. Wedding photos reveal a waterfall where her face 
should be. Her husband admired how she bound her feet to buff the 
linoleum. When she got old, she remembered to say pardon to the 
children she no longer recognized, smiling sons and daughters who sat 
at her bedside watching her fade to a wink.

From Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology, edited by Charles Harper Webb, published by the University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2002 by University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.

From Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology, edited by Charles Harper Webb, published by the University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2002 by University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.

Maxine Chernoff

by this poet

poem
a voice speaks 

to rheumy stars

deadpan witness

no call and response

or supplicant's hope

all this hurts

the ocean suggests

as if waves

could privilege

ear's dumb gestures

or a ghost

of a sentence learn

to read its

own dried ink