2 Poems (J.I. Kleinberg)

The new math

How differently things might have gone

if there had been two blind mice, five

bears, seven little pigs. If there were

three commandments would we have

done any better? And if you could count

to eight on one hand, or if it took

a dirty dozen days to create a week, might

everything begin to add up? How much we

have banked on those golden rings,

those easy pieces. When did seven dwarfs

align themselves with deadly sins? How

did the seasons become Death, Famine,

War, and Conquest? Arms linked,

the Musketeers wander off with the Tenors,

the holy trinity a three-ring circus. Surely

the circles of hell are too many to enumerate,

the cat’s lives parsed out, one per muse.

How many degrees of separation between

the shades of gray and the loneliest number,

and really, god, for the money, is one enough?


At the laundromat with Pablo Picasso

Mariachi music blasts from the AM radio

bolted to the top of the soap dispenser.

Pablo is stripped down to his white shorts 

and canvas shoes. 

He wheels a wire laundry basket around

and around the island of washing machines.

He stops at the bulletin board, calls to me,

‘Come here, cariña.’

Pablo strips all the notices from the board

and sets them in my outstretched hands.

He tears shapes from the ads and flyers 

and business cards and in a moment

has pinned them back onto the board

into something that looks like a bowl of fruit.

When the dryer stops, we pile the warm laundry –

the red towels, the pink sheets and socks –

into the wire basket. Pablo pulls out a red

bath towel and shakes it to one side 

and then the other, saying, ‘Eh, Toro! Toro!’

His grabs his shirt, the navy stripes 

now purple and the white stripes pink, 

and wraps it around his head into a turban. 

I just want to get my laundry folded, 

but Elvis is on the radio singing “Love Me Tender” 

and Pablo twirls me around the washing machines,

our feet scritching on the gritted linoleum. 

The turban makes him seem taller. 

He tells me I am beautiful,

that he wants to paint me,

that I am his perfect model. He is kind.

He says nothing about my eyes, seems not to notice 

they are both on the same side of my nose.


Three-time nominee for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards, J.I. Kleinberg is an artist, poet, and freelance writer. Her poetry has appeared in DecemberOneDiagramOtolithsPedestalPsaltery & Lyre, and many other print and online journals. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, USA, and online at chocolateisaverb.wordpress.com and Instagram @jikleinberg. 


image: M. M. Kaufman