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Sample Poems by Heather Dubrow

Mourning in November
A clutter of bird cries
In air deaf as concrete
When daylight is terminal.
Widows of fallen leaves
Flaunt orange lipstick,
Fooling no one.
Chattering into midnight,
I stockpile bromides:
Hard and shiny as acorns.

Our Lady of Murano
Venice, 1993
The sexton admits us right before closing.
“One of the most influential instances
of fourteenth-century Byzantine art,”
I announce as we hurry in.
(Look carefully, she may be on the final.)
“Compare the Annunciation at the Victoria and Albert.”
(I have eleven typed five-by-eight index cards on her
and a new PowerPoint presentation
instead of all those slides.)
A mother in a womb of bright gold tiles,
a bubble that will never burst.
She is slender as smoke,
or my faith.
Powerful as her own.
Look carefully, she is the final.
I try to recite to myself the four principal characteristics
of the Byzantine Palaeologue Revival (1260-1450),
the mantra of an unbeliever,
the tiles that pave my mind.
But cannot remember,
or only broken fragments,
as she rises above me
in a sky of unbroken gold.
This is no country for art historians.


She was my lady four years, Mrs. Stanford was, ever since she took sick.
Always looked like a real lady even after that last operation,
when she couldn’t hardly walk.
I’m going to start to cry again.
I loved her
and we talked about everything
those nights she was too sick to sleep:
my daughter and that stuck up man
my Marilyn wants to marry—he doesn’t want to go out places with me,
doesn’t think I look classy enough, doesn’t think I’m worth much.
Mrs. Stanford always trusted me to put on the dressings,
never wanted the others to touch her.
And she had one daughter too, just like me,
and told me all about when she was a baby.
Her daughter didn’t even say thank you last time.
Never cared how hard I was working for her mother.
She told me she was ready to die, it was in God’s hands
I shouldn’t do CPR but I know how,
I was a real nurse back at home,
I have my certificate in my wallet, right here,
just couldn’t take the test over here.
When that Dominican woman didn’t know how to help her
in the middle of the night
I didn’t mind at all coming over and doing it
even though she didn’t pay me anything for the night,
didn’t even give me taxi money.
My friend said she was taking advantage of me,
but she was so sick she couldn’t think straight,
for all her money she could hardly move,
and she needed me that night.
I loved her, my Mrs. Stanford, and I took such good care of her
that she lived longer than all those doctors said she would.
And that special chocolate cake I make,
uses real whipped cream, not that junk from a spray can,
she said she loved it and ate it all
even when she was too sick to eat anything else.
She always said what a good cook I was,
she would have wanted to thank me now.
That three hundred dollars lying here in the drawer now—
I always got money from the bank for her,
she trusted me, never asked that Dominican woman to do it—
she told me I’d get paid extra for those extra hours.

And I worked a lot for her, filled in when the other woman
didn’t know what to do.
She looks like an angel now, like a jewel for God Almighty.
I fixed her up so pretty after she passed
so she’d look nice when her daughter saw her,
just like she asked me to, my lady.
We were so close,
I always did what she asked me.
How would that daughter of hers know what was there,
and with all their money they should have thanked me at Christmas at least.
She should have paid me for that night,
never worked a day in her life,
these millionaires don’t know what it’s like for us.
I did extra hours after that third operation,
when she couldn’t move, my poor lady.
I can’t help myself crying this bad.
But it’s the will of God, and she’s at peace.
Doesn’t need her money now, poor Mrs. Stanford.
That bracelet lying right next to the money,
diamonds I’m sure, no rhinestones for my Mrs. Stanford.
That daughter of hers wouldn’t miss it,
probably never even knew she had it.
It must be worth a lot,
she looked like a real lady when she wore it.

Waking Hours

Last night I dreamed the undertakers had left you,
smaller and perfectly preserved,
wrapped and rolled in a closet
among the furled umbrellas
and the Elektrikbroom Wonder
you’d planned to repair
before that first operation on the inoperable.
You were as light to lift as hope,
and I laid you on the bed,
making sure your tiny head was safely on
the pillow you plumped each morning
as you grew thinner.
Let me care for you again.

Unfurl your smile again, Mother,
and protect my head
from the cloudbursts of flashback.
Then let me bury you again.