and then there were eight

After Adam and Eve upgraded,
do you think they longed
for the unencumbered days?
Those quiet times before
buttons and zippers
and technologies requiring
such labored maintenance,
such frequent attention?
Did they think, often,
that it would be much simpler
to move about this world
without needing to
dress for success
dress up
dress down
dress to kill
dress for dinner
undress
redress.
Were they ever-seduced
by the need, the speed, the ease?
Or did they Think Different,
see past the bill of goods —
understand the lure, the hook, the catch
for exactly what it was:
the shiny object,
the pretty distraction,
another Apple, another sin.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month, 26. Image: Man And Woman (Adam And Eve), Pavel Filonov.

338 Arch Street

My duck lived
under the back porch
of my grandparents’ house
at the top of the hill
on Arch Street,
surrounded by privet
and a bowered
maze of azaleas.
The screen door creaked
and slammed into
the kitchen where
the middle drawer
had a secret panel
your finger could
push-pull for Wonder.
The rooms smelled of
eucalyptus and river
and whiskey.
In the living room,
too thin for a couch,
three chairs angled
to face the television
and the gun cabinet,
dusted and polished daily.
The deer head
didn’t have a name,
the duck did—
perhaps that’s why
we let him go.
Set loose by a bridge,
spared or sacrificed,
no one knows.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month, 25. Image: Duckling, David Burliuk.

The Heavens at Every Step

And God made…every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

a quintillion
is written as such:

one
zero
comma
zero
zero
zero
comma
zero
zero
zero
comma
zero
zero
zero
comma
zero
zero
zero
comma
zero
zero
zero
comma
zero
zero
zero

more insects in one square mile of meadow

than humans on the whole of Earth

200 million to one

a universe of bugs

the heavens at every step.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month, 22. Bible reference: Genesis 1:24-25. Image: Insects, Theodor Severin Kittelsen.

Second Nature to Me Now

As if she is brand new,
I touch the soft folds,
remark at the marks,
notice the skin and
its propensity to
count time with lines.
There is no preparation
for this reflection,
this time spent
considering
the countenance.
They call it pause
for good reason,
as these mirrored moments
will attest,
for it is here I pause
— and pause again —
as if she is brand new.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month, 21. Image: Standing Odalisque Reflected in a Mirror, Henri Matisse.

Paradigm Shift

The water pitcher with ice
only made appearances
when important people met
there around the conference table.
It didn’t use to be that fancy.
Used to be folks came in to chat,
shoot the breeze,
share a joke and a cup of coffee,
talk about the weather.

But he came from somewhere else.
A place of dry cleaned shirts
and strategic conversations,
where you leveraged your engagements,
and looked out for paradigm shifts.

He told me once I needed to think bigger:
BIGGER House (But I like my little cottage.)
BIGGER Office (But mine overlooks a salt marsh.)
BIGGER Car. But how will my feet reach the pedals?

Was that out loud? I wondered,
sipping, bemused, from a slippery glass.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month, 19.