“The Goddess Does Not Despair” and Other Poems, by Debra Kaufman

The Goddess Does Not Despair
She knows all the angles,
            which way to turn. She is
the angel in us and the witch,
            the mother, scientist, nurse.
Her touch is cool but not indifferent,
            her humor endlessly wry.
Her voice makes our hackles rise.
            She demands no fealty,
does not look down on us
            from the clouds. She is
in our blood, our music, she
            knows what we do not 
know we know. She directs
            the weaving and unweaving
of our dreams. When she conjures
            a parliament of owls,
a staring of cats,
            do not run away.
When she says beware
            or dance with abandon,
listen. Then do as you're told.

It Takes a Heart Like Mary’s These Days

An immaculate heart
not innocent
but swept clean
with room for all
a heart that grieves
                   gleams
tough   luminous
mother of pearl
a heart with windows
stained     mirrored
whose light suffuses  
                reflects
O heart of mercy
we are weary
cradle us
Seduction in Black and White

She arrives late in gold lamé. 
He wears a white dinner jacket,
downs his second scotch, orders

a martini for the lady. 
She unbuttons a pearl button 
on an elbow-length glove, 

tugs each finger, then all fingers at once,
and the satin glides over 
her creamy skin. A diamond 

glitters on her ring finger. 
Her lips shine as she sips
from the stemmed glass, 

slips a cigarette from a silver case, 
holds it aloft, knowing 
he will light it. He is already, 

perpetually, smoking. 
She lowers her eyes 
to the flame as she inhales, 

looks straight at him on the exhale. 
The smoke swirls, mingles, rises.
They speak in the metaphor 

of a horse race—he likes to take 
an early lead, she to surprise 
in the home stretch. 

One is about to betray the other.

Debra Kaufman is the author of the poetry collections God Shattered, Delicate Thefts, The Next Moment, and A Certain Light, as well as three chapbooks, many monologues and short plays, and four full-length plays. Recent poems appeared or are forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, Cordella, The Phare, and the anthology Crossing the Rift. She recently adapted Johnny Johnson, Paul Green’s 1936 antiwar play. http://www.Debrakaufman.info

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