Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Two Poems


Who can manage without a life jacket
zipped tight across the chest; arms like wings,
white and gray as a gull;  though you might long
for the parrot’s or the peacock’s acquaintance
with color; even the pigeon screams iridescent
pleasure when the laboratory doors open
and she flies to the crenellated roof —
a noun calling “hope” or “glove,”
or “fireworks,” which actually birds detest;
the way a small child cowers in the car
when everyone else climbs the hill to catch
intersecting explosions of color.
After the fireworks, what comes next —
questions reorder history until there is nothing
to eat but bills; reports warn of more
explosions;  thunder pursues our air-
conditioned visions — small increments of heat;
who wants to be the parent nagging children
to turn off the lights; or an annoying child
patrolling the house with a wrench to cure leaks.
In the surprise of the new century, parrots
will move north, adaptable and hungry.
When we peruse the Online Encyclopedia
of integer sequences we are hopeful that 1, 1, 2, 3, 5
has meaning; but are unprepared for the busload
of competing equations to describe that lot.
Who doesn’t want the mother function?
Lil once told Adam, “I won’t try to ask your opinion
of marriage,” but an old mother would say
by putting the question in his head, she pinned it
to his heart. Fire creates chaotic systems,
an internal ecology, the way many marriages
follow a logic that leads someone on the outside to say,
“What a mystery,” or “Not him, not her.”
Once when Adam was young he squatted down
on the sidewalk to paint a trail of flour
and water with a bit of sugar to provide
a highway from the city of ants to the garden plot
so they could range freely among lettuces and slugs
drowned in the small bowls of beer.
When he told Lil this story she comforted him
as though the urge to give birth to the world
of demons belonged to him alone.
A better counting
strategy might be 6, 28, 496, 8128
in the search for perfection, though no set
of human connections ever reaches the third term.


Carol Dorf’s poems appear in Antiphon, Qarrtsiluni, Spillway, OVS, Canary, Sin Fronteras, In Posse Review, Poemeleon, Fringe, Moira, Unlikely Stories, The Prose Poem Project, and The Mom Egg. They have been anthologized in Not A Muse, Best of Indie New England, Boomer Girls, and elsewhere. She is poetry editor of Talking Writing and teaches math at Berkeley High School.