Elaine Handley

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Amour Fou

You tell me I could be crazy
like my mother
who talks for hours without sayingArtwork by Gene McCormick
what she needs,
or crazy like people who make piles
of money to make more piles of money.
It is better, you say, to be a crazy
writer, where everything is metaphor,
the simplest happening available
for divination: mourning dove’s
plaintive grieving, wind chime
3a.m. soft clang to prayer,
the stranger on the street
who looks intently into my eyes
stirring up a past life.

Everywhere a story;
the blank verse of my troubles, a poem--
wild-eyed madness fed by words,
lines that can break a heart.
In love with words and
all their secret powers is crazy, yes?
Zealot of rhyme over reason,
I wear a crown of sonnets,
I exult in larks.

At the Airport

Try to decipher the muffled announcements
with your heart thrumming in your ears.
The unfamiliar voice could be calling you
back, urging you not to take that flight.

You might be distracted by people waiting,
their mouths tasting words they will use
when the loved one appears tired and tousled.
No graceful arabesque of embrace, but an awkward seizing
and rush of clichés as people become seasoned
to one another at the mecca of baggage claim.

And the goodbyes more distracting yet:
the surreptitious, touchless clinging,
the caged bird words caught in throats and eyes,
the stall of time, the rush of it, the ambivalent eagerness
to get the tearing apart over with.

Greek tragedies soap operas sitcom love poetry grief
at every turn with the beeping carts that creep up behind you bleating
“Too much! Too much! Too much!”
and the droning voice of God announcing
what could be your departure.

Confused by Recycling Rules? Read This:

Refuse zero sort
wadded, crumpled or empty
rock jars wire coat hangers
no matter how glossy
must be clean and dry

carbon zinc rags
large metal fasteners
stuck on brown bags
ditto on plastic paper plates
no matter how glossy
must be clean and dry

aerosol newspapers
mulched expelled gas
flat tied or boxed
no matter how glossy
must be clean and dry

waxed cardboard lighters
branches with empty pockets
in designated containers
who have envelopes with those little
plastic windows
no matter how glossy
must be clean and dry

grass insert leaves paint stained
leftovers, items subject to
change but flattened
like milk cartons no matter
how glossy
must be clean and dry.

former wives and husbands
too difficult to bleach back
usually turned down if necks
are not smaller than the body, and      
you fail to remove caps first no matter
how glossy most likely won’t be
clean or dry.


Elaine Handley is Professor of Writing and Literature at SUNY Empire State College.  She has published poetry and fiction in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Handley’s most recent chapbook of poetry is Letters to My Migraine and she is completing a novel, Deep River, about the Underground Railroad in Upstate New York.