Bernadette Geyer



A smile devoid of irony, you grin
with lips unused to parting in delight,

hidden so long beneath
your voluminous but well-kept moustache.

You are happy: eyes narrowed
to slivers, the skin at their corners

radiating in laugh lines. A crisp button front shirt
you’d never wear on the job.

Your photograph hangs beside
the Head Storekeeper of 46 years, above

the Florist of 18. Immortalized here,
on your elbow, beneath the porcelain sink,

head close to the bend just where the pipe
enters the wall. Did you go home that evening,

pull your wife close, inhale the scented
gratitude of her hair just where it tucks

behind her ear? Did you ask yourself
Now will they see me as she sees me?

Oh, to finally be recognized for your worth—
with this photo, catching tourist eyes

in the White House Visitors’ Center,
on the same wall as the Engineering Foreman

of 41 years, the Assistant Usher of 16.
Though none so prominently placed

as the Doorman of 46 years: shown poised
near the front door, along with the President’s

dog, both heads angled toward the unseen
that approaches from beyond the radiant

geometry of the opened door, from beyond
the frame of the photograph. Master,

mistress, any comers to validate their calling.



The smell of chemical solvents
mixes with that of the gases
released by hydraulic machines,
the blinding stench of a blowtorch

and, on the other side of the room,
a cigarette. Drill presses stamp
and click a marching rhythm
against the hiss and echo

of the other machinery. On locker-door
posters, women spread their legs,
revealing shaved crotches, pink
like raw shellfish. A man

picks up a bamboo coat tree, moves it
to his new work station. Gently, he hangs
his jacket on one of the branches
and turns to his duties.


Ellyn Weiss
Weaponized Agent, 2003
Acrylic and oilbar on canvas, 30" x 32"
see more work by Ellyn Weiss



Drunk on its own scent
head slung
and weeping like a barfly,
the rose sags
over the side of the vase,
shedding petals like tears
into a cradle
of baby’s breath.




It is now twenty years
that we have been meeting like this,
in out-of-the-way diners
where we are sure to go unrecognized.

It is twenty years, and I no longer know
what to say to you—the mystery
long gone like the color in your beard,
the tautness of my figure.

You'd think I'd have grown more comfortable
with these long silences, but
instead, I become like Proust,
noticing how you lay out your cutlery—

parallel, equidistant.
I note each fray in the cuff
of your sleeve; which buttons
have recently been restitched

with a thread slightly whiter than
the rest. I listen to each syllable
uttered at the table next to us,
allowing diphthong and syntax

to roll around my head the way you
play wine against your tongue
before you swallow. How I hate
seeing you through this microscope

that I have taken to carrying—your
every imperfection magnified until they
edge you out of the picture, distort
memory, chase me away one more time.




It was an open-toed
rust-orange wedge
that hissed when passing
the other girls.
Thinking back
to that virgin exposition –
that first time pink polish
shone out from under
a steel-and-wood desk
too low for legs
to cross and uncross,
the foot remembers
wanting to dangle carelessly,
seductively, wanting
to clack clack that heel all day
up and down the holy halls
of St. Cecilia’s junior high.
The foot sighs, naked,




Three birds
drifted to the ground
like leaves.

As I drew nearer,
I realized they were

No matter how far
I walked away from
those leaves,

never again
could they be
three birds.



Bernadette Geyer is author of the poetry chapbook What Remains (Argonne House Press). A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Hotel Amerika, 32 Poems, The Potomac Review, and Gargoyle. Geyer’s full-length poetry collection, Dead Men, was a finalist for the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award, and for the Richard Snyder Publication Prize from Ashland Poetry Press. Geyer serves as editor-in-chief of The Word Works and works as a freelance writer/editor in Vienna, Virginia.


Published in Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 2007.