poetry quarterly

10th anniversary

POETS IN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ISSUE

Pamela Murray Winters

 

SHELTER IN PLACE

In the reference room, under the scanner-printer,
wait the big plastic boxes, their sides transparent
to show their contents:

cans of light tuna, boxes of saltines.
I note, across one boxtop, an expiration date
four years, six months, twenty days ago.

When I open the medicine cabinet at home,
an amber tube rattles out, its label faded.
Ciprofloxacin. It, like me, is past its prime.

A friend’s office, in an agency we can’t
talk about, has stronger stuff, potions
for the ultimate personal decision.

Ten years on, I barely notice the Pentagon
on Virginia license plates, but I remember a day
when I stood in the yard, two houses ago,

and watched the sky. The planes kept us up at night.
I moved to the country, something I thought
I’d never do. Now I’m back in the city,

with horns and hollering and a diesel bus
at the curb, and there are days I’m still not sure
where to go, who to call, what home is, or was.

 

 

 

Pamela Murray Winters was born at 18th and I Streets NW, in Washington, DC, and has seldom lived beyond the Beltway. In the mid-1980s, she worked in the library of one of the Smithsonian Institution's art museums, a beautiful setting for a less-than-beautiful job. (One low point: being caught by a curator while printing erotic fiction on the office copier and trying to convince him it was a "test file.") Her poems have been published in the Gettysburg Review, Gargoyle, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Fledgling Rag, JMWW, and the anthology Takoma Park Writers 1981. She is now happily employed at a major scientific association.

 

 

Published in Volume 13, Number 3, Summer 2012.