Nebraska Center for Writers


Like it's midnight and a train rumbles
by in the distance and she's not poet
enough to think of any word but lonesome.

Hell, she should know a fallacy
when she sees one by now--that train's
got a load, a destination, a deadline.

And she's the one running empty
and so far off track
she can't even carry a tune.

Reprinted with Permission
from Where You 've Seen Her
Copyright © 1993 by Grace Bauer
Pennywhistle Press


She slaps my arm, cursing in Ukrainian
because I've dipped a finger
into the jar of lekvar
as I'm spooning it onto the kisses.
And when I lick the nut paste
for palascintas from my other hand,
she orders me away from her table.

Make your own damn cookies,
I tell her, retreating
into the living room and a book:
War and Peace or something
that should impress her, but she
only warns me I'll go blind
reading in such bad light.

And soon the smell of sweet dough
browning breaks through
my resolve; and I go back
to the kitchen, wipe a few
cookie sheets with a dish towel,
ask her casually, How are they coming?

Sift me a half cup of flour,
she demands, as if we had never
argued, and I wonder why words
between us always turn
bitter as yeast on our tongues.

Flour, butter, cream cheese, sugar,
a dash of cream of tartar.
The secret, she says,
is the dough must be cold. Work quickly.
Keep everything covered till it's time.

Reprinted with Permission
from The House Where I've Never Lived
Copyright © 1993 by Grace Bauer
Anabiosis Press


After Cindy Sherman

Perhaps you caught her gazing
at her image in a mirror, or staring
out a window into a distance you thought
might be yours. Perhaps you saw yourself
in her eyes.

Perhaps it was in moonlight or starlight,
in the blue haze of a t.v. screen or
the smoke of a seedy bar where the glow
from her cigarette gathered the night
around; or perhaps it was in sunlight
so bright

you had to squint. It hurt
your eyes. Maybe you've never seen
her at all, or so often you have long
since forgotten to look, allowing
memory or expectation to make what you think
she is real

Perhaps you've brushed by her
in a subway, at a close-out sale,
in some library where she reached
for the very book you wanted to read;
or maybe in a dream she cruised by
in a red

sedan, on a black mare, saying something
you couldn't quite fit your voice
around, but desperately needed to say.
She could be your mother, your sister,
your favorite or most hated aunt,
the girl

next door, the one you left
behind, who got away, the woman too
good or not good enough for you, the one
who never knew you existed, who's been
waiting for you all her life, the one
you've been

mistaken for. Perhaps you gave her
your ring, took her cherry, paid
for her lunch, lent her cabfare
or lipstick, voted her Snow Queen
or Most Congenial. You might have
given her
flowers, advice, or hell,
a lift to the nearest phone booth,
the time of day. You might have opened
doors for her, or old wounds,
maybe you held her or wished you could
hold her

or be her or never had been.
She is always more or less
than you imagined or would have
her be. She is the stranger you
always recognize. More than shadow
less than

substance, not quite yours or her own.
Since she has never really been
there, you know that she can never
go away.

Reprinted with permission
from Where You 've Seen Her
Copyright © 1993 by Grace Bauer
Pennywhistle Press

The Rock

Nebraska Center for Writers