Two Poems

by Elizabeth Tannen

In a Second-Story Apartment in a Small, Midwestern Town, You Lament

Summertime was sturdy
as a stem. As the tip
of a dandelion

at the start
of a storm. In Nebraska the basements
smell like tornadoes.

Like uniforms
for a high school
marching band that no one

could afford. Like a
bake sale. I’m trying to grasp
my hands around

October. I’m trying
to steady myself in strange
gray scenes. In between

doors. The carpet might be smooth, but each surface
slanted. That little bird
against my window this morning

didn’t even grasp
the concept of glass.

Not Even the Sun

cares to wake me
this morning. Not even
the bad, blurry idea

of another person, or crisp
interior of a profound

thought. It’s just the corrupt silence
of heated apartments, hard edges
of northern

rooftops, rare, intricate branches that
float furtive, like they have
the right. Just sharp

shadows, strange neighbor
sounds, faint smells
of my own familiar flesh.

But wait! I know. All you poets

make these mornings too. Let’s hold hands—worry
our lineage, after all! But only attend

to particular leaves. We can read
each other stories
about Minutemen

and Russia, small
skyscrapers and imperfect

saints. We can imagine certain

kinds of touch, look down as much as we look
up. Who can say

what will grease
these pulleys, let life leak

from yesterday’s limbs?

(after Frank O’Hara)
Photo credit

About Elizabeth Tannen

Elizabeth Tannen is a Brooklyn-born, Minneapolis-based writer and teacher. She has essays, poems and stories published or forthcoming in places like Front Porch Journal, The Rumpus, Southern Humanities Review,
B O D Y Literature, Salon and The Morning News. Sometimes she posts on her blog, Dating in the Odyssey Years.

Elizabeth Tannen

Elizabeth Tannen is online at