Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998
New Poems by Jacqueline Jules
DINNER MEETING ON A DAMP NIGHT
The hostess takes me to a table in the corner
where cloth napkins, the color of daffodils,
bloom from six stemmed goblets.
Draping my damp coat on the chair,
I tell her there will only be five of us
and she whisks off the extra place setting
as if its presence could hurt my feelings.
Other committee members arrive
with moist hems and misty hair.
I smile from behind the menu,
blink to make the letters
spell something other than the tests
the doctor prescribed this morning.
Then order soup,
resolved to steam away the tears
dripping from the windows.
It’s served immediately
in porcelain bowls with matching Asian spoons.
I inhale the sweet vapor of vegetables,
bobbing in brown broth
as the committee chair cheerfully requests
ideas for a June fundraiser
I may not be able to attend.
But I nod my head and slurp,
proud of every swallowed silence.
CANCER IN THE KITCHEN
The first time I saw
the rice-shaped pellets,
I wiped the cupboard quickly,
dismissing the evidence
as chocolate cookie crumbs.
Chocolate cookie crumbs
that wouldn’t return.
Later, when I found
gnawed granola bars
and more brown pellets,
fear sent me
screaming from the room.
A trap confirmed the vermin
and massive cleaning followed.
Every open package tossed.
Every surface Cloroxed—twice.
with steel wool and thick white caulk.
Months have passed,
without nibbled packages
or small brown droppings,
but I still check the traps daily,
ask my doctor if I dare
fill my cabinets again.
He shrugs his shoulders,
gives statistics five years old.
We might see more, he says
or we might have caught them all.
In the meantime,
use the kitchen.
OPPENHEIMER WAS NERVOUS
On a desert night in New Mexico, July 15, 1945,
Oppenheimer was nervous, imagining last minute failure.
So he assigned someone to babysit the five-ton bomb
slumbering beneath a blanket of crisscrossed wires
inside a specially constructed steel bed,
one hundred feet above the ground.
The job was given to 25-year-old Donald Hornig
who climbed the tower with a book
to spend a long night
in a folding chair under a 60 watt bulb
beside the first bomb
capable of destroying an entire city.
Then it began to thunder.
As crooked swords
fought a showy battle in a desert sky,
Horning fenced with his own fears,
calculating the danger
of a lightning strike to the tower where he sat.
Electricity might shoot harmlessly
down the steel to the ground.
or the burst might set off the bomb—
twenty kilotons of TNT.
“In that case, I wouldn’t feel a thing,” he reasoned.
Hornig opened his book and read.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM SQUIRRELS
On a warm day for late December,
small bushy-tailed bodies, busy
as preschoolers in a plastic kitchen,
bury and unbury wishes
in tiny plots of earth
wedged between concrete.
Dragging past on city streets,
I almost smile at tiny paws
patting treasured morsels
with an energy I’d reserve
more unlikely to be snatched
by another hungry mouth.
Yet small gray limbs
stretch like a satisfied cat
over the promise of stored food,
then dash off with unfurled tails
by the threat of winter weather,
screeching wheels, or circling hawks.
Jacqueline Jules is a Northern Virginia teacher, poet, and children’s author. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications including Nebo, Inkwell, Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Broome Review, Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Christian Science Monitor, Chaminade Literary Review, Sunstone, Imitation Fruit, and Potomac Review.
See her website at www.jacquelinejules.com.
This is her first appearance in Offcourse.