blackmail press 17
Arlene Ang

Brief bio:
A former editor for the Italian edition of Poems Niederngasse, Arlene Ang is the author of The Desecration of Doves (2005). She has been nominated five times for the Pushcart Prize. Her poetry has appeared in many journals, including Anon, Diagram, Eclectica, Forklift Ohio, FRiGG,  Painted Bride Quarterly, Poetry Ireland, Rattle, Tattoo Highway, and Unpleasant Event Schedule. She lives in Spinea, Italy. For additional information, visit her website:

Women in Love

It is the pillbox hat I remember most, a Paris
green with matching veil. In our house, au pairs

came and went. She lasted two years, smiled
rarely. Under her instructions, my mother slimed

fish, towel-dried jars. We learned to eat raw
tuna, babble in Japanese. Father called it war,

snatched saké from her hands. He was never sober.
We were used to padding around in terry robes.

Her power suit spiked him, every room was mined
territory. In time, my mother burned her denim

pants, the linen dresses, tinged her hair ochre,
took to strolling in the country. My summer chore

was to tend the lawn. I saw them under the peach
tree once: a cutting moment. There was nothing cheap

about her lipstick when it stained my mother’s pale
neck. From afar, I still hear church bells peal.

** previously published in “The Desecration of Doves” (iUniverse, 2005


By midday the sheets lose their crisp mask.
His feet shuffle in sleep; this is not the first time
he goes missing: the lake froze one winter,
swans dripped away like Dalì watches,
Khartoum became synonym for ice, or else
apples for the hunter and his dead deer.

Is it easier to forget than to remember?
The pine in the garden sways, snow appears
like distant faces, the calendar has stopped
at June. We used to go fishing: a trout
slipped through our net; there was
cold champagne, an anchor and the boat.

Now Chianti in the cellar gathers cobwebs:
a process of aging. The red straw sinks
in his glass; he never complains of thirst.

for 3 a.m. women

i’ll play bartok
on the piano with missing

like milk teeth
bartered for coins in dreams

are you looking
for under table legs—fallen

or miniature
glass opossums with lopped

there are no
answers to finding sleep
& there’s

no point adding
a question mark here or

down the page
after would you like a butterfly

on your navel
for luck for soul for déjà vu

in time i’ll stop
& you’ll drift away like dead

** previously published in Stride Magazine (April 18 2005)

E-flat Major and the Church Organist  

Every assortment of sanity
contains truffles. Perhaps card figures.

A sticky question, a stick up:
are speed limits 12.7% abortionists?

All this stained glass, all this infidelity,
all this time—with the yellow candles whittling.

I mirror my hands inside other people’s bags.
I waitress to the insidious creaks of planks.
I burn red ants under a wide wide lens.

Found online: a rough block of my foot,
raw and turtling, on the wrong pedal.

In his time, Bach fathered twenty children;
pawprints on the clavier left watermelon nudes.

In retrospect, 1984 made a fine sausage—
unlike my wishes on the wishbone.

By the popcorn stand

there’s a crowd rarely seen in film.
Last year you swore the zoo was only

for caged animals. The benches
were sprayed with wild graffiti,

like the typed report in your hands.
Black spots on a screen shed dim light.

It’s hard to read the writing
when your back is against the wall.

Wet paint smears easily. No one needs
to cry on tissue to understand that.

Sunlight has healing properties,
like cold sandwiches shared with

storks, ball play and children,
conversing with vaginal blood.

The aroma of butter is a fishnet
cast in deep waters. In the end,

doctors had to admit choriocarcinoma
is a long word that comes and goes.

You share cotton candy with a war
veteran, exchange frontline tales of hope.

** previously published in Poetry Midwest (Issue 11, Fall 2004)

Off Stage

Like cul-de-sac, the last bad act of the day
mutters itself across glass
the way older women never listen
to the cab driver when he says
that side of door doesn’t open and girl,
have you got some problem
with shoes—they’re scuffed to the quick,
and your feet ache. You say: Turn left.
He doesn’t listen. You shed
your scarlet slingback pumps, like hair,
pieces of broken nail,
as if the back seat was November—
fog moths and limelight—and you
weren’t the understudy
only to glad to fill someone’s shoes.

Because number 13 has long shadows

I lie to the ice cream vendor about the armoire’s favorite flavor.

Some late friends enter through the back door with wicker baskets.
Their olive-sweet scent is on the heels of errant scar tissue.

Sanity comes with a slapdash index, countrified braids.

The sum of days in March amount to a hundred and five,
with seven being an indispensable serrated spoon (tomato-stained).

80% of furniture dust needs a eulogy, perhaps a shoulder to cry on.

I’ve watched eye reflections on glass so often that I understand
my penchant for burning houses as long as I think they aren’t mine.

Guilt is secondhand, like that wolf whistle around the corner.

In my pockets, keychains have been fatherless ever since
erstwhile turned out to be a false third-story window.

This is how meow becomes a ladder.
This is where the signature scratches the hip bone.
This is my ginger tea with the witch next door.