How to Make a Mask
At my desk, I demonstrate the next step, tearing the weather section into
wetting them with paste. “Next blow up a balloon.” Over it, I sculpt no face
in particular, thinking of wind: when these cheeks dry, I’ll paint them red.
We’re supposed to discuss funeral masks but it’s too much to stuff in their
mouths. It’s hard to see through these eye holes: ghost letters on the chalkboard,
water stains on the walls.
My back turns for a minute. Laura whispers to Jake, “That looks like a bird.”
“No, like feathers.” “Like brooms.”
Buckets on the floor wait for rain. Beyond the window, flowers haven’t frozen.
It’s sunny today but the principal wrote it's cold out in his daily letter,
along with the shadow of his palm and slipped it under our doors.
No one is outside. The walkway is lined with decorative stones,
the size of our students’ heads. They are etched with our thought lines.
Crumbled leaves wear my face.
Many times she almost said, I know you're not a child
He says, I’m sorry. The cigarette caught the blanket
and barely licked my arm. A sketch of curtains going up
in flames, a warning: "if you find matches, don't touch."
The female knot-weaving bird will refuse
a mate who doesn’t build their nest carefully.
A melted shoe on the sidewalk. To her father's anger,
her mother repeated don't make a nothing of me.
The entrance of the house may soon be more hole than door.
If spurned, he must take it apart, piece by piece, rebuild it
again in front of her.
He’s saying next time, if I close my eyes,
you can do what you’d like; you can leave. We’re lucky
I woke up.
Today it's all string anchoring a banner to a far away blimp.
It disappears into clouds.
I cannot read the letters. The names in my address book blur.
The birthday cards I should have sent months ago.
It hasn't been as long as you think.
We've been drinking the same water forever.
Today's cup may have been swallowed
by alchemist in ancient Greece.
The silver quarters I've been saving for laundry:
into what can I turn them?
The weatherman says it will turn cold on Thursday,
to unfold our sweaters.
The soup of the day will be split pea.
On the window sill, coral
Coral and roses and an unwound clock
which doesn't seem to matter.
How do you know what you’ll be tested on?
If I say yes to him, I’ll have all boys.
His grandmother and mother had boys, four each,
and such dirty floors.
If you pick a 4-card hand,
you have a 1: 4 chance of drawing a heart, right?
You have little chance of drawing a nude model
seen weeks ago in the most unlikely position
of taping up a newspaper torn
into tiny pieces of making soup
from memories of taste
None of you have photographic memories.
You should write this down.
Q: What don't I know about you?
A: Once I woke up and wandered into my mother's kitchen.
She was having a party. I went to sit down but fell
on my butt, right where a chair had been.
Heather Salus is a recent graduate of
Beloit College, where she
majored in Creative Writing,
Literary Studies, and Women’s and
Gender Studies. Currently, she is an MFA
candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign where she also
freshman composition and work on
Ninth Letter. She has poems in Pebble Lake
Review, RHINO, Boxcar Poetry Review and elsewhere.