<i><b>Wicked Alice Poetry Journal
wicked alice| winter 2009

Heather Salus

How to Make a Mask

At my desk, I demonstrate the next step, tearing the weather section into strips,
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, copied it
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.



any times she almost said, I know you're not a child but--

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.

Call In

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.

Dear Thomas,

Happy fortieth.
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 and roses.
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 teaches
freshman composition and work on Ninth Letter. She has  poems in Pebble Lake
Review, RHINO, Boxcar Poetry Review
and elsewhere.