“Clusters” by Martin Ott

Martin Ott


In the harried stores of Baghdad,
products are leaping from shelves,
canned goods and baked beans,
anti-diarrheals for drinking water
that needs to be boiled and valium
to calm children from the angry
man pounding down their walls.

One woman purchases an umbrella
to carry her like Mary Poppins
into florid dreams or to protect her
from raining shrapnel, not shards,
but the human blood it sprays.

Her son buys a brick to build
a castle with, her husband trades
cigars from a postponed wedding
for a bouquet of lilies of the valley
because his family needs to remember
some things fall slowly to the earth.

No one can explain her mother,
who slips a record from its sleeve,
and spins in the streets, her player
broken, but the music of her life
bubbling out. A few soldiers smile
at her and tap their toes as they
carry off the shelves for a barricade,
and the family leaving the store
prays the angry man will leave
before the last petal has fallen.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003

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