Kathleen McClung

Kathleen McClung is the author of Almost the Rowboat (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and her poems appear in Mezzo Cammin, Unsplendid, Atlanta Review, Ekphrasis, West Trestle Review, A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace, and elsewhere. A 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee, she was the winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Prize and finalist for the Morton Marr, Elinor Benedict, Robert Frost, and 49th Parallel poetry prizes. McClung serves as sponsor-judge of the sonnet category of the Soul-Making Keats literary competition and as a reviewer for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, sponsored by the Stanford University Libraries. She teaches writing and literature classes at Skyline College and the Writing Salon. She lives in San Francisco. www.kathleenmcclung.com

 

Manhattan Ghazal

The waitress in the MoMA café brings us Quinoa with Pear Ripened Slow,
laughs, says she can peg tourists on her way to work: They all walk so slow 

along East 53rd.  Tom and I chuckle, polite to a fault. Are we that obvious—
arch support couple on holiday, trekking an island where nothing is slow?

 Years ago, at 38, I met a man through a personal ad,
a native of this city, lonely for love. We moved slowly,

wrote letters, talked long distance. J mailed me bootleg videos—
westerns, sci fi, noir—his gloss on legal pads, left handed, slow,

splotches of ballpoint ink where he’d scribbled out a word
he didn’t want after all. He called me mellow, which meant slow,

in a good way. He was afraid of flying, thought Californians all owned
convertibles, macramé bikinis. How could we last? Passion slowed

eventually, we two unbridgeable cement blocks on far edges of a continent,
my future with him blurred through sooty panes, elevator doors slow

to open.  Last week, I read J’s obituary online, midnight, no word
in years. The cancer must have moved swiftly in his body, not a slow

treading on his icy sidewalks, West 87th. A fiancée
was named, syllables steady on my screen, and I was slow

to turn away, to power down this slim machine—
our travel agent now, our docent for all that slowly

crumbles in Midtown. Through the wings of the museum—Gauguin’s woodcut
goddesses, Kahlo with her pet monkey—Tom and I walk, reverent and slow.

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