White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
Margaret LeMay-Lewis
Margaret LeMay-Lewis attended Barnard College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She served for eight years as founding director of the Writing Program at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Asian Pacific American Journal, Another Chicago Magazine, and Blast Furnace. Her work was shortlisted for the 2007 Four Way Books Levis Prize, the 2010 Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize, and the 2011 Discovery/the Boston Review Poetry Prize. She lives in Iowa City.

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The paddle’s carved out of heavy wood.

It’s got futility cut into its flat. Futility. Lake MacBride,

eastern Iowa. We didn’t foresee Iowa. Or our urologist

and secretary disappearing, large in a small canoe,

for two hours. He has an inadvertent way, the moral

urologist. I believed no rumors. In his shoes, I, too,

midday may have asked her to bring me a cookie.

If you’re busy, you’re hungry. The urologist was always

hungry. I noticed this. From the dock, Futility listens

to the wine corks pop, to the red velvet cakes drying

amid Travel and Nature and Crafts. It’s a hunk of wood,

Futility. I’m departing this story when I should be arriving.

Did you notice the F is smaller, the urologist asks. Departing

utility. No. I did not. The moisture’s wicking the air.

Each morning is cooler, brighter. The leaves dry.

The urologist and secretary float on the lake where we said,

we’re marrying. They were confused. Felt disoriented.

We are that generation. When you leave your children

to forge their own way. Because you yourself married

or gave birth. You get Lake MacBride and a paddle.


World Congress


We’re off to the world congress of pain

with a tube that authorities will consider a gun.

There are ways to collect money I hadn’t considered.

You say you’re sick of hotels. I’ll take your hotel

and raise it a match. I’ll take it and raise it an art

museum collection. The couple financed this and all

of out East with bearings, rubber tires, wheel bases.

I hate the expletive East, he mutters. Its arteries

meld my brain to my neck. It takes my dermis

way down into the midst of don’t hand me more

pages of the apocalypse. Your cannibal vision.

There is the fact if you’re facing a fish and a hook

and a bald faced darkness on a man in waders

with a large truck, the distance between Eisenhower’s

telephone poles exactly the distance to get lost in,

the wheel will turn where you look. It’s colder

at night but not nearly as cold as this thick

washed up face can take. There is the matter

of last year’s pine, on its side where it toppled.


Panacea, One Year


The season is turning gray and green at the edges.

When I think back, yes, I was post-traumatically

panacean, an anacoluthia of inability to finish

a sentence. Walking midday, the pedestrian mall

offering little in the way of ballast, in the way

of blind assuredness that keeps the day, the week,

the minutes afloat with any kind of direction.

I was green at the edges. I’m proud, climbing

out of the swimming pool dripping, the suit clinging

its thin nylon and straps, and here is the child

holding a gnawed apple. Offering it to the weaker

sun and me. We alternate, the child and I, bites

dribbling juice down our chins until the sunsets

overtake us. Until the dusk nudges the switch

on the streetlamps. Until the superciliousness of why

would anyone do that, such waste, and how hard

can it be turns itself in the cooling earth and sleeps.




I’ll take moonlight over nimbus storm

watch, the stars steady as if nothing

transpired here, will transpire

here. Head on the soft belly, the rainwater

soft thunder from the grate.


Here’s an isolate that kills

slowly. Here’s a fireplace, a green rocket

breast, a hand slap. The puddles outside

shrinking. Good night dancing. As if

the brevity penetrates. As in the child’s

sheer softness. The bright eyes

and slim limbs. Is he too slim. Is the wart

on his heel my fault. Do I have

one of my own. Are these little rises

all warts grown overnight while the moon

was on storm watch. The child chomps Henry V.

I am clearing the dusk while I have time.

Before humanity returns a little darker, a little less

apocalyptically-minded. Smoke jets




the crickets and cicadas. Something’s

biting. The plastic bag’s a shirt-protector

if you slice the side and place the arms

through its handles. Strange. It smells

like it’s been wet many times.




It’s not the person you know best. It’s a distant relation.

The walls soft olive and browns. The seat cover the vinyl, soft

kind of a cloud ring. It seems barely a year. You can sense it.

You are uncomfortable. You are not manufactured as smoothly

as other models seem on the surface, but you go the distance.

Your absorption levels reach peak capacity in a blink.


Now you’re disrupting the order. You’re an interloper in a future

history lettering itself now, letters leaping up onto this moment’s

marquee. It’s not hard to read what’s before you. You’re fatigued.

If you read much more of your dialogue, you’re going to faint.

You’re going to St. Louis. You momentarily can’t place why.

You need to tell you in person, I’m sorry. I’m a distant

relation. I’ve bought a new guitar. Electric. We’re considering

buying this house. This is the kind of house

we like. Built 1927. That’s our favorite.


The full intersection at the base of the hill a pond

of leaves and fur in its own light. The flag-print chairs. The tinge

topping the trees. The stepping aside for another





is part of it. Your lilac bush growing in autumn

bounds, far taller than you are. You’re not tall.

You remember it as a potted shrub.

As a baby rabbit that fit in a palm.




















Copyright © Margaret LeMay-Lewis. White Whale Review, issue 3.1

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