Two Poems by James Cihlar


Lofty ideas. The living room space hides
a multitude of details.

You have cleverly done everything.
The crown molding was patched by hand.

Under the console table,
near the splatback chair,

My cat tries to tell me something.
We had lived in Hyde Park

and wanted to increase the area
of our primary living spaces.

The urine seeps between the tongue
and groove of the tiger maple.

Something’s not working. Mikhail
and his partner Vince Baroni

like the raw look of steel.
A week of deaths,

job tragedies revisited,
and a cold bed

have deposited me on the crosstown.
The pie safe comes in cherry

or walnut. This display room’s walls
are the same color as our bedroom.

Now let’s turn around
and look at the en suite.

Sean Pratt, the host, defines the words
Portico, Soldier Line, Parapet Walls.

Their is no room for me here. My cat
vomits on the wool rugs.

Old homes restored.
A Maryland couple

has spent twenty years
refurbishing their Victorian farmhouse.

A table saw sits
in the center of the dining room.

(from Undoing, Little Pear Press, 2008)



This city park sign tells me
Land that once was the highest point
Is now the lowest,

Just as where there once were trees
There now are lakes.
Curtainless windows at night

Show the clear-cut inscapes
Of once old buildings,
Now white angles and recessed lighting.

On the freeway I passed an old-fashioned RV,
The kind I wished for when I was young
So my family would be safe

Even on yellow-lit highways, with
The impersonal landscape fading
Into oily black mist.

In a trailer like that,
Parked in his mistress’s driveway,
My father locked us one night

So that they could fuck in privacy
Inside her ranch-style house.
When I woke up, my mother

Had the county and her lawyer
Unlocking the door.
So why should I daydream now

About a life on the road?
Last week a solicitor rang the doorbell
Of the home I live in with my husband,

And I looked out the window
Instead of answering.
I saw from the back

An old man in a trench coat and hat
Who could have been my father.
He left a pamphlet damning homosexuals,

Which fell from the lintel
When I opened the door.
How can we live like this?

Maybe by knowing
I live in a city that is one half
Of a whole,

And by knowing the rule here is change–
Where something is removed,
It must also be returned,

And in the places
where I once have received,
I may later give.

(from Undoing, Little Pear Press, 2008)


James Cihlar James Cihlar

James Cihlar is the author of Undoing [Little Pear Press, 2008], and his poems have appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Quercus, and in the anthologies Aunties, Regrets Only, and Nebraska Presence. His reviews have appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and on the poetry site Coldfront. The recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship for Poetry and a Glenna Luschei Award from Prairie Schooner, Cihlar lives in St. Paul.

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