a poetry e-zine










Poems By E.K. Mortenson
Sick Child

for Anders

For the fifth time in as many hours I come to you when you are coughing,
choking, crying.
This time I stumble when I see you standing upright, eyelashes glued together
by mucus and tears,
grasping the bars of your crib, prisoner style, your tiny knuckles white
even in the darkness.
You are too young to know how to be sick and the phlegm in your throat
has steadily drowned you
awake; the throb in your skull has forced you into the only relief
your animal brain
can conceive: you drive your head again and again into the bars of your crib,
gasping for air
between sobs. I rush to you, pull you to my chest, promise you health
I can not exactly deliver.
Upright, your throat clears, your breath returns ragged and wet
past your submerged
thumb. Even in the blue glow of the clock I can see the fever flush
along your jaw and neck
as you wrap your arms around me, burying your face in my shoulder,
sticky with spit and snot.
Your eyes roll and you hover between this world and the other. Slowly,
you give over as we rock.
We will not, I know, hold each other like this for much longer:
the spider silk of your hair, crazed
from thrashing, tickles my face but I don’t move, terrified to wake you,
to spill the overfull cup of your sleep.

(Previously appeared in Red Clay Review)

Ode to Trouble

When you look for it, you find it, a woman I once lived with
used to say, but that is not always the case as you well know:
sometimes Trouble finds you. Like when it walks in on ballet flats
or sling backs or mules or just flip-flops peeking little painted jewel
toenails or one inch heels or two inch or three inch, but five inches
or more and Trouble charges an hourly rate or at least twenty to sit on your lap.
Or when Trouble wears a business suit and dares you to wonder
what’s underneath or a bouncy skirt and dares you to wonder
if anything is underneath or flirty low-rise jeans so that when Trouble bends over
you don’t have to wonder. Sometimes Trouble stands so close on the subway
or in the elevator you can smell its soap, and the sweat trickles down your back.
But you weren’t looking for Trouble at all—but you were looking at it,
especially the space between the waist of those flirty low-rise jeans and
the high hem of the shirt that shows just the bottom of Trouble’s tattoo
on the bottom of Trouble’s back, and when you look up into the mirror at
the end of the bar you see that Trouble has eased onto the stool next to yours
so you start tapping your glass with your ring: dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot.

(Previously appeared in Red Clay Review.)


My neighbor, in apartment 13-H, has moved in to die. I see her, every day,
as I drive up the drive, just a flash,
or more, perhaps, as her window, full-length, is directly across from the speed bump
that slows my progress home
or away, the hesitation I must make in the face of death. She sits in a wheelchair, housecoat-clad, with a tray by her side.
It’s odd, I think, to see the furniture in her apartment since she only needs
one piece: her moveable seat.
Hers is the only basement apartment, built into the side of the hill. Turnover is high:
no light, I suspect, front door and only window
next to each other. She’s already moved underground: Taking a trial run,
perhaps, getting used to the earth.
I wonder today, as I slow in passing, if she’s given the nurse certain instructions:
turn down the heat a little
more each day, draw the blinds and keep them closed starting tomorrow:
make light seep in, trickle,
struggle, until the effort weighs down my eyes; until the dark is easier.

(Previously appeared in Connecticut Review. Winner of the Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize.)

E.K. Mortenson received his BA and MA, and he is currently an MFA candidate. When he is not writing poetry or book reviews, he pays the mortgage as a teacher at a small, private day school in Fairfield County, Connecticut. His reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in RATTLE, Connecticut River Review and Rain Taxi and his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Connecticut Review, Red Clay Review, Broken Bridge Review, and Connecticut River Review. He is the 2008 recipient of the Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize. He lives in Stamford, CT with his wife, son, and two cats.

Copyright 2008  Chantarelle's Notebook