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Nancy Allinson

    Nancy is currently President of the Federal Poets. She has served as Editor of The Federal Poet and reader for the "Washington Prize," for which she selected the 1997 winning manuscript. Her poems have appeared in Poet Lore, The Federal Poet, Minimus, Potomac Review and elsewhere. Nancy was selected and appeared as a featured reader at the "Poetry at Takoma Park Series" and at the "Grace Church Poetry Reading Series." As member and President of the Federal Poets, she has appeared as reader on the WPFW Radio Program, "The Poet and the Poem," which was hosted by Grace Cavalieri. She was a featured reader in "A Month of Sundays," at Spectrum Art Gallery "Visions in Verse" program, in July 1998 and a 1998 Fellow at the Jenny McKean Moore Creative Writing Seminar, George Washington University. She has a B.A. degree in Psychology and M.A. degree in Education and Human Development, both from George Washington University (GWU)and currently works in Human Resources Development (HRD) at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Ghost Cloth

Once this blouse was warm
with my breath
pressed against you.

Its seams opened
like lips
and this cloth passed
through your fingers
as if they pressed fire.

Now, left for dead in the bin,
this blouse fades like bone.
It lies wrinkled and cold
like someone else's skin.

Chung Yeuk-Lam (age 9)

"The girl’s mother had tried to kill herself rather than be sent back to China." Washington Post May 1997

My mother is doing something with the knife again.
This time I do not scream
so the janitor cannot call the police.
Now I let myself watch her take the knife,
the one for cutting chicken,
run the blade’s tip
lengthwise up the inside of her arm to the crease
where the muscle begins.
I watch her turn the knife crosswise
starting back at the wrist,
she lets it brush her skin
as if she is about to shave wood from a stick.
But she does not move the blade,
just lets it lie flat on the inside of her arm,
as if it is a dead grey fish that has no use.
She lets the knife wobble off her arm,
almost flaccid
and slide onto the floor
where it makes one complete spin in front of her
before it stops.
We lie awake all night long,
she on the kitchen floor
and I in my bed, watching.

Dance Land

I stand against the wall
flat like the photo
where he was a smiling blond
holding his silver trophy.
Now his grey toupee,
with the wave that made Elvis,
needs washing.
His own sideburns
are the ear flaps of winter.

He asks me to dance.
He pulls me,
before I can answer,
to his bony chest,
lays his arm across my back,
and pushes me as if I were a heavy swing,
as if I were a child who will not budge.
He breathes each step noisily in my ear
telling me he's been dancing since 1935.
I can smell the time
in his shoulder pads
while he spins me with his free arm.
Now he tells me he has vertigo,
can't do turns.

We stop when the music does.
As we stand locked in place,
he tells me I have pretty teeth,
and I look past his cloudy eyes
to the wall where another woman waits.
A man approaches,
takes her hand in his,
they pause,
the crowd moves back like a breath exhaled.
The spotlight follows the couple
to the center
where he pushes her
with the broom of his body.
They sweep the floor until it shines;
he turns with ease
and smiles into the camera.

Copyright © 1999. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Duplication of this poetry and/or art without permission of the author/artist is forbidden under copyright law. Please ask permission if you wish to use for non-commercial purposes
Last updated: Saturday, July 24, 2004