Maureen Owen - from "Imaginary Income"

selections from


by Maureen Owen



sexuality because of sexisim is a problem for most women

if there could be a dinner 
perched on a hilltop in golden ash 
sullen     harmless     & forever uneaten

the one who has gone ahead 
could be a scene behind glass 
in the museum of the future

a group of men paint themselves 
wild purslane 
yellow flower 
with succulent leaves

& the woman in the green & white checkered 
housedress      stands in the doorway of the cottage 
on the island in the metallic gun-powdered 
salt of the sea     & hollers     "Honey .......


Soffits     &     Fascias

wild & keen over our cold gossip
why do only the saddest people want to write
O Rilke         log of my heart!

bushy aster    crooked-stem aster    daisy fleabane 
wind knocked the locust tree over    panes rushed out 
of the window     the brakes went out on the car 
the dryer broke      the electricity swooned into my 
arms "I got up & got kids to school all my life" 
said Alice Schroeder mother of murderer 
Blond Cole Hunter     who shot Jane Campbell

a woman on the edge of her seat    woman on the tip 
of the iceberg    woman through the eye of a needle   Women 
were painting waves on the floor of the basketball 
court    they 
dealt not with domesticity but 
with war, politics, coffeehouse
intrigues, exploration,    & murder    Consider
the margin    the lake before the storm 
grand recipient of the shakes    I 
the quaking one    going from door to door 
in the halls of my own house


Blue Nile

Her excessive urge to plan every second of the 
other person's day.
I guess he was inspired by her to do it.
She arrived at the hotel room finding him in a white towel & 
dripping water -- as they talked he returned to the bathroom & 
proceeded to finish drying & begin dressing. As they chatted he 
pulled on clothes until he'd completed his attire & promptly 
swung open the door to the hall     Downstairs they chatted even 
faster as he strode briskly through the lobby    & once outside 
he told her he    was glad    she'd come by then he turned & bounded 
off in another direction.
Freud told her her dreams were what he would 
expect of a woman poet.
Becoming Famous & Powerful
Careless of all advice,    flowers
she    remodeled her basement & did tricks she'd learned in 
the circus referring to her life as the "Big Top" 
In the tablets    we turn to
"In white she was bathed"
Betrayed by the hand that held the mirror 
Medusa's hair was snakes.     Was thought 
split inward.


No one ever eats the last of the grapes

the Way the egret & the fish    meet in 
the sky    tide & rocks hold conversation 
wet greens from wetter blues
I am not the spellbound waterskier 
being lunged at random!

tho I notice I've written my list of ways 
to get through the day    on 
the vocabulary card called    "dregs"


tall white & densely fluid

one night.    Starry.   a young woman trampled 
clothes    in a stream    no ordinary laundress 
she or I    to be bending 
at the waist    as night is elegantly bent.

the night as night    elegant & starry 
slightly bent at the waist    referential 
several churches surround the green    tall white 
boxes    sharp & quivering

Several churches surround the green.   Beside
the mailbox a miniature angel addressed my thumb. 
trees jerked from the mist    hunks of dark smoke 
Is it possible to build a house without a door?

tall white boxes w/deep oblongs at center    face's 
center    trace of infinity 
of stars scraped the paint off the night as 
night    a young woman trampling clothes in 
a stream

tall white and densely fluid    deep at their 
center    center of face    face's center rasp 
in the navied air    trace 
of infinity of stars   scraped the paint off 
glued the doors shut    the box closed    the night as
night    a young woman trampling clothes in a stream.


the lover who cannot forget     who perishes of excess

today wasn't so bad    nothing horrible arrived in 
the mail
here in the park-like hours of wherein the leaves 
call all our attention    & demand our constant 
concentration for a tree    crackling pink    and Paling 
orange    gathering browns rustle underfoot    and 
to the sail we sweep as though the sea came in 
and took us out
No brave skiff    no dangerous float    no swimming lessons 
american crawl    just the water's edge    a need to be 
at sea    awash as in the same life 
we know others swim ok and steady 
trembling and large pink trees 
palest orange    a depraved motorist    takes 
off down the road    full of pepper and juice and 
trunks of undispersed paraphernalia    she 
needs help    but none of the lovers can help 
none of the flaring relatives 
too tired to skim under faultless skies 
under dampened hours    the bottom of the plane 
was mirror    mirror to the sea or grey of sea



She threw her entire arm over her hat     while 
the butterflies were flung    past her 
eyes closed    lips pulled in.    She caught herself 
against the gust    swallows flipped    every which way 
white suddenly    as her dress and hat 
and the arm she locked straight out    she was
holding on      to            some idea


how I feel is cool    very cool

cold fills the south window 
ice wells in the south window 
snow drifts in the south window 
icicles drape in the south window 
a bitter wind
a frozen surge at the south window 
the bitter    neck of winter is in the south window 
the bitter neck of winter is in the south window

You hear the train go West in the south window 
& then retire to bedlam    a wind would 
come up a wind    stone of heart 
would flower in icy petals over the window 
in the south    over the south window



So muchos the story & tale it goes into oblivion 
like raccoons    in the arms of children    bandit faces 
& that little nose always looking for its share 
so unpredictable    one day he'd be so friendly you'd 
think for sure he had something in mind   then the 
next time it would be all off    whatever it was..... 
as though he'd almost.. & then decided against it 
So he controlled all your responses     by throwing his 
voice in these manners    calling you here then sending 
you there    all the while setting you up to invent his 
emotions for him    to construct a route of passion he 
could claim    as you like a crazy person darted back & 
forth in the role of: both actors, the set & scenery, 
the wind machine, an occasional song routine,    & a 
personal narrator    who explained the feelings of both 
characters being portrayed    as well as    their dogs!


Always the word "love" written in vanishing ink....vanishing
Edith wharton    is missing

                                        for E.B.

Turning the page    we witness how another survives.  
She takes the circular staircase    to the weathervane 
& that    puts her right on top    of the view 
the nightly ritual    of standing    in the front doorway 
breath pumping into the flat dark     We are staring 
at a sky the    color of a Parrot tulip    staring back 
eyeball to eyeball    jagged star to jagged star    perfect 
bead to perfect bead    maybe low clean fog    or 
wet-washed air    Orion    Big Dipper    venus   mars?  
The door a thick slab of hard wood    chipped    painted & 
repainted    strata of each layer marking   an idea in 

"I really am fine" she wrote "I went to Africa last 
June to see the Mountain Gorilla of Dwonda   I am very 
happy"    it's love at the base of it all   love stops 
the heart goes on   but love stops    Stops    Stop 
it!    love!     Stop it!


watch the swimmers intermittently decapitated & 
reinstated    decapitated & reinstated    whole 
headless    whole headless

love is not    one kind or another 
is fashioned of stumps    one so fleet of 
soup    one fictive as 
a cushion in a foolish melodrama 
one gaunt garish garrulous gander 
another seeks potato plots   & 
several dig famously where the map 
has indicated fortune   one is a    giraffe 
space bursts open in a wound 
air cracks a corner hissing 
night reclines at the circus 
milk takes on the color of everyday 
stone rebukes the finder & shrivels up 
toast is like a taco for the rich 
beer makes you stupid 
beer makes us stupid    wine too 
see me about this later    Stupid 
water has a point 
water deserves better 
water is not burnt sienna or plain sienna or blue 
my cup    my shoes
I fill my cup    I fill my shoes 
sand is not yellow or brown    or creme or white or 
black really
sand is permanent    we sit on it 
from here    we see
     the bathers
     leave their feet at the edge of the lake


Copyright ©  1992 by Maureen Owen.

Imaginary Income was published by Hanging Loose Press.

Light and Dust @ Grist Mobile Anthology of Poetry.